ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Though he remains confined to a court room on most weekdays for his New York hush money trial, which began on Monday, former President Donald Trump is adapting his schedule and his message to try and boost his bid to return to the White House.

On Tuesday evening, at the end of the second day of jury selection in his trial, Trump visited a bodega in Harlem, the scene of a fatal stabbing two years ago, to criticize what he said were Democratic failures in public safety.

Trump singled out the Manhattan district attorney by name, echoing his repeated accusations that Democrats are soft on crime and that the charges against him are motivated by partisanship, which prosecutors reject, saying they are following the law. Trump denies all wrongdoing.

“It’s Alvin Bragg’s fault,” he claimed at the bodega. “He does nothing. He goes after guys like Trump, who did nothing wrong. Violent criminals, murderers — they know there are hundreds of murderers all over the city.”

He used his stop after court not only to take a jab at Bragg and his criminal trial, one of four he faces, but also to repeat his rhetoric about what he often describes on the trail as “crime-ridden” cities largely run by Democrats — like New York, his hometown, where he built his national profile before moving to Florida.

He has made similar claims about crime in Atlanta as he’s railed against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is prosecuting him in Georgia related to his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state.

The shop that Trump visited in Harlem on Tuesday, at the invitation of the Bodega Association, he said, was the scene of a homicide in 2022 when the shop’s then-clerk Jose Alba fatally stabbed someone whom Alba later said was attacking him and he was acting in self-defense.

Surveillance footage from inside the bodega showed the other man, Austin Simon, confronting Alba behind the cash register and shoving him before the two were drawn into a fight.

Alba was initially charged with murder. The case was controversial, and Bragg’s office later dropped the case against Alba, reportedly saying they had insufficient proof to proceed.

Despite Trump’s rhetoric about crime, statistics from New York City police show violent crime in the city has been falling.

Through March 17, homicides were down 19% from the same period in 2023, according to the data — though homicides previously surged 30% in 2020, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crime and public safety are key parts of Trump’s pitch to voters on the trail, along with attacking President Joe Biden for high inflation and immigration.

With the first of his criminal trials now underway, the former president has both complained about how his obligations in court are interfering with his campaign schedule and he has insisted he plans to campaign “all over” on the weekends, with rallies “all over the place.”

The Biden campaign isn’t directly commenting on the trial, though they have issued thinly veiled attacks through press releases and sought a contrast by having the president actively campaign in battlegrounds like Pennsylvania this week while Trump sits in court.

At his own campaign stop on Tuesday, Biden went after Trump for previously supporting tax cuts on the wealthy and said Trump “embodies” the “failure” of so-called trickle-down economics.

Biden’s team has also said that his campaign has been more active across swing states, even before Trump’s trial began.

“This is a trial that should have never been brought. … I should be right now in Pennsylvania, in Florida, in many other states — North Carolina, Georgia — campaigning,” Trump told reporters as he headed back to court on Tuesday, taking advantage of the omnipresent news coverage outside.

Speaking with the press at the Harlem bodega later on Tuesday, Trump repeated his frequent, baseless criticism that it’s an “election interference” to keep him off the trail.

In New York, he faces 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree related to money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential bid, in order to stop Daniels from going public about what she claimed was a sexual encounter with him, which he denies. He has pleaded not guilty.

As jury selection is underway, Trump said at the bodega that “anybody that’s fair” is his ideal juror.

Asked how he feels about the seven jurors selected so far, he responded, “I’ll let you know in about two months.”

He dodged a question about whether he believes the jurors seated are fair, instead saying there shouldn’t be a jury in the first place.

Trump also claimed he has not violated the limited gag order imposed by Judge Juan Merchan overseeing the case — after the prosecution on Monday argued he did so by posting social media attacks on Daniels and his former attorney Michael Cohen, who are potential key witnesses.

“There shouldn’t be a gag order,” Trump said, calling it “unconstitutional.”

At his bodega stop, he was also asked about recent efforts by two GOP hard-line lawmakers to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson over Johnson’s support for voting on foreign aid.

“We’ll see what happens with that,” Trump said. “I think he’s a very good person.”

ABC News’ Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Mary Bruce, Peter Charalambous, Bill Hutchinson and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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