NEW YORK: Donald Trump on Saturday claimed his arrest was imminent and issued an unusual call for his supporters to protest as a New York grand jury investigates hush money payments to women who alleged sexual encounters with the former president.
Even as Trump’s attorney and spokesperson said there was no communication from prosecutors, Trump announced in a post on his social media platform that he expected to be taken into custody on Tuesday.
His letter appears intended to pre-empt an official announcement from prosecutors and to spark anger from his base of supporters ahead of widely expected charges. Within hours, his campaign was sending out fundraising requests to his supporters, while influential congressional Republicans and even some announced and potential rival candidates issued statements in his defense.
In a later post that went beyond simply calling for loyalists to protest his legal peril, the 2024 presidential candidate directed his blanket outrage in all caps at the Biden administration and raised the possibility of civil unrest: “It’s about time!!!” he wrote. “We can’t allow this anymore. They are killing our nation while we sit back and watch. We must save America! Protest, protest, protest!!!”
All of this sparked, in alarming ways, the rhetoric he used shortly before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. After hearing from the then-president at a rally in Washington that morning, his supporters marched to the Capitol and attempted to do so. Congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the White House stood, breaking the building’s doors and windows and leaving officers battered and bloodied.
The attorney general, Alvin Bragg, is believed to be looking to press charges in the investigation over the funds, and he recently offered Trump a chance to testify before a grand jury. Local law enforcement officials prepare to face the public safety fallout from the unprecedented trial of a former US president.
But there has been no public announcement of any time frame for the grand jury’s secret action in the case. At least one additional witness is expected to testify, also indicating the indictment has not yet been voted on, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
That didn’t stop Trump from taking to his social media platform to say “illegal leaks” from Prague’s office indicate that “the leading far-away Republican candidate and former President of the United States of America, will be arrested on Tuesday of next week.”
Trump’s post was “based on media reports,” Trump’s attorney, Susan Neglis, and a spokesperson said there was “no notification” from Bragg’s office, though the origin of Trump’s reference on Tuesday is unclear. The attorney general’s office declined to comment.
Trump aides and his legal team are preparing for the possibility of impeachment. If that happened, he would not be captured unless he refused to surrender. Trump’s lawyers have previously said he will follow normal procedures, which means he will likely agree to surrender at a New York police station or directly to Bragg’s office.
It is unclear if Trump’s supporters will heed his call to protest or if he retains the same persuasive power he has as president. Trump’s posts on Truth Social generally get a lot less attention than he’s been getting on Twitter, but he maintains a very loyal base. The aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot, in which hundreds of Trump loyalists were arrested and prosecuted in federal court, may also have dampened supporters’ passion for confrontation.
Indicting Trump, 76, would be an unusual development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings.
Even as Trump continues his latest White House campaign — his first rally is set to take place in Waco, Texas, later this month, and he shook hands and took selfies with fans during a public appearance Saturday night at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma — it isn’t. There is a suspicion that the indictment will serve as a distraction and nourishment for dissidents and critics weary of the legal scandals that have long surrounded him.
Besides the silent 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 to the Department of Justice also gave evidence before a grand jury investigating Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents at his home in Florida. It’s not clear when these investigations will end or if they will lead to criminal charges, but they will continue regardless of what happens in New York, underlining the continuing severity — and broad geographic scope — of the legal challenges facing the former president.
Trump’s Saturday post echoes one released last summer when he announced on Truth Social that the FBI was searching his Florida home as part of an investigation into possible mishandling of classified documents.
News of the research sparked an avalanche of contributions to Trump’s political process, and on Saturday, Trump sent a series of fundraising emails to his supporters, including one that claimed, “I’m not worried at all.”
After taking office, Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy denounced any plans to impeach Trump as “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA” who he claimed was seeking “political revenge”. Representative Elise Stefanik, the third-ranked House of Representatives representative, issued a statement with similar sentiments.
The grand jury heard witnesses, including Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, who said he orchestrated payments in 2016 to two women to silence them about sexual encounters they said they had with Trump a decade earlier.
Trump denies the confrontations took place, says he did nothing wrong, and has called the investigation a “witch hunt” by a Democratic attorney general bent on sabotaging the Republicans’ 2024 campaign. Trump has also called Bragg, who is black, a “racist” and accused the attorney general of allowing the crime in The city exploded as he focused on Trump. New York remains one of the safest cities in the country.
The Prague office was apparently looking into whether any state laws were violated regarding the payments or how Trump’s company compensated Cohen for his work to keep the women’s allegations quiet.
Porn actor Stormy Daniels and at least two former Trump aides — political consultant Kellyanne Conway and former spokeswoman Hope Hicks — are among witnesses who have met with prosecutors in recent weeks.
At Trump’s direction, Cohen said, he arranged payments totaling $280,000 to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. According to Cohen, the payments were to buy their silence about Trump, who was then in the midst of his first presidential campaign.
Cohen and federal prosecutors said Trump’s company paid him $420,000 in compensation for the $130,000 payment to Daniels and to cover supposed bonuses and other expenses. The company has classified these payments internally as statutory expenses. McDougall was paid $150,000 by the then-publisher of the National Enquirer’s Supermarket, who kept her story from coming to light.
Federal prosecutors agreed not to sue the Enquirer’s parent company for its cooperation in the campaign finance investigation that led to charges against Cohen in 2018. Prosecutors said the payments to Daniels and McDougal were unauthorized and unrecorded gifts to Trump’s campaign efforts.
Cohen pleaded guilty, served time in prison, and was dismissed from the ban. Federal prosecutors have not charged Trump with any crime.
The news that law enforcement agencies were preparing a possible indictment was first reported by NBC News.