WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump was leaving Florida for New York Monday for his expected arraignment and arraignment the next day on charges stemming from secret cash payments during his 2016 campaign — facing criminal a case unlike any his country had seen.
Trump, now in the midst of a third presidential campaign to try to win back the White House he lost to President Joe Biden in 2020, said he would leave his Mar-a-Lago club and fly private plane to Manhattan and will spend the night in Trump Tower before turning himself in to authorities on Tuesday. The case against him has already witnessed a collision of major legal, political and cultural events in an unprecedented way.
Trump Tower was open, but authorities planned to close nearby streets while the former president came and went, which would disrupt traffic in the heart of Manhattan. Extra security is also in the works and authorities had already closed off and secured the court floor where the former president is due to appear for arraignment on Tuesday afternoon.
“While there may be some thugs thinking about coming to our city tomorrow, our message is clear and simple: control yourselves,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “New York is our home, not a playground for your misplaced anger. We are the safest big city in America because we respect the rule of law in New York.”
Trump’s supporters, including one of his staunchest defenders in Congress, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia, planned a rally in New York late Tuesday morning, possibly before Trump is due to appear before a judge as part of the impeachment. Adams took the unusual step of calling out the congresswoman by name.
“While we don’t have specific threats, people like Marjorie Taylor Green, who is known to spread misinformation and hate speech, she has stated that she is coming to town,” Adams said. “While you’re in town, be on your best behavior.”
Trump and his aides have eagerly embraced the expected media circus, which may even include network television helicopters following his progress from Mar-a-Lago to the airport for his flight to New York. After initially being caught off guard by news of the indictment when it broke Thursday night, Trump and his team focused on using what they called a weak case against Trump to their advantage.
The pro-Trump protesters began to gather as the Florida sun was just rising at the West Palm Beach mall en route to the airport, hours before he was scheduled to pass through the route.
Boca Raton firefighter Eric Solensten and his retired colleague John Fischer started putting up banners early. One was 30 by 6 feet (9 by 2 meters), depicting police officers and firefighters saying, “Thank you for supporting us, President Trump.”
“We are firefighters. We’re prepared and we don’t like to wait for things to happen,” said Solensten, who took a vacation to show his support for Trump. “He needs morals, just like anyone else needs morals. He did more for this country than all 10 presidents combined.
Trump faces multiple counts of falsifying business records, including at least one felony, in the indictment handed down by a Manhattan grand jury last week. The investigation scrutinized six-figure payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Both say they had sex with the married Trump years before he entered politics. Trump denies having sex with either woman and denies any wrongdoing involving the payments, saying the case against him is politically motivated.
No former president has been charged, and given Trump’s still-active presidential campaign, the legal and political fallout are colliding in an unprecedented way. Trump spent the weekend golfing and meeting with advisers, but his campaign says it has raised more than $5 million since the indictment broke.
Senior Republicans, including some of Trump’s potential rivals in next year’s GOP presidential primary, have condemned the case against him. Biden and leading Democrats have largely said little about it.
Solensten said it was wrong for Trump to be charged with a crime stemming from an alleged encounter with a porn star long before he took office. He said investigators should instead look at Biden’s son, Hunter, and his business dealings, which committees in the Republican-controlled House have already begun looking into.
“To me, these actions are treasonous,” Solensten said of Biden. “But it’s a walk.”
Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Bobby Kane Kalvan and Julie Walker contributed to this report from New York.