Former President Donald Trump prepared to return to his gilded comfort zone of Mar-a-Lago’s grand ballroom, where he had planned to address a bank of TV cameras and media members after being arraigned and arrested in Manhattan Tuesday.
Trump flew back to his home in West Palm Beach, Florida shortly after he became the first former president to be charged with a crime, leaving the immediate post-arraignment messaging to his team of lawyers.
Tonight in the same ballroom where he announced his presidential campaign and where he has popped in on Saturday night weddings, Trump was preparing to once again tee off on the case New York prosecutors are bringing against him.
Donald Trump in his motorcade from the Palm Beach International Airport as he returns from being indicted in New York
There had been indications that Trump might want to somehow address the media in New York, but instead he was preparing to confront the new legal charges against him at the home he called the ‘winter White House.’
His prime-time speech comes after District Attorney Alvin Bragg unsealed the 34-count indictment against him, charging Trump with a series of false business statements he described as part of an overarching plan to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Bragg’s grand jury indictment not only referenced the Stormy Daniels matter, but an alleged ‘catch and kill’ scheme involving former Playboy model Karen McDougal and another payoff involving a former doorman.
The charges, categorized as class E felonies, could lead to an accumulated 136 years in jail if Trump is convicted on all of them.
He pleaded not guilty inside the Manhattan Criminal Court, where his image was captured by still photographers and a court sketch artist.
Inside the ballroom, die-hard Trump supporters gathered under coffered ceilings and crystal chandeliers, with the usual Trump play list refrains of Elton John and ‘Macho Man.’
Among the early arrivals was My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, who advised Trump during his last weeks in the White House while the president fought to overturn the election results – another area that has Trump facing legal exposure.
Trump supporters filled the ballroom at Mar-a-Lago as they wait to hear from former president
Trump will adddress his MAGA faithful and the media now that he’s been indicted
He was unimpressed by what was in the unsealed indictment.
‘They didn’t do anything back then. In fact, I think he got money from Stormy Daniels. It’s disgusting, bringing up a misdemeanor, trying to turn them into felonies,’ he said of the prosecution’s decision to link state false business records charges to an underlying alleged crime that was only alluded to in the indictment.
He said he had his own lawyer look at it, and that ‘it’s a joke.’ A crime covering a crime or some crazy law. It’s just a reach. It’s weaponizing, weaponization of our government and it is quite frankly it’s political motivation. It’s all for politics. That’s what they’ve done with our country: FBI, CIA all of it.
Lindell did allow that the vast legal challenges Trump is facing carry a weight.
‘What do you think I do?’ said Lindell, who faces a massive Dominion lawsuit over his claims of election fraud that were tossed out of courts. ‘I got to do media. I’ve got all these corrupt companies. You’ve just got to put them – It’s a distraction.’
‘He has one thing. He wants to save our country,’ he said of Trump. ‘This is part of the battle. He’s getting hit. His focus – he loves this country. He loves people, and he will keep going and he’s not going to let this stop him. Is it a distraction? Yes. But that’s all he’s going to make it. It’s a distraction. He’s going to use it for positive, just like his numbers have been up ten points today. It’s going to be a great positive.’
‘If you go back 20 years you can pick out anything and make anything up and it would hurt somebody. I know this – like myself,’ said Lindell, who wrote about his struggles with addiction. ‘ I told everything so you couldn’t attack me. I wrote a book about it. I was a crack addict. So you couldn’t attack me.
My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell is on hand to cheer on Trump
Also there was Hogan Gidley, a former Trump White House spokesman who has no formal role with Trump’s camp.
‘Polling is more in Trump’s camp solidly than anywhere else as far as the country’s concerned,’ said Gidley, who days ago joked that Trump would be able to milk a mugshot if the NYPD were to take and release one.
‘The American people don’t like the weaponizing government, they don’t like the politicization of the justice system,’ he said.
‘I would imagine you’re going to hear some information about how important it is to stand up and protect people in this country,’ said Gidley, who was at Mar-a-Lago but has no formal role with Trump’s camp.
A federal Appeals Court panel in the District of Columbia ruled that key aides including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows must testify in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s separate grand jury investigation of the election overturn effort.
Meadows was a key advisor who kept close touch with Trump and a web of Trump allies through his last days in the White House – even traveling to Georgia amid the election overturn effort there.