Trapped by court case, Trump turns Big Apple into his political playground

Despite his limited mobility and restrained public commentary, however, Trump has explored a revised campaigning method that has seen him exploit the venue of his hometown.

Published: April 28, 2024 2:08am

Former President Donald Trump is expected to spend much of the next two months in New York City while he attends his criminal trial, a development that has forced him to reimagine political campaigning to match his unprecedented circumstances.

Since the trial began earlier this month, he has begun campaigning throughout New York City with the intensity of a competitive mayoral candidate, despite the Big Apple’s status as a Democratic bastion.

Pinning him to his hometown is Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who has charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with a 2016 payment Trump’s then-attorney, Michael Cohen, made to Stormy Daniels. Trump has pleaded not guilty and contends that the case is part of a broader political witch hunt designed to derail his 2024 presidential campaign.

Judge Juan Merchan has ordered that the former president attend the trial and previously rejected his request to attend oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Thursday over his claims to enjoy presidential immunity in an unrelated case.

Merchan has further imposed a gag order on the former president, limiting Trump’s ability to publicly discuss key figures in the trial. Bragg has also asked Merchan to hold Trump in contempt over alleged violations of the order, though the judge deferred a decision this week.

Trump, for his part, has tied both the order and the trial to the alleged “witch hunt,” saying "[t]he Gag Order imposed on me, a political candidate running for the highest office in the land, is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL! Nothing like this has ever happened before.”

"The Conflicted Judge’s friends and party members can say whatever they want about me, but I am not allowed to respond,” he continued in a Truth Social post on Wednesday. “The Trial is Rigged and should never have been allowed to take place on a charge that virtually every legal scholar and expert say is bogus, THERE IS NO CRIME. This is a Political Witch Hunt - ELECTION INTERFERENCE!"

Despite his limited mobility and restrained public commentary, however, Trump has explored a revised campaigning method that has seen him exploit the venue of his hometown to reach out to key constituencies he hopes to sway nationally while playing on the issues facing the traditionally Democratic-leaning urban centers.

Traditional campaigning is limited, but still viable

Proceedings in Trump’s trial will adjourn on Wednesdays and weekends, leaving him with a narrow window to exit the Big Apple and directly address voters in nearby swing states.

He is currently planning exactly such an effort in Michigan and Wisconsin, both of which he won in 2016 against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but lost to President Joe Biden in 2020.

The May 1 excursion will see Trump first appear in Waukesha, Wisc., before he attends a second event in Freeland, Mich.

“President Trump is defiant in the face of this unprecedented political lawfare waged by Crooked Joe Biden and the Democrats,” Trump National Press Secretary Karoline Leavitt said in a statement.

“As this witch-hunt continues, President Trump's support from Americans of all backgrounds will continue to grow as they watch Joe Biden and the Democrats put on this bogus show trial six months before the election while inflation and gas prices increase, the world is at war, our border remains wide open, and antisemitic protests rage on our college campuses,” she went on. “In the end, justice will prevail, President Trump will win, and he will make America great again.”

New York is Trump’s home turf

Born in Queens, Trump has been an icon of the city for decades, with many of his properties featuring in the Manhattan skyline and his name becoming a byword for wealth in popular culture.

While the state has not voted for a Republican at the presidential level since 1984, Trump has repeatedly insisted he sees opportunity for the GOP within its borders, especially in light of worsening conditions in the city itself.

He has suggested at least twice this year that he would invest in New York. During a January interview with Breitbart News, he highlighted former New York GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin’s 2022 gubernatorial bid in which he narrowly lost to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul.

"I believe we have a chance to win New York. I believe we have a chance to win New Jersey. If you look at Lee, he lost by a pretty close race. But it’s 100 times worse now than it was two years ago. Now, you have people—you have migrants living on Madison Avenue," he said.

In March, moreover, he doubled down, saying "New York State is a much different place now than it was even two years ago… We will be making a very heavy play for New York in the upcoming Presidential Election.”

Harlem stop

Trump appears to be using the trial and his mandatory presence in the city as a springboard for the “very heavy play” he previously mentioned.

Earlier this month, he visited a Harlem bodega in a highly publicized stop that saw him attract a considerable crowd of supporters.

The stop drew attention from major outlets and led to some speculation that his pitch on addressing crime in the city could resonate with urban voters in the area, many of whom are members of other blocs he hopes to woo nationally, such as black and Latino voters.

“President Trump's stop at the Harlem bodega with Latinos, and his stop at the Manhattan construction site with union workers, prove this trial is only increasing President Trump's support among Americans of all backgrounds who are infuriated by Bragg's soft on crime policies in New York and Joe Biden's horrible economic record,” a Trump campaign official told Just the News.

Construction worker stop

Early Thursday morning, moreover, Trump appeared at a construction site on his way to the courthouse, where he briefly met with gathered workers and fielded questions from reporters.

Video footage of the event showed a notable crowd, including many workers sporting safety vests and hard hats waiting to greet the president with chants of “USA!” and “We want Trump!”

In viral exchange with NEWSMAX correspondent Addison Smith, one worker delivered a curt, explicit message to President Joe Biden and insisted it was “Trump’s turn again.”

New York Young Republicans Club Executive Secretary Vish Burra, who helped to organize the event, told the Real America’s Voice network that “[w]e knew that that there was massive amounts of untapped support for President Trump all throughout the boroughs and all we needed to was to get him out there and show those folks that he is willing to reach out and show up to places that just haven’t been done before.”

“Reagan, I think came to Bronx back in ‘84 and really a Republican candidate showing his face in New York, in Harlem, and Bodegas… seven years ago, I would have never though any Republican would have had this reception,” he went on.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.

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