Rule of Law

Trump’s Criminal Circus Comes to the Capitol

Hundreds of journalists, supporters, and detractors showed up for the former President’s first arraignment.

The scene outside the E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse in Washington, D.C., was what you’d expect—a circus, albeit a surprisingly low-key one for the arrest of a former U.S. President. That’s perhaps because it wasn’t the country’s first time seeing this show; it’s already played in Miami and New York City. When Donald J. Trump was processed at the courthouse on August 3, he had already appeared in front of a judge three times before this in the past four months.

Hundreds of journalists had surrounded the entire courthouse with satellite video trucks running generators from the early morning hours. The producers running back and forth with catering had to work their way through protesters and supporters of Trump who chose the entrance to this media village as their rallying point.

While only a small number of Trump supporters showed up, per usual, they were loud and gaudy. Dion Cini, a New Yorker and the self-proclaimed owner of the largest MAGA flags in the world, was certain that if Trump wasn’t running for President again, he wouldn’t be prosecuted.

When I asked what would happen if Trump were to be convicted, fearing that he would be put on a list of some sort, Cini was skittish. “I’m on lots of lists. There’s a lot of different Facebook groups that are trying to get all these people and throw them into jail,” he told me, referring to the investigators who do deep dives into online photos to uncover people who were at the January 6 rally.

I pressed him on what hardcore supporters would do if Trump was convicted and unable to run. He pointed to the Capitol, a place where he was on January 6, 2021, “You see what happens when we get angry, right? They don’t want to get them angrier because that will definitely make them angrier than January 6.”

At the National Mall, less than half a mile away, a group of liberal political organizations, including Public Citizen, People for the American Way, and the National Organization of Women, were holding a small rally under the banner “Not Above the Law.”

“The threat is that some will use fraud, intimidation, corruption, and, yes, violence to prevent people from voting or from having their vote be counted,” Praveen Fernandes, of the Constitutional Accountability Center, told the “Not Above the Law” crowd. “The indictment from Special Counsel Jack Smith and his colleagues demonstrates that the threat remains painfully real today.”

Back at the circus, Suzzanne Monk (left), a supporter of Trump and the January 6 defendants spoke to reporters outside of the courthouse saying that Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, and others that didn’t call up the National Guard to defend the Capitol were the real criminals. “The people who actually obstructed the process were not the individuals there exercising the First Amendment,” she said. “They were the people in leadership who did not properly secure that building . . . That’s who should be charged.”

Monk is a regular at the D.C. Jail, where a small devoted cadre of supporters of the January 6 defendants hold nightly vigils outside of its gates. Later that night, Monk’s group called Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio.

What’s a circus without a clown? A Trump impersonator holding a photoshopped poster of Home Alone 3 joked around with passers-by and reporters.

The crowd wasn’t just run-of-the-mill MAGA supporters that follow Trump around like he’s Jerry Garcia. The youth of the far-right movement was there, too. These suited young men arrived after the arraignment and, while claiming to be on Trump’s legal team, said they were willing to take questions. That was a joke, or a lie, as at least two of them were white nationalist Groypers who have worked for members of Congress.

On the right is Representative Paul Gosar’s digital director Wade Searle, whom journalist Hunter Walker revealed was a follower of white supremacist Nick Fuentes; in the center is Lance W. Smith who the South Poverty Law Center discovered was working for Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. Smith was also a web and graphics designer working with Fuentes’ Cozy.TV.

The press was all looking for one shot on the other side of the courthouse: an image of Trump, the perp. The former President never left his SUV, unfortunately, leaving photographers with only a silhouette. Trump’s caravan arrived and left with little fanfare, no motorcycle escort, and reportedly no traffic control.