'This will make us stronger': Trump backers rally outside Mar-a-Lago
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The indictment of former President Donald Trump on Thursday by a New York grand jury, a historic reckoning after years of investigations into his personal, political and business dealings, drew a scattering of his supporters at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach County.
Kathy Clark, fully decked out in Trump gear, was among the trickle of supporters who showed up after news of the charges broke on Thursday evening.
“There’s a lot of us who are for Trump. This is not going to discourage us. This will make us more stronger for Trump," said Clark, who was holding a 'Trump 2024' placard and wearing a hat and denim vest covered in pro-Trump messages.
She was among around a dozen people who staked out a spot on Southern Boulevard, the main access road and bridge leading to Mar-a-Lago that has become a frequent focal point for both supporters and protesters to have their say on Trump matters.
It was a far cry from the protests last August when his loyal backers swarmed the entrance outside Mar-a-Lago after FBI agents carried out a search warrant for classified national security documents at the residence.
The small but vocal group on Thursday night waved oversized flags, played music from a portable speaker and shouted slogans at passing cars. Random backers and critics of the former president drove past heavy police and media presence, chanting various slogans such as “lock him up” and “media is the enemy of the people.”
The scene was much the same on Friday morning.
On Thursday evening, Palm Beach police used yellow tape and other barriers to prevent cars from parking on the side of the road. That made it difficult for people to find parking near Mar-a-Lago and may have significantly impacted the crowd size.
The exact nature of the charges against Trump, who is running for the 2024 Republican presidential campaign, were unclear Friday because the indictment remained under seal. But they stem from payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter.
Prosecutors say they are working to coordinate Trump’s surrender, which could happen early next week. They are not saying whether they intend to seek prison time in the event of a conviction, a development that wouldn’t prevent Trump from assuming the presidency.
Trump is the first US president to be charged in a criminal case, and could jeopardize his 2024 presidential aspirations.
Prosecutors in New York investigated money paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep the women from going public with claims that they had sex with him.
Trump called the decision by a Manhattan grand jury to indict him “political persecution and election interference at the highest level.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who's exploring running for the GOP nomination for president, said on Twitter that the indictment was based on politics.
“The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head,” he added. “It is un-American.”
A spokesperson for the district attorney's office said it wasn't immediately clear when Trump would be arraigned.
“This evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal. Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected," the statement said.
DeSantis said in his tweet that Florida will not assist in an extradition request for Trump.
If defendants are notified of an indictment or an impending arrest, they often arrange to turn themselves in. Answering criminal charges in New York means being fingerprinted and photographed, fielding basic questions such as name and date of birth, and getting arraigned. All told, defendants are typically detained for at least several hours.
But there is no playbook for booking an ex-president. A former president isn’t likely to be paraded in handcuffs across a sidewalk or through a crowded courthouse hallway, experts say.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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