NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump claimed Saturday that his arrest was imminent and called on his supporters to protest while a New York grand jury investigates hush money payments made to women who allegedly had sexual encounters with the former president.
Even as Trump’s lawyer and spokesman said there had been no communication from prosecutors, Trump said in a post on his social media platform that he expects to be arrested Tuesday.
His message appeared designed to forestall a formal announcement from prosecutors and stoke outrage among his supporter base ahead of the widely anticipated indictment. Within hours, his campaign was sending out appeals for funds to his supporters, while influential Republicans in Congress and even some professed and potential opponents made statements in his defense.
In a later post, which went beyond simply exhorting loyalists to protest his legal danger, the 2024 presidential candidate directed his all-encompassing anger in capital letters at the Biden administration and threatened civil unrest: “IT’S TIME!!! ” he wrote. “WE JUST CANNOT LET THIS GO ANYMORE. They’re killing our nation while we sit back and watch. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA! PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”
All of this was forebodingly reminiscent of the rhetoric he used just before the January 6, 2021, US Capitol riot. After hearing from the then-President at a rally in Washington that morning, his supporters marched to the Capitol and attempted to stop Congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory at the White House, breaking through doors and windows of the building and leaving beaten ones in their wake and bloody officials.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg is believed to be eyeing charges in the hush money investigation and recently offered Trump an opportunity to testify before the grand jury. Local law enforcement officials prepare for the public safety implications of an unprecedented prosecution of a former American president.
In an internal email following Trump’s statements, Bragg said law enforcement would ensure the 1,600 people who work in his office remain safe and that “any specific or credible threat” would be investigated.
“We will not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,” he wrote, adding, “In the meantime, as in all our investigations, we will continue to apply the law consistently and fairly.” and only speak publicly when appropriate.”
There was no public announcement of a timeline for the grand jury’s secret work in this case. At least one other witness is expected to testify, further indicating that a vote on indictment has not yet taken place, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and on condition of the anonymity spoke.
That didn’t stop Trump from saying on his social media platform that “illegal leaks” from Bragg’s office indicate that “THE FAR & WAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WILL BE ARRESTED TUESDAY NEXT WEEK.” . ”
A Trump attorney, Susan Necheles, said Trump’s post was “based on the media reports,” and a spokesman said there had been “no notification” from Bragg’s office, although the origin of Trump’s Tuesday tip was unclear. The public prosecutor’s office declined to comment.
Trump’s aides and his legal team have been preparing for the possibility of indictment. In that case, he would only be arrested if he refused to surrender. Trump’s lawyers have previously said he would follow normal procedure, meaning he would likely agree to surrender at a New York City Police Department precinct or directly at Bragg’s office.
It’s unclear if Trump’s supporters would heed his call to protest, or if he would retain the same powers of persuasion he had as president. Trump’s posts on Truth Social generally get far less attention than they used to on Twitter, but he nurtures a deeply loyal base. The aftermath of the Jan. 6 riots, which saw hundreds of Trump loyalists arrested and charged in federal courts, may also have dampened passion among supporters for the confrontation.
The indictment of 76-year-old Trump would be an extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal machinations.
Even as Trump continues his latest White House campaign, his first rally is scheduled for Waco, Texas later this month, and he shook hands with fans and took selfies with fans during a public appearance Saturday night at the NCAA Wrestling Championships Division I in Tulsa, Oklahoma – there’s no question that an indictment would be a distraction and provide fodder for opponents and critics who are fed up with the legal scandals.
In addition to the hush money investigation in New York, Trump faces separate criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington over his efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election.
A special counsel for the Justice Department has also presented evidence before a grand jury investigating Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate. It’s not clear when these investigations will end or if they could lead to criminal charges, but they will continue regardless of what happens in New York, underscoring the ongoing severity — and wide geographic scope — of the legal challenges facing the former President is faced.
Trump’s post on Saturday recalls last summer when he broke the news on Truth Social that the FBI was raiding his Florida home as part of an investigation into possible misuse of classified documents.
News of that search sparked a flood of donations for Trump’s political operation, and on Saturday Trump sent out a series of donation emails to his supporters, including one that claimed, “I’m not the least bit worried. “
After his post, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy condemned any plans to prosecute Trump as “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical prosecutor” who he claimed was seeking “political revenge.” Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, made a statement with a similar sentiment.
The grand jury has heard witnesses, including former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who says he orchestrated payments to two women in 2016 to silence them about sexual encounters they had with Trump a decade earlier.
Trump denies the encounters, says he did nothing wrong and has called the investigation a “witch hunt” by a Democratic prosecutor intent on sabotaging the Republican’s 2024 campaign. Trump has also called Bragg, who is black, a “racist” and accused the prosecutor of letting crime run amok in the city while focusing on Trump. New York remains one of the safest cities in the country.
Bragg’s office has apparently investigated whether state laws were violated in connection with the payments or how Trump’s company compensated Cohen for his work to keep the women’s allegations private.
Porn actor Stormy Daniels and at least two former Trump aides — former political adviser Kellyanne Conway and former spokeswoman Hope Hicks — are among the witnesses who have met with prosecutors in recent weeks.
Cohen has said he arranged payments totaling $280,000 to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal at Trump’s direction. According to Cohen, the payouts were intended to buy their silence on Trump, who was then in the midst of his first presidential campaign.
Cohen and federal prosecutors said Trump’s firm paid him $420,000 in reimbursement for paying Daniels $130,000 and to cover bonuses and other alleged expenses. The company classified these payments internally as legal expenses. The $150,000 payment to McDougal was made by the then-publisher of the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer, which prevented her story from coming to light.
Federal prosecutors agreed not to prosecute the Enquirer’s parent company in exchange for its cooperation in a campaign finance investigation that led to indictments against Cohen in 2018. Prosecutors said the payments to Daniels and McDougal were improper, unregistered gifts for Trump’s campaign.
Cohen pleaded guilty, served a prison sentence, and was disfellowshipped. Federal prosecutors have never charged Trump with a crime.
The news that law enforcement is preparing for a possible indictment was first reported by NBC News.