The MAGA circus Trump wanted outside his trial hasn’t arrived

The MAGA circus Trump wanted outside his trial hasn’t arrived

The New York Times reports:

Donald J. Trump was evidently not happy with what he saw out the window of his chauffeured S.U.V. as he rode through Lower Manhattan on Monday morning for the beginning of opening arguments in his first criminal trial.

The scene that confronted him as he approached the dingy courthouse at 100 Centre Street was underwhelming. Across the street, at Collect Pond Park, the designated site for protesters during the trial, only a handful of Trump supporters had gathered, and the number would not grow much throughout the morning.

Mr. Trump has portrayed his legal jeopardy as a threat to America itself, and he has suggested that the country would not put up with it. But the streets around the courthouse on Monday were chaos-free — well-patrolled and relatively quiet. As his motorcade made its way to the courthouse, the few Trump supporters gathered in the park were outnumbered by Trump detractors, who waved signs about his alleged liaison with a porn star.

Mr. Trump had tried to gin up something noisier. Shortly after 7 a.m., he posted on his social media website that “America Loving Protesters should be allowed to protest at the front steps of Courthouses” and he followed this lament with a call for his supporters to “GO OUT AND PEACEFULLY PROTEST. RALLY BEHIND MAGA. SAVE OUR COUNTRY!”

The narrow criminal courthouse steps in Lower Manhattan are not routinely open for protest — and particularly not when a former president of the United States is inside, guarded by a phalanx of Secret Service agents who have worked with local officials on security measures.

Asked to comment on Mr. Trump’s frustrations about the lack of protest activity, a spokeswoman, Karoline Leavitt, tried to connect it to the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, and President Biden and insisted people were being prevented from being in Lower Manhattan because of the barricades.

Later in the morning, Mr. Trump sought to cast the poor turnout as more evidence of a plot against him. In a post at 8:50 a.m., he implied that would-be MAGA protesters were being discriminated against for political reasons.

What is Trump accused of? The charges trace back to a $130,000 hush-money payment that Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, made to the porn actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 to suppress her story of a sexual liaison with Trump in 2006. While serving as president, Trump reimbursed Cohen, and how he did so constituted fraud, prosecutors say.

Why did prosecutors cite other hush-money payments? Although the charges relate to the payment to Daniels, Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, is expected to highlight two other hush-money deals. Prosecutors say that the deals show that Trump had orchestrated a wide-ranging scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Who will the key witnesses be? Cohen is expected to be a crucial witness for prosecutors. Bragg is also expected to call David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, as well as Hope Hicks, a former Trump aide, to shed light on the tumultuous period surrounding the payments. Trump said he plans to testify in his own defense.

Who is the judge? Juan Merchan, the judge, is a veteran of the bench known as a no-nonsense, drama-averse jurist. During the trial, Justice Merchan will be in charge of keeping order in the courtroom and ruling on objections made by prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers. The jury will decide whether Trump is guilty.

What happens if Trump is convicted? The charges against Trump are all Class E felonies, the least severe felony category in New York. If convicted, Trump faces a prison sentence of four years or less, or he could receive probation.

How is The New York Times covering the trial? The Times will provide comprehensive coverage of the trial, which is set to last six to eight weeks. Expect live updates from the courtroom in Manhattan, daily takeaways, explainers and analysis from our reporting team.

“Unlike at Columbia University where the Radical Left Palestinian Protesters sat on the Front Lawn, practically took over the School, and screamed, ‘Death to the Jews, Death to Israel, Death to America,’ and nothing happened to them, Lower Manhattan surrounding the Courthouse, where I am heading now, is completely CLOSED DOWN,” Mr. Trump posted on Truth Social. “SO UNFAIR!!!”

The area was not, in fact, completely closed down. The courthouse has remained open to the public, including spectators who want to attend the trial, pool cameras in the hallway — and even the sidewalk in front of the courthouse has remained open to pedestrian traffic. Twenty minutes later, Mr. Trump compared the courthouse to “an armed camp.” [Continue reading…]

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