Trump expects arrest in alleged sex case, calls for protest
NEW YORK –
Donald Trump on Saturday claimed his arrest was imminent and issued an extraordinary call for his supporters to demonstrate as a New York grand jury investigates silent payments to women who alleged sex with the former president.
While a lawyer and spokesperson for Trump said there had been no communication from prosecutors, Trump said in a post on his social media platform that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday.
His post appeared designed to preempt an official announcement from prosecutors and to galvanize outrage among his supporter base ahead of widely anticipated charges. Within hours, he sent a fundraising email to his supporters while influential Republicans in Congress issued statements in his defense.
In a subsequent post that went beyond merely urging loyalists to protest his legal peril, the 2024 presidential candidate directed his overall anger in all capitals at the Biden administration and raised the prospect of civil unrest: “IT’S TIME!!!” he wrote. “WE CANNOT ALLOW THIS ANY MORE. THEY KILL OUR NATION WHILE WE SIT AND WATCH. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA! PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”
All of this was ominously reminiscent of the rhetoric he used shortly before the uprising 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 stop Congress’ certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the White House, smashing doors and windows in the building and leaving officers battered and bloodied.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg is believed to be considering charges in the secret money investigation and recently offered Trump a chance to testify before the grand jury. Local law enforcement officials are bracing for the public safety ramifications of an unprecedented lawsuit against a former US president.
But there has been no public announcement of a timeline for the secret grand jury work in the case. At least one additional witness is expected to testify, further indicating that no indictment vote has yet been taken, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and has expressed on condition of anonymity.
That didn’t stop Trump from taking to his social media platform to say that ‘illegal leaks’ from Bragg’s office indicate that ‘THE FULLEST REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE AND FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WILL BE STOPPED ON TUESDAY NEXT WEEK.”
A lawyer for Trump, Susan Necheles, said Trump’s message was “based on media reports”, although the origin of Trump’s Tuesday reference is unclear. The district attorney’s office declined to comment.
Trump’s aides and legal team are preparing for the possibility of an impeachment. If that happened, he would only be arrested if he refused to surrender. Trump’s attorneys have previously said he would follow normal procedure, which means he would likely agree to go to a New York Police Department station or directly to Bragg’s office.
It’s unclear whether Trump’s supporters would heed his call to protest or if he would retain the same soft power he held as president. Trump’s posts on Truth Social generally receive far less attention than he did on Twitter, but he retains a deeply 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 extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings.
Even