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New York ratchets up security for Trump’s trial now that he’s the presumptive GOP nominee

<i>Spencer Platt/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource</i><br/>A police car drives through Manhattan on January 14
Spencer Platt/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource
A police car drives through Manhattan on January 14

By Mark Morales, CNN

(CNN) — When former President Donald Trump appears in a New York courtroom Monday to face an unprecedented legal battle in his hush money case, law enforcement will deploy a sophisticated and multi-layered security plan greater than that of his previous high-profile cases in Manhattan, law enforcement officials told CNN.

Trump, who is supposed to be in court and does not have the option of skipping any of the estimated six-to-eight week trial, is now the presumptive Republican nominee set to rematch President Joe Biden in November – a key difference from his attendance during a civil fraud case brought by state Attorney General Letitia James that inherently raises the stakes and will mean a more robust security package.

The hallmark of the strategy is a combination of extra staffing, strategically placed frozen zones, high-tech deployments and intelligence, which includes monitoring social media for anything ranging from lone wolf threats to major politically themed protests and disturbances, the officials said.

“Obviously, the threat picture is bigger,” said New York Police Department Assistant Chief John Hart, commanding officer of the NYPD’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division, who added that they did a similar security ramp up around Trump when he became the GOP nominee in 2016.

“We had to set up a whole infrastructure around Trump Tower, which we will have to rebuild for this,” Hart said of the security posture around the former president. “We’re going to be looking at the threat picture on a constant basis. Social media scrubbing, just listening to people making calls or making threats online, all of those things.”

The NYPD will monitor security at the criminal court in lower Manhattan from two main locations: a mobile command center, which will be a short walk from 100 Centre St. where high-ranking NYPD officials will be stationed and manage deployments, and the Joint Operations Center, a massive intelligence hub where police can access over 50,000 cameras in the city. Hart called the hub the “nerve center of the city” and said they’ll be in communication with the mobile command center. Officers in both the command center and the Joint Operations Center will listen to radio channels tethered to Trump’s movements, follow cameras along his route and even zoom in on unruly crowds and troublesome incidents around Trump Tower and the courthouse.

Other federal law enforcement agencies that help monitor from the Joint Operations Center for big events will be present starting on Monday, Hart said. Even specialized NYPD units that aren’t usually present will be there because of the trial.

The security package for Trump during the civil fraud trial and his brief appearance at Manhattan criminal court served as a precursor for law enforcement to build upon before the main event starts on Monday, Hart said.

“This is six to eight weeks of a trial, jury selection and then a trial, of unprecedented scale,” Hart said. “A former president running for president on trial here in New York City. It’s a big challenge. It’s a lot of moving parts. He’ll be also moving in and out of the city on a regular basis so we are working with all of our partners, our federal partners, our New York State court officers, all the people on the ground that are going to help us manage that stuff.”

The security plan has taken shape during the last several months at regular meetings between the Secret Service, the NYPD, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and the New York State Office of Court Administration, according to officials.

The Secret Service will primarily be in charge of transporting the former president, taking him from Trump Tower to the courthouse on Centre Street, according to officials.

“The route is going to be up to the Secret Service,” said NYPD Assistant Chief James McCarthy, commanding officer of Patrol Borough Manhattan South who will oversee the NYPD’s presence at Trump Tower, the courthouse and the route the motorcade will travel. “I’m sure it’s going to change up. It’s not going to be the same every day.”

Most of the perimeter of the courthouse will be frozen, including the back entrance and the side entrance at Hogan Place where court staff and even Trump has been known to enter from, McCarthy said.

The NYPD will focus on street closures leading from Trump Tower to the courthouse and will have a heavy presence outside the building. There, they will make sure areas are frozen along key routes to and around the courthouse, while potential demonstrations will be relegated to Collect Pond Park, located right across from the courthouse.

“It all depends on where he is at the time,” McCarthy said. “Once he’s in I’d like to make things as back to normal as possible. Once he’s in, we’re good. When he’s leaving, we’re frozen, but I want to make that time as small as possible.”

Once Trump gets into the building, court officers will be concerned with the former president’s movements in the building. An elevator will be frozen inside the courthouse and will be Trump’s designated lift that will take him to the 15th floor, which will also be frozen and where the courtroom is located, according to a law enforcement official.

Secret Service agents, who have been seen going in and out of the courthouse for months, making sure that they have the former president’s exact route inside the building planned, even down to the stairwell he would take in an emergency, will be sitting right behind him, the official said. Some agents will even be sprinkled throughout the courtroom and will be undercover, according to another law enforcement official.

To handle the need for extra security, court officers who worked security during Trump’s civil fraud trial are now being used to help bolster the staff during the hush money trial, the officials said. They will be sitting in each bench in the courtroom closest to the center aisle, serving as a buffer between Trump and anyone else inside as he walks down the aisle, the official said.

The challenge for court staff will be running the trial while the rest of the courthouse remains active. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sent a letter to staff telling them of revised and updated security protocols for the Trump trial, which included moving screenings by the clerk’s office for grand juries as well as other additional security measures for employees, visitors and witnesses.

“Our priority is the safety of the thousands of New Yorkers, including Manhattan D.A. employees, court staff, crime victims, and witnesses, who come through our courthouse doors,” spokesperson Danielle Filson said in a statement. “We’re especially grateful to our law enforcement partners at the NYPD, as well as OCA for their tireless efforts to maintain a safe environment for us and to protect the integrity of all ongoing court proceedings.”

Anyone going into the courtroom will pass through two magnetometers, one in the lobby and one right outside the courtroom, according to the law enforcement official.

And while the courtroom is full, bomb sniffing dogs from the court officers and the NYPD will be patrolling the halls and the grounds. The NYPD will also be using its drones, barricades and extra police officers to keep the location safe.

“We use drones, they’ve been very effective for us,” McCarthy said. “You’re going to see a lot of toys out there.”

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