Trump Arrives in New York, Where He Is Set to Be Arraigned Tuesday amid Tight Security

Photo for The Washington Post by Aristide Economopoulos
Former president Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower in New York on Monday afternoon. His time in the city is expected to be short, with a return Tuesday to Florida, where he plans to make public remarks from his Mar-a-Lago estate in the evening.

Amid extraordinarily tight security, former president Donald Trump on Monday returned to New York – the city that vaulted him onto the world stage and for decades served as an integral part of his public identity – to be arraigned on criminal charges in an investigation that centered on hush-money payments to an adult-film actress before the 2016 presidential election.

Trump, the first sitting or former U.S. president to be indicted, traveled via motorcade from Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, to an airport in West Palm Beach, flew to New York on a Trump jet and then headed to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, entering the building from a side street in the late afternoon.

His movements were tracked moment by moment by news helicopters, providing an early taste of the media circus expected during the 24 hours or so that Trump will probably spend in New York, as he surrenders to authorities and faces a judge in a criminal proceeding for the first time.

Trump has said he will turn himself in Tuesday morning and then appear in court to be arraigned before Justice Juan Merchan of the New York Supreme Court. He will then return to Florida, where he plans to make public remarks from Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday night.

The indictment itself – describing the charges filed against Trump and some of the evidence gathered to support them – is expected to be unsealed Tuesday. People familiar with the case have said it involves Trump’s payoff to Stormy Daniels through an intermediary, with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg exploring the possibility of charging Trump with falsifying business records, a misdemeanor.

Trump reimbursed his then-attorney Michael Cohen for paying Daniels, but the payments were falsely characterized in business records as a retainer for legal services.

In New York, the charge could be elevated to a felony if records were allegedly falsified to cover up or commit another crime. In this case, Bragg’s office appears to be investigating whether the business records were falsified to conceal a payment that amounted to an undisclosed campaign contribution to benefit Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.

As Trump, who is again seeking the Republican nomination for president, prepares for a potentially lengthy legal battle, he added Todd Blanche, a white-collar criminal defense lawyer, to his team, two people familiar with the matter said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive legal matter.

Blanche was part of the team that represented Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chair, in a financial fraud case brought by District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who was Bragg’s predecessor. Blanche also represents Boris Epshteyn, a lawyer and senior adviser to Trump.

Trump attorney Joe Tacopina said Sunday on CNN that Trump’s legal team wants Tuesday’s arraignment process to be “as painless and classy as possible.” But law enforcement agencies have been bracing for what could be a tumultuous day in New York with protesters, revelers and many reporters and camera crews expected to push into the area around the Lower Manhattan court complex.

Secret Service agents toured the courthouse Friday to plan for Trump’s entry and exit from the building, a law enforcement official involved in the planning said. They mapped out multiple routes Trump could use after he arrived at LaGuardia Airport on Monday and were doing the same for his Tuesday morning trip from Trump Tower to the courthouse, the official said.

For Trump’s protection, the Secret Service expects the former president to enter and exit the building in a way that shields him from public view. Agents could have Trump enter an exterior door by employing the standard tented arrival, but they were leaning toward bringing him into the building through a hidden entrance where he would not been seen from the street. Advance agents who toured the courthouse Friday have identified several secure and subterranean entrances used by judges, sensitive witnesses and some high-profile defendants that they may use for Trump.

Secret Service leaders had been on high alert last week with the possibility that Trump would seek to hold a news conference in New York before or after the arraignment, hoping to be the first voice responding to the charges against him and whipping up his supporters, one current and one former law enforcement official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security planning. They were relieved when Trump announced he would instead host a press event at his club, a more secure site. That is scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.

At a City Hall news briefing in Manhattan before Trump left Florida on Monday, New York Mayor Eric Adams (D) and New York Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said there would be street closures around the city, a higher police presence surrounding the courthouse, and possibly checkpoints to block foot traffic. They also said violent demonstrations would not be tolerated.

Adams noted that one particular concern for security in the city Tuesday was violence driven by false information.

“Although we have no specific threats, people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is known to spread misinformation and hate speech, she stated she’s coming to town,” Adams said, referring to the Republican congresswoman from Georgia who has encouraged people to join her in protesting Trump’s indictment Tuesday.

Adams said that, given his own policing experience, he’s not overly concerned about security challenges Tuesday.

“People stir stuff up all the time. If you are prepared, you don’t have to get prepared,” he said. “And we are prepared.”

Robert Sica, the former head of the Secret Service’s New York field office, said local agents, New York police and other security partners have learned key lessons from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot about the importance of sharing intelligence about threats, and they are prepared for any large pro-Trump turnout.

However, Sica emphasized, the Secret Service and others in law enforcement have to be ready for the unexpected. “The biggest concern is that unknown radicalized person on the domestic terror side that would attempt to act unilaterally,” he said.

Trump on Sunday and Monday continued to lash out at Bragg, a Democrat who is bringing the case, as well the judge handling it. In social media posts, he called Bragg “corrupt” and said Merchan hates him.

“WITCH HUNT, as our once great Country is going to HELL!” Trump said in a post shortly before leaving Florida, invoking a phrase he has used repeatedly to deride investigations of his conduct.

A coterie of Trump advisers traveled with him to New York, including top political advisers Susie Wiles, Chris LaCivita, Jason Miller, Dan Scavino and Steven Cheung. Trump has wanted his team to defend him in recent days with public statements – and even low-level press aides were said to be traveling with him, though there were no news media accompanying him on board. Trump had spent the weekend golfing in Florida and hanging around Mar-a-Lago, agitated about the indictment but also considering how he might use it to his political advantage.

Trump’s campaign claimed Monday that it had raised $7 million since the news of the indictment, suggesting that the legal action has provided a political boost, at least in the short term and among his supporters.

His advisers have been trying to persuade him to give his post-arraignment speech Tuesday night a defiant and even celebratory feel, according to people familiar with the conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss them. They asked elected officials and other surrogates to attend in person, with an invitation that concluded: “We look forward to hosting you for this memorable and historic evening!”

More than 100 Trump supporters gathered Monday morning at a strip shopping center across from a laundromat in West Palm Beach to wait for the former president’s motorcade to pass. Ronald Solomon, president of the MAGA Mall – a pop-up Trump merchandise shop – was doing brisk business in the parking lot.

“I haven’t even finished setting up, and I’ve already made $300,” Solomon said as he hung up hats and flags to display behind his car. “Business is booming ever since they came up with that boneheaded indictment. The merchandise has been flying out of here.”

The sidewalk demonstration took on a circus atmosphere while fans waited for Trump. Drivers honked in support, or honked and gave thumbs-down. One man handed out bananas as he slowly drove by. Far-right figure Laura Loomer, followed by a video team, used a megaphone to start several chants, including “Free Donald Trump!” and “Arrest Alvin Bragg!”

When Trump’s 10-vehicle motorcade appeared, the crowd cheered, rang cow bells and waved flags.

Trump’s team appeared to relish the extensive coverage of his travel, with several advisers, and Trump’s son Eric, posting photos from the plane of the onboard televisions carrying live footage of the plane. “Watching the plane . . . from the plane,” Eric Trump tweeted.

After Trump’s jet landed, just before 3:45 p.m., he walked alone down the stairs, his red tie flapping. A small crowd of supporters gathered to await his arrival near Trump Tower, a city landmark where Trump’s reality show once filmed, breaking out in chants of “We love Trump!”

The crowd largely missed Trump’s arrival at a side entrance, where he exited a black SUV, gave a brief wave and fist pump, and then made his way inside.