Trump Returns to Campaign Trail Amid Trial, Highlights NYC Crime Concerns

Former President Donald Trump is set to make a campaign appearance on Tuesday at a New York City bodega where a man was fatally stabbed, marking a notable shift for Trump as he balances being a criminal defendant with his role as a Republican challenger aiming to pin crime and inflation issues on President Joe Biden.

Trump’s visit will take him to Sanaa Convenient Store, a small bodega that sells snacks and beverages. According to Trump aides, he selected this location because it was the site of a violent incident involving an employee. During the visit, Trump intends to highlight the increase in consumer goods prices under Biden’s administration, his aides said.

This appearance will be Trump’s first campaign event since the start of his criminal trial, making him the first former U.S. president to face a criminal trial in history.

Due to his courtroom obligations, Trump’s movements and campaigning abilities are significantly restricted on most days. His aides have strategically planned rallies and political events on weekends and Wednesdays, the only weekday when court is not in session. Additionally, local appearances are scheduled for each day after court recesses.

Trump has been critical of Democratic-run cities, characterizing them as crime-ridden and overwhelmed by migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. His visit to Harlem allows him to intertwine this familiar message with his goal of making a serious play for his home state, despite its strong Democratic leanings.

The bodega where Trump will appear is located in Hamilton Heights, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Harlem. The violent incident Trump aims to highlight occurred in July 2022 when Jose Alba, a clerk at the store, fatally stabbed Austin Simon, who had attacked him. Alba was charged with murder but the Manhattan district attorney dropped the charges, citing self-defense.

Trump’s campaign has distributed materials criticizing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s handling of the case, particularly the time Alba spent incarcerated at Rikers Island without bail. Bragg is overseeing the office prosecuting Trump.

In response to Trump’s plans, Bragg’s office issued a statement affirming that Simon’s death and Alba’s case were resolved nearly two years ago after a thorough investigation. The statement emphasized Bragg’s commitment to combating violent crime and highlighted significant reductions in homicides and shootings under his tenure.

Trump’s efforts in Harlem underscore his determination to campaign in New York, despite its overwhelmingly Democratic electorate. Although Biden secured over 60% of the state’s vote in 2020, Trump remains confident in his ability to win New York in November. He has discussed potential rallies in areas like the South Bronx and Queens, his birthplace and childhood home, and even considered Madison Square Garden as a venue.

The prospect of renting Madison Square Garden, however, poses financial challenges for Trump’s campaign, which is contending with a fundraising deficit compared to Biden’s efforts.

Chris LaCivita, a senior campaign adviser for Trump, emphasized the president’s enthusiasm for campaigning in New York. “The president is very keen on New York. I do what the boss says,” LaCivita remarked when asked about the state’s winnability.

Trump’s visit drew attention in Harlem, with crowds gathering around the bodega ahead of his arrival. Barricades were erected along Broadway in anticipation of Trump’s appearance, and neighboring establishments were filled with onlookers awaiting his visit.

While Trump believes the changing demographics in New York, particularly the influx of migrants, could sway more voters in his favor, many New Yorkers remain staunchly Democratic. However, individuals like Lesandra Carrion, a local resident who came out to see Trump, expressed hope that he would address issues like rising crime and strained resources.

Carrion acknowledged that she doesn’t agree with everything Trump says or does but believes “he speaks the truth” on certain matters. Regarding his legal troubles, she expressed confidence that Trump would overcome them, stating, “He’s going to beat that. We all make mistakes, but he’s the truth and light.”

Despite the excitement surrounding Trump’s visit, not everyone was pleased with the disruption it caused. Some regular customers of Sanaa expressed frustration over limited access to the store due to the event.