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Strange Manhattan homecoming for Trump, first former US president to face a criminal trial

The scene outside a New York City courthouse is a mad carnival of opinion and emotion as Trump faces his hush-money moment

A gentleman wearing a sequinned stars-and-stripes waistcoat and a “Trump is a narcissist liar” placard is standing on a bench playing a silver flute. Nearby, a protester is holding a huge banner reading: “Google It! Jews vs TikTok”, while beside him a man wearing a yellow hoodie with “Latinos for Trump” is angrily yelling “F**k TikTok!” over and over into the morning air.

The narrow street in front of the Manhattan criminal court, a resolutely unglamorous building resting in permanent shadow, is lined with television cameras and the news anchors from the main networks all chattering excitedly draws a line of onlookers. NYPD officers are policing every corner, wearing their “this-is-going-to-be-a-long-day” look under their caps. It’s 23 degrees and blue skied.

The entire scene is a mad carnival of opinion and emotion. It is just after eight o’clock in the morning of April 15th in New York City. History never rests.

The arrival of Donald J Trump, 45th president of the United States and the first in that august and picaresque lineage to appear as a defendant in a criminal trial, is handled with smooth efficiency by the Secret Service and NYPD.


There’s a cavalcade through the lower streets of his native city, pristine cars glinting in the sun, helicopters overhead trailing the procession and a side-door entry and then he is inside what will be his home from home for the next month or two.

He will face charges concerning the falsification of records relating to hush-money payments to the pornographic film star Stormy Daniels

“This is a historic day,” says Sue Scarlett Montgomery. “It’s a sad day that an American president is being criminally adjudicated for past acts. But he is reckless, he is misogynist. I think people don’t realise that if he is elected, that will be the last election in America. He plays fast and loose with all rules, all laws, all social mores, all decency. He is not a decent man. This is not anyone I want leading me.”

Montgomery lives in the city but was raised in South Carolina: in what seems like a previous life, ideologically, she served as a delegate for the state at the Republican convention of 1980. “My mother would roll in her ashes if she could see this.”

It’s a moment, alright. Adamant as Democrats are that a second Trump presidency would hasten the downfall of America, his supporters see this trial as a concerted effort to suppress him. Vish Barra, who is a member of the Young Republicans in New York, says he is here “to make sure people know that this is a witch hunt, and that America is being turned into a banana republic”.

“It’s a disgrace what New York is doing to one of its hometown heroes.”

And what a strange homecoming to Manhattan for Trump, the self-styled icon of the island’s appetite for orgiastic excess and affluence. The gravity and grimness of the courtroom interior was reflected in Trump’s demeanour as portrayed by the sketch artists as he sat through the preliminary legal tussles and the beginning of the jury selection process. No cameras are permitted in the courtroom and the historic trial will not be televised.

Outside, the flautist, Marc Crawford Leavitt, a lawyer by profession, stops to explain that he is also a “musical satirist”.

“It’s a great day for a trial,” he says in between pieces. “And I think Trump is a tremendous danger to our society.”

Then he returns to his music, playing a rendition of God Save America.

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