Trump’s historic day in Washington court draws onlookers

By Andrew Goudsward and Jacqueline Thomsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Eager to witness U.S. history in person, members of the public lined up at a Washington federal courthouse on Thursday to observe President Donald Trump’s arraignment on charges of 2020 election interference.

Hours before the proceeding, Sam Arreaza, 16, waited on line with his mother for a spot in an overflow courtroom. Citing its historical significance, he said this first hearing in the Washington case had implications for American democracy.

“It’s a sad day but it’s also a day when justice begins,” he said. A resident of Ellicott City, Maryland, about an hour’s drive from Washington, Arreaza aims to study political science and law in college.

Trump pleaded not guilty to charges that he led a wide-ranging conspiracy to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden.

The courthouse is about half a mile (1 km) from the U.S. Capitol where Trump supporters rioted on Jan. 6, 2021, in a failed bid to stop Congress from certifying his defeat to Biden, a Democrat.

A Republican, Trump calls the case a political witch hunt.

The court dedicated about 150 spots in two overflow courtrooms for the public to view the proceedings live on video. Television cameras for outside broadcast were barred from the courtroom.

Leah Krieger, 23, a former political science student from Denver, said her family happened to be in Washington on vacation when Trump was indicted on Tuesday and decided to attend the arraignment.

“I think it’s about time,” Krieger said of Trump facing charges for Jan. 6, adding she planned to track the case as it moves forward.

Outside the courthouse before the arraignment began, a man sporting a red “New York for Trump” cap rode up in the back seat of an imitation black presidential limo with American flags flying.

“We’re here to support Donald Trump, to show, you know, show our support, our love for our man,” he said, declining to give his full name.

A second man, named Dion Cini, 54, also of New York, arrived in the same vehicle, which he called the MAGA beast, a reference to Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

“The good news is Trump’s going to probably get another five points in the polls today,” Cini said. “So this is another good day for us. Because the Democrats think they’re actually accomplishing something, not realizing that it’s just going to backfire on them.”

Christine Reed, a management consultant from the Washington area, watched from the overflow room. The arraignment was “extremely interesting,” Reed said, having observed Trump’s facial expressions when he was speaking in the courtroom.

Reed said that it was important not to prejudge the case and that everyone could benefit from observing the process in person.

“This is a pivotal point for our democracy. It’s worth really taking the time to understand,” Reed said.

(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward and Jacqueline Thomsen in Washington; Additional reporting by Luc Cohen and Reuters Video News; Writing by Jack Queen and Noeleen Walder; Editing by Howard Goller)