A day in Trump’s world: morning in the courtroom, evening on the campaign trail
Written by James Oliphant and Gram Slattery
Atkinson, New Hampshire (Reuters) Donald TrumpHis agenda on Wednesday sums up the unprecedented nature of this year’s election: spending the day in court fighting a libel case and the evening rallying supporters in his bid to become the next US president.
That’s how the former president, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination and the world’s most notorious defendant, chose to divide his time this week as he pursues his political comeback.
Trump was not obligated to be present in the federal courtroom in Manhattan, as the judge warned him that he could be expelled if he caused disturbance. His appearance in civil court is completely voluntary.
From there, he plans to spend Wednesday evening campaigning in New Hampshire ahead of the state’s Republican presidential primary next week.
It’s an unusual strategy in an unusual situation: A major presidential candidate is trying to win the White House while facing a barrage of federal and state criminal charges, as well as a civil defamation trial and a civil fraud trial.
But Trump and his campaign are keenly aware of the publicity and sympathy his court appearance could generate with his base of loyal supporters as he tries to fend off challenges from Republican rivals Nikki Haley and Trump. Ron DeSantis.
“No one else can put up with this crap,” Trump told hundreds of people lined up in snow and ice outside a country club in Atkinson, New Hampshire, on Tuesday evening to see him.
The audience exploded in continuous applause.
Trump faces dozens of federal and state charges related to attempts to undermine the 2020 election, in addition to federal prosecution for mishandling classified documents. He has denied any wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges, saying these cases are politically motivated. The Justice Department says it acts without political bias.
The federal case Trump is attending this week is a civil case, the damages phase of the defamation trial of author E. Jane Carroll, who claims Trump destroyed her reputation and must pay millions of dollars in damages for denying in 2019 that he raped her. Nearly a quarter of a century ago.
At his meeting at Atkinson, he complained of double obligations.
“No one has ever had to do this before,” he said. “These people are disgraceful.”
The day after a resounding victory Monday in Iowa, where he beat both DeSantis and Haley by about 30 percentage points in the state’s first caucus, Trump could have taken a victory lap around New Hampshire. Instead, he took a seat in a New York courtroom to observe jury selection in the libel case.
He did not leave the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan until mid-afternoon, posting on his Social Truth platform that he should have been in New Hampshire but “had to spend time in federal court with a far-left judge who hates Trump.”
Meanwhile, his supporters waited for hours in storm-stricken New Hampshire after Trump’s plane was delayed by weather.
“We froze our hind limbs trying to get in here!” said Phil Caron, 81, who came from neighboring Massachusetts.
It was the first Trump event for Kat Wiggins, 51, of Hampton, New Hampshire. Didn’t mind waiting.
“I’m absolutely disturbed,” she said, adding that she stands by Trump regarding his legal troubles. She said the 2020 election, won by Democrat Joe Biden, was “stolen.”
Trump took the stage two hours late, regaling the audience with how difficult it was to get there. He said that his flight was risky, and the pilot urged him not to fly amid heavy snow and strong winds.
“Tonight has been a little rough,” he said, then suggested he might not have made it to his rally at all. “That was a pretty big story, wasn’t it?”
It was the tale the former president liked to tell on the campaign trail, embellished for dramatic effect, portraying himself as a tough, obstacle-defying hero for his loyal fans. They ate it.
E. Jean Carroll’s defamation trial will extend until at least next week, as Trump plans to travel between New York and New Hampshire while campaigning ahead of Tuesday’s primaries.
The ping-pong travel pattern is likely to be repeated throughout the election year.
Trump’s federal trial in Washington on the election charges is scheduled to begin on March 4, the day before Super Tuesday, when 16 states and one U.S. territory will hold contests for the Republican nomination.
A case in New York State, in which Trump is charged in connection with hush money payments to a porn star, will be held in late March. The secret federal documents trial is scheduled to be held in Miami in May.
Trump aims to wrap up the Republican nomination by then. He is expected to face a greater challenge from Haley in New Hampshire, with its mix of moderate and independent voters, than he faced in Iowa. But he remains the favorite in the upcoming Republican Party primaries.
Until then, he seems to be hoping to use his time in courtrooms to his full advantage.
(Reporting by James Oliphant in Atkinson, New Hampshire, and Gram Slattery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis)