Trump’s Big Arrest Party was bizarre — almost as absurd as the Florida after-party

At least now we know what will happen in 2024

Holly Baxter
New York
Wednesday 05 April 2023 15:57 BST
(AFP via Getty Images)

The circus dissipated and the clown went home. Back at his Mar-a-Lago residence, Donald J Trump was taking his arraignment about as well as expected. He’d been told just a few hours earlier by a judge that he shouldn’t use his arrest to incite violence. He responded by making an angry speech about the judge’s wife and kids.

“This is where we are right now. I have a Trump-hating judge, with a Trump-hating wife and family, whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris and now receives money from the Biden-Harris campaign,” he said. District Attorney Alvin Bragg was “a radical left, George Soros-backed prosecutor”. His infamous phone call to Georgia where he pressured the secretary of state to “find” more votes was thought to be “perfect” until “somebody’s book tour” (this call isn’t even the subject of any charges against Trump in New York.) Biden caused record inflation. Trump won the 2020 election. And by the way, it was fine that he took all those classified documents to Mar-a-Lago after his presidency’s end.

It was a sloppily compiled list of all Don’s greatest hits. And the reaction was....mixed. Inside the glitzy Florida residence, there were hundreds more supporters than had turned up in Manhattan. People cheered. People chanted. Matt Gaetz did an interview with Fox News from the floor, claiming that the Trump 2024 campaign had a new vigor.

And yet, and yet. Outside of the confines of the Mar-a-Lago ballroom, reactions were a little more muted. Most people felt like it wasn’t really the time to remind everyone of the whole “trying to illegally overturn a democratic election” thing. Attacking the young daughter of a judge seemed unpalatable to a lot of family-friendly Republicans. And did we really have to get into the documents again? This list of grievances felt both exhaustingly predictable and deeply insecure. Eric Trump was widely mocked when he later talked up a fantasy of “tens of thousands” of supporters who “lined the streets” to back his daddy. Even sections of the mainstream media had stopped paying attention: MSNBC elected not to even carry the Trump speech at all.

But let’s rewind a little to Tuesday morning and New York City, where the courtroom drama had unfolded a few hours before.

The scene was set for the prince of martyrdom. His red carpet was a small park outside a Manhattan courtroom, where protesters and counter-protesters were gathered. His crown was 34 felony charges relating to his finances, including business dealing discrepancies and hush money paid to the porn star Stormy Daniels.

“He’s frustrated. He’s upset. But I’ll tell you what, he’s motivated. It’s not going to stop him. It’s not going to slow him down,” Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, said outside the courtroom as his posse emerged. Presumably he didn’t mean that this won’t slow his client down from committing further financial crimes.

No, we can reasonably assume that Trump’s lawyer was talking about 2024, which cast a long shadow over all proceedings today. Marjorie Taylor Greene, self-described defender-in-chief of the former president (or the current president, if you’re a January 6th-adjacent, QAnon-sympathetic conspiracy fiend), was so convinced that Trump’s arraignment would be a pivotal moment in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election that she traveled to her least favorite state to give a speech via megaphone. Truth be told, it was a disappointing turnout: Groups of protesters and counter-protesters were gathered, but they were vastly outnumbered by the reporters and photographers who wanted to document them. When Marjorie began to speak about the usual stuff — liberal corruption, shadowy cabals, communist countries — she could barely be heard over the piercing sound of whistles. The anti-Trumpers had agreed to drown her out, it became clear, but the whistles themselves had been handed out voluntarily by a pro-Trump supporter hoping to “get people to make noise”. It transpired that he had no idea Marjorie Taylor Greene was even there. As own goals by the far-right go, it was a particularly satisfying one.

Marj wasn’t finished after her lackluster appearance, of course. She popped up on RSBN, saying that Trump “is joining some of the most incredible people in history being arrested today. Nelson Mandela was arrested, served time in prison. Jesus! Jesus was arrested and murdered.” That’s a slight cherrypicking of “people who have been arrested” as a group, which obviously does include Nelson Mandela (and, arguably, Jesus) but also Ted Bundy, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Dahmer and so on. It’s a bold assertion to infer that everyone ever arrested was actually a martyr. Even those who want to defund the police don’t usually advocate literally opening the prisons and stopping arrests for all crimes. But if Marjorie’s getting radical, who am I to question her?

