The dark imagery invoked by Donald Trump during his brief visit to the nation’s capital for his arraignment last week — “the filth and the decay … broken buildings” — renewed the stereotype of collapsing cities as a means of calling for his federal indictment to be moved out of Washington.
It also reignited his hostile relationship with a city he said needed to be taken over by the federal government when he occupied the White House, reports the Washington Post.
Trump rarely ventured out into D.C. during his four years as president, other than to travel to the downtown hotel that bore his name at the time. He did not attempt to win the hearts and minds of D.C.’s overwhelmingly Democratic voters through political rallies or meetings with city leaders. He received less than 5.5 percent of D.C.’s popular vote in 2020, and 4 percent in 2016.
He and his lawyers cite those numbers in floating the idea of a change of venue for his trial on charges of trying to subvert the 2020 election, as well as his idea for a federal takeover of the District, which he again raised on Truth Social in recent days.
“No way I can get a fair trial, or even close to a fair trial, in Washington, D.C.,” the 77-year-old Florida man who summers in New Jersey said last week. “There are many reasons for this, but just one is that I am calling for a federal takeover of this filthy and crime ridden embarrassment to our nation.”
Trump falsely claimed that homicides in D.C. “just shattered the all-time record” and “other violent crimes have never been worse.”
It is no record. D.C. recorded at least 360 homicides every year from 1988 to 1996 — far above the current pace, at a time when the city had a smaller population.
Judges in the D.C. federal court, and federal legal precedent dating to the Watergate prosecutions of the 1970s, have weighed strongly against changing venues, both locally and across the nation.
For Trump’s first appearance in federal court last week, he flew from New Jersey to Reagan National Airport. He rode up the tree-lined George Washington Memorial Parkway, over the 14th Street Bridge, where he would have seen the reinvigorated waterfront and Wharf development, then through the Third Street Tunnel, leading him to the federal courthouse.
“It was also very sad driving through Washington, D.C.,” Trump told reporters upon his return to the airport, “and seeing the filth and the decay and all of the broken buildings and walls and the graffiti.”
“It looks like he spent most of his time in a tunnel,” said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). “A tunnel isn’t the best way to see D.C. I take real umbrage as to the work I’ve done on the Wharf. I’d like to invite him to see the real D.C. I can’t imagine what he’s talking about. The city’s doing very well.”