HomePoliticsThe Court is preparing for a Trump trial like no other

The Court is preparing for a Trump trial like no other

NEW YORK – Manhattan’s Criminal Courts Building, at 100 Center St., has little charm: surrounded by scaffolding, lit like an outdated cafeteria and, in recent months, adjacent to a colossal pile of rubble, the remains of the Manhattan Detention Complex, which is being demolished.

But next Monday it will be the beating center of a swirling mass of security measures, and probably headaches, as the first criminal trial against Donald Trump starts on the 15th floor.

Courts and law enforcement officials are tight-lipped about the exact steps they are taking, but a court attorney said at a hearing last week that preparations had been going on for months.

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They will have plenty to contend with. Right-wing supporters of the former president have announced plans to protest at the courthouse on Monday as jury selection begins, and cable news networks have promised wall-to-wall coverage of the case.

Security for Trump, who is being tried on charges that he falsified business records to cover up a hush money payment to an adult film actor before the 2016 election, will undoubtedly be high. Strict protections will also apply to Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney who brought the case, and Juan M. Merchan, the judge handling the case.

Although Trump must appear in court every day, he can ask the judge and prosecutors to excuse him if he wants to be absent.

On the other hand, the former president also suggested Friday that he would testify in the case, telling reporters that he would “tell the truth” and that prosecutors “don’t have a case.” (On the other hand, Trump has promised to testify in previous cases, but he hesitated and backed out.)

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But when Trump is at 100 Center, his presence — and the media frenzy that surrounds it — could disrupt traffic throughout Lower Manhattan, as well as everywhere his motorcade travels, including his route to the court from his downtown home, the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.

Protesters and counter-protesters could fill the streets and clog public squares around 100 Center as police officers try to prevent clashes. Long security lines and lunchtime curiosity seekers outside the building are likely to test the patience of the most optimistic court staff.

And Trump, once again the presumptive Republican nominee for president, will also likely spend time in campaign mode at 40 Wall St., his office tower south of the courthouse, potentially presenting more challenges to keep things moving in Manhattan hold.

On Friday, Trump signaled his desire for demonstrations in a fundraising email titled “72 hours until all hell breaks loose!”

“If we fail to get a HUGE outpouring of peaceful patriotic support – here and now – all hell will break loose,” the email read, additionally claiming, highlighted in yellow, that “rabid Democrats are ready to raise MILLIONS while I have to defend myself in court.”

The calls for protests are being heeded by the former president’s allies. Right-wing activist Laura Loomer said Friday she planned to go to the courthouse with a camera crew.

Loomer was highly critical of Merchan’s daughter, a political consultant who has served as an executive at a firm that has worked for prominent Democrats, including President Joe Biden.

Trump’s lawyers have argued that Merchan has a conflict of interest because of his daughter’s activities and that he should recuse himself from the case. Ethics experts have said the judge does not need to step aside, and he has refused to do so once, noting that a judicial ethics panel concluded he had no real conflict.

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“I think it’s important that there is a real conservative media, as opposed to just left-wing media, because they’re not going to talk about Judge Merchan and the fact that his daughter was compromised,” Loomer said in an interview, adding : “So I want to get there early to share my perspective.”

Known for her incendiary tactics, Loomer, who is close to Trump and has flown on his plane to a campaign event even though she is not on his official staff, said she planned to conduct street interviews and appear on Steve’s podcast Bannon to appear, as well as doing her own online show.

“There are all kinds of political operatives showing up at these events,” she said. “They are the instigators, and sometimes you have to confront and expose these people.”

Vish Burra, executive secretary of the New York Young Republican Club, said Friday that his group is planning rallies at Collect Pond Park, directly across from the courthouse, where protests were also held during Trump’s arraignment last year.

“We expect something similar,” he said. “And I know the NYPD is.”

He said his group would not coordinate the rallies with the Trump campaign. And he said while jury selection begins Monday, the organization expected a long process.

“This is not a sprint; This is a marathon,” he said. “It will be the center of the universe. We want to take advantage and show that Trump has support and that Trump has defenders, regardless of what the prosecutors in New York say.”

If the most recent court hearing Trump attended in New York, held on March 25, is any indication, just getting into Merchan’s courtroom requires passing through at least two sets of metal detectors: one on the main floor and a second upstairs , where court officials are. will search bags, coats and anything else they deem necessary before reporters and spectators enter the cordoned off hallway.

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As Trump prepares to enter and leave the courtroom, Secret Service agents and court officials will close the room to traffic.

If he does not attend the trial on certain days, the pressure on security – and traffic – will likely decrease.

Still, Diane Peress, a former prosecutor and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said trying a case without a defendant in court can pose challenges.

“The lawyer does everything a lawyer would do, but there is an empty chair next to him,” she said. “Everything happens as if that chair is not empty. But it’s a very strange thing to do.”

In a joint statement released Friday, the Secret Service, the New York Police Department and the New York State Unified Court System said they were “working together to ensure the highest level of safety and security” for the trial.

Police Commissioner Edward Caban said his department would “help secure the courthouse and everyone inside, facilitate a peaceful gathering outside the building and maintain the safe flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the surrounding areas for the duration of the proceedings .”

And while it will be the first time a former president has faced a criminal trial, Caban said his department was prepared to handle the process.

“Planning high-profile security events is very familiar territory for the New York City Police Department,” he said.

c.2024 The New York Times Company

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