That was just one moment in a day of bizarre, oddly low-key moments. Greene and the New York Young Republicans Club — which one imagines is about as well-attended as the Las Vegas Virgins’ Support Group — left the scene of the protests so quickly after speaking that a lot of people seemed confused about whether she’d even been there in the first place. George Santos, the New York Republican most famous for lying about his mother being killed in 9/11, had likewise come along to show his support but made a quick disappearing act. He was immediately mobbed by reporters and detractors as soon as word got out that he was there. “George, you should’ve shown up in drag!” one shouted. Santos then made his exit, telling someone on his way out that he didn’t feel comfortable. One imagines he felt about as comfortable as I feel when I read about how he allegedly conned a homeless veteran out of crowdfunded money for his dying dog.

In a small park outside the courtroom, the protests and counter-protests raged on for a few more hours. Except they didn’t really rage; they sort of simmered. There were NYPD barricades and Secret Service-imposed cell service dead areas, but it turned out to be unnecessary. The vibe was, in the words of one tweeter, much more “Staten Island’s eight to twelve most unemployed weirdos” than “the country up in arms”.

This is what the scene actually looked like: Counter-protesters set up a huge piece of fabric with “TRUMP LIES ALL THE TIME” emblazoned across it in the early morning. By 10am, a woman in a red MAGA hat was already storming across it. She wore Vans, red lipstick and a denim jacket, and was carrying a Trader Joe’s tote bag with cutesy Pusheen plushies attached. In slow motion, she got herself tangled in the fabric and ended up falling on her face. She was later seen standing outside the courtroom with a smoldering bunch of sage, declaring that she was smudging the area in order to get rid of “toxic journalists”. I took that personally.

There were signs and placards: “We’re going to need some very tiny handcuffs” and “NYC <3 karma” on one side; “Salem 1692, Bragg 2023” and “Covid-19 is a lie” on the other. There were plenty of hats and shirts adorned with American flags. A couple of men chanted about how there are only two genders. Someone brought along a cardboard cut-out of Hillary Clinton and set it next to a cardboard sign reading “Lock him up”.


Trump himself did the bare minimum. This is a man who thrives off telling people that he’s the one politician in touch with the real world and everyone else is an avocado-obsessed, Soros-funded liberal who only cares about getting Mexican kids to vaccinate you with microchips. Today, he walked out of Trump Tower — you know, that golden building plastered with his name — which he had traveled to via private jet from Florida the day before. He pumped his fist in the air at onlookers before getting into a vehicle with a couple of Secret Service agents. His hair was especially candyfloss-like and gloriously, newly blond, like the springtime New York sun.

He’d just made millions from selling merch on his website related to the arrest. An especially popular new offering was a T-shirt that featured a fake mugshot and the words “NOT GUILTY”. In actuality, the former president wasn’t required to have a mugshot taken today. But that didn’t stop him from cashing in. From the car on the way to his arraignment, he pumped out one final post on Truth Social: “Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse. Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”

And where were Ivanka and Melania, the women charged with making him more palatable in better times? Neither was present, although Eric was. Now, a lot of people say Eric Trump does the dirty work of turning up to his father’s least savory engagements because he’s a deeply unloved son who craves the attention of a father obsessed with his older brother, Don Jr. Such theories are cruel and psychologically unproven and not one bit hilarious. A lot of people say it. I’m not saying it’s true, but a lot of people say it.

For his part, Don Jr, ever the class act, posted a Breitbart article about the judge’s daughter on Twitter as the court appearance got underway. Meanwhile, Ivanka made do with some milquetoast Instagram post about how she’s concerned for our country and receiving support from people on both sides of the aisle (no need to name names, Ivanka, but maybe you could show us a couple of the DM’s for evidence?) Melania’s Twitter has remained untouched since International Women’s Day. One couldn’t help but think of the infamous jacket: I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?

Trump’s actual appearance in court was short and to-the-point, and he left after just over an hour without stopping to address the smattering of supporters who were still hanging around. Stormy Daniels tweeted about how it’s far sexier to be under her porn star husband than it is to be under arrest. Online, the rage machine cranked on, and emails from Trump’s campaign begged for money to fight the evil libs. But on the streets, the truth was evident: He doesn’t have the pull he had in 2016 or even 2020. If all you can muster at your Big Arrest Party is Marjorie Taylor Greene with a bad megaphone getting drowned out by whistles, then you might not be 2024 material after all.

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