Trump Leaves His Trial to Rail Against Crime and Jab at Prosecutor

In his first campaign stop since his criminal trial in Manhattan began, former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday visited a bodega in Harlem where he made a pointed attack on the district attorney prosecuting him and portrayed himself as tough on crime, a central theme of his 2024 run.

His visit to the store — the site of a case that prompted political controversy for Manhattan’s district attorney when an employee was charged after fatally stabbing a man after a confrontation — made for a striking juxtaposition.

After spending much of the day in a Manhattan courtroom as a criminal defendant, Mr. Trump immediately traveled uptown both to criticize the district attorney, Alvin Bragg, for being too lenient on crime and to play up his “law and order” message.

Mr. Trump has for months tried to draw a distinction between his frequently expressed tough-on-crime stance and the felony charges he faces in four separate cases. Outside the bodega, he again tried to dismiss his charges as political persecution, arguing that Mr. Bragg was too focused on Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign sex scandal cover-up trial and was ignoring crime in the city.

“It’s Alvin Bragg’s fault,” Mr. Trump said. “Alvin Bragg does nothing.”

Though Mr. Trump is prevented by a gag order from attacking witnesses, prosecutors and jurors in his New York case, the order does not cover Mr. Bragg or the judge overseeing his trial.

Before he arrived at the bodega, his campaign attacked Mr. Bragg over his handling of the 2022 incident, in which Jose Alba, a clerk, was charged with second-degree murder after stabbing a man, Austin Simon, in an altercation.

Mr. Bragg and his office were criticized at the time for charging Mr. Alba, as surveillance video showed Mr. Simon shoving Mr. Alba, raising questions about whether Mr. Alba had acted in self-defense. Prosecutors eventually dropped the case, saying they would be unable to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not justified in his use of deadly physical force.”

At the bodega on Tuesday evening, Mr. Trump briefly met with the store’s owner and Mr. Alba’s lawyer. He also spoke with Francisco Marte, the founder of the Bodega and Small Business Association, which represents bodegas in New York and which has attacked Mr. Bragg over the case.

After their conversation, Mr. Trump repeated criticisms about liberal politicians that have become standard campaign lines, depicting Democratic-run cities as being riddled with crime and attacking their leaders for being overly lax and opposed to law and order.

Before he left, Mr. Trump shook hands and posed for a photo with a group of uniformed New York police officers, an atypical move for many criminal defendants. He often takes photos with police officers at political stops after they have helped guard his motorcade.

And he again repeated his criticism of President Biden’s handling of the surge of migrants of the border, arguing that the crisis was harming people of color because migrants were taking their jobs.

That message resonated with some of his supporters, who had come to catch a glimpse of the former president.

“This is the worst city for all these migrants,” Lesandra Carrion, 47, said. She said that she believed the border had been more secure when Mr. Trump was in office and that she did not believe Mr. Biden “did anything for this country.”

And Mr. Trump’s criminal charges, she said, did not worry her, adding that he would win in 2024.

“He’s going to beat that,” Ms. Carrion said. “It’s all allegations.”

Mr. Trump was greeted by a large crowd when he arrived outside the store, and the surrounding blocks in Harlem were lined with people standing behind police barricades hoping to catch a glimpse.

As might be expected given that Mr. Trump lost overwhelmingly in New York, his former home state, in 2016 and 2020, his reception was not all positive. A group of protesters also arrived to jeer him, shouting, “Dump Trump” and waving signs before his arrival.

Other passers-by cursed in frustration because police barricades stretched for a city block, breaking easy access to sidewalks, their apartments or the store.

Still, despite the mixed response, Mr. Trump promised to “make a big play for New York,” suggesting he would make more campaign stops after his courtroom appearances and could easily campaign locally.

Lacretia McNeil, 40, whose daughter sat on her shoulder while she recorded the appearance, said Mr. Trump’s decision to visit Harlem was a smart effort “to rally up the votes.” Her daughter wondered aloud about the point of visiting a store.

Mr. Trump will be present in the courtroom when his trial is in session, and it is expected to last at least six weeks. But he is expected to hold more events like Tuesday’s bodega stop on evenings after court.

Campaign aides have also explored planning rallies on Wednesdays, when the trial is expected to pause each week, and he will most likely continue to hold rallies on weekends.

Bernard Mokam contributed reporting.

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