Trump goes from court to campaign at a bodega in his heavily Democratic hometown


NEW YORK (AP) — Fresh from a Manhattan courtroom, Donald Trump visited a New York bodega where a man was stabbed to death, a stark pivot for the former president as he juggles being a criminal defendant and the Republican challenger intent on blaming President Joe Biden for crime.

Trump stopped by Sanaa Convenient Store, a tiny bodega that sells chips, sodas and other snacks. Trump aides said the former president and presumptive GOP nominee chose the store because it has been the site of a violent attack on an employee, a case that resulted in public criticism for the district attorney now prosecuting him.

The visit was Trump’s first campaign appearance since his criminal hush money trial began, making the presumptive GOP nominee the first former president in U.S. history to stand criminal trial.

Trump will be confined to the courtroom on most days, dramatically limiting his movements and his ability to campaign, fundraise and make calls, as opposed to Biden, who campaigned Tuesday in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state. Trump aides have answered by planning rallies and other political events on weekends and Wednesdays, the one weekday when court is not supposed to be in session. Plans also include more local appearances Trump can make after court recesses each day.

For months, Trump has assailed Democratic-run cities as crime-ridden and overrun with migrants who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, even as violent crime has fallen in the U.S. With his local campaign stop in Harlem, Trump blended that familiar, if often exaggerated, message with his promise to make a serious play at winning his native state despite its heavily Democratic lean.

“They want law and order … every week they’re being robbed,” Trump said of businesses in New York, as he tried to compare his prosecution with what happens on New York streets. “You know where the crime is? It’s in the bodegas.”

Contrary to Trump’s rhetoric, FBI statistics show overall violent crime dropped nationally in 2023 after COVID-era spikes that began in 2020, when Trump was president. Crime also has fallen in New York City since the pandemic peaks.

Still, in July 2022, Jose Alba, a clerk at the store Trump visited in Hamilton Heights, a heavily Hispanic section of Harlem, was attacked by 35-year-old Austin Simon. The resulting altercation, captured on surveillance video, ended with Alba fatally stabbing Simon. Alba, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, was arrested and charged with murder but the Manhattan district attorney dropped the charges within weeks, saying they could not prove Alba had not acted in self-defense.

Before his arrival, Trump’s campaign distributed materials to journalists criticizing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for his handling of the stabbing case, including the weeks Alba spent jailed at Rikers Island. Bragg oversees the office now prosecuting Trump.

Bragg’s office responded Tuesday after news of Trump’s plans emerged.

Simon’s death and Alba’s case were “resolved nearly two years ago, and the charges were dismissed after a thorough investigation,” the statement said. “D.A. Bragg’s top priority remains combating violent crime and the office has worked hand in hand with the NYPD to drive down overall crime in Manhattan.”

Bragg’s office cited statistics showing double-digit drops in homicides and shootings in Manhattan over the last two years.

Trump’s campaign also billed the convenience store stop as a venue to highlight rising consumer prices during Biden’s presidency. Trump skipped over those talking points, though, focusing instead on his depictions of New York crime and asserting that the judicial system is letting criminals go free.

“They don’t pick them up — they go after Trump,” he said.

The former president’s effort in Harlem affirms his intentions to campaign in his home state, even though New York remains overwhelmingly Democratic. In 2020, Biden garnered more than 60% of the vote in the state and ran up even wider margins in New York City. Trump insists he can win New York in November anyway, and he has mused about holding rallies in the South Bronx and Queens, where the former president was born and grew up, and even Madison Square Garden.

“I may rent Madison Square Garden,” he said in an interview with Breitbart News. “That’s the belly of the beast, right?”

That would be a prohibitively expensive proposition, particularly as his campaign has worked to save cash as it confronts a fundraising gap with Biden.

“We’re going to make a heavy play for New York,” Trump said Tuesday, part of his promise to put more states in play.

At the least, Trump, long a famous figure for New Yorkers, showed that he can still turn heads in the city.

Throughout the afternoon, the crowds around the bodega grew half a dozen deep as word of Trump’s impending visit spread. Barricades were set up along Broadway, between 139th and 140th Streets, in advance of Trump’s appearance. The patio of the Mexican restaurant next door was packed with onlookers, and staff from a hair salon on the other side gathered by their open door.

“Papito Trump is coming. Yeah!” said one passerby ahead of the former president’s arrival.

As Trump arrived, children climbed scaffolding around nearby buildings to get a better view. Trump shook hands with people standing behind police barricades before entering the bodega, where Plexiglas separates customers from the cash register.

“I love this city,” Trump told reporters after emerging from the store. “We’re going to straighten New York out.”

Trump has argued that the ongoing influx of migrants to the city, where he grew his real estate empire and became a tabloid fixture, has made New Yorkers more willing to vote for him since his 2020 loss to Biden. The city has struggled to house the new arrivals, putting many up in city hotels.

“I think we have a chance. New York has changed a lot in the last two years,” he recently told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo. “The people of New York are angry. People that would have never voted for me because I’m a Republican … I think they’re going to vote for me.”

He doubled down on that take Tuesday, claiming that migrants “are coming from jails and prisons and mental institutions,” even though there is no evidence to support that claim — reminiscent of his 2015 speech to launch his first presidential campaign.

Trump’s prospects will depend on voters like Lesandra Carrion, a 47-year-old who lives in the neighborhood and came out to see the former president when she heard he might be visiting.

She said she doesn’t agree with everything Trump says or does but declared that “he speaks the truth.” Carrion cited the rising migrant population and strained city resources. “I think that he will make a difference,” she said of Trump.

As for his troubles at the courthouse at the south end of Manhattan, Carrion was dismissive. “He’s going to beat that,” she said. “We all make mistakes at the end of the day. But he’s the truth and light. I feel that God is in him.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a top Trump ally, predicted Monday that Trump will “make the best out of this” New York trial. “Democrats in New York and the judge and everyone,” she said, “they’re really going to regret it.”

Not everyone was on board Tuesday, though.

Steven Kopstein, a 63-year-old neighborhood resident, expressed disgust at Trump’s visit and occasionally jeered at Trump supporters as he walked through the crowd with his dog.

“You’re not welcome here,” Kopstein said of Trump, calling it ironic for the former president to rail against crime immediately after spending all day at a defendant’s table. “He’s done so much to hurt immigrants and migrants and this neighborhood’s full of them. It’s crazy to me that these people would support him. I just don’t understand it.”

___ Barrow reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed.

Source: post

No posts to display