The visitors exiting the State Supreme Court building in lower Manhattan on Monday had the same bewildered look on their faces as they emerged from the courthouse, greeted by cameras, police officers, and dozens of members of the press.
The reason: A visit by Donald J. Trump.
On Monday, the Republican presidential front-runner showed up in court for jury duty, taking a brief break from the campaign trail to perform the civic duty.
Around 9 a.m., Trump emerged from a limo in front of the courthouse several minutes late. He was greeted by a few-hundred reporters and onlookers, signing autographs and engaging with supporters.
As The Wall Street Journal has reported, Trump has missed jury duty five times since 2006. His lawyer has claimed repeatedly that Trump simply never saw the summonses because they were delivered to addresses where Trump does not live.
Trump’s campaign manager on Monday told The Wall Street Journal that Trump would serve if he were selected to a jury. But Trump told reporters on Monday that though he “looked forward” to attending for the day, he was “not particularly” hoping to be selected as a juror. In the end, he was not selected.
“That would be very interesting to see,” Trump said of the potential.
The day inside the courthouse began as one of Trump’s fellow potential jurors took the liberty of taking a covert Snapchat of Trump in the holding area.
Trump also signed a court sketch of himself.
For the majority of the day, meanwhile, Trump’s limo remained parked in front of the courthouse, as the real-estate magnate’s driver dusted off the windows — and opined on Trump’s continued surge in the polls.
“Every time some controversy happens, he shoots up in the polls. So I think it’s what the people want, and they’re tired of what’s going on, and they’re ready for what he’s saying,” Eddie Diaz told Business Insider.
Diaz, who has been driving Trump’s limo since 1988, said that people often don’t see that Trump is humble.
“He’s a down-to-earth guy. Of course, he’s a billionaire and a big-shot type of guy, but he’s down to earth. He’s steak and potatoes, just like the rest of us,” Diaz said.
The event also attracted its fair share of protesters.
Some were incensed by Trump’s comments about immigration, a day after he released his first policy paper on the topic. Others highlighted issues as diverse as money in politics and the New York court system.
But occasionally, people in the crowd referred to Trump as “Mr. President.”
When Trump did emerge from the courthouse, its empty steps filled up fast. Onlookers rushed to the snap pictures of and get autographs from Trump.
Outside of the courthouse after the first session, Trump signed autographs, spoke briefly to several reporters, and gave a thumbs up to a supporter shouting, “You the man.” He told one reporter that the experience had been “great.”
“They’re really amazing people, they’re great people, and they run a terrific operation,” Trump said.
The real-estate magnate repeated the line when he emerged from court later in the day, after he had been called back for a 2:30 p.m. hearing.
“We’re well protected, I can tell you that,” Trump said.
Monday wasn’t a day for much substance, as Trump declined to engage with questions about his immigration plan and did not comment when reporters hurled at him questions about statements critical of his Republican rivals.
“Would you use an executive order to end birthright citizenship if you don’t have the votes in the Senate?” someone standing next to Trump shouted.
“Thank you, thank you,” Trump said, waving as he descended the staircase.
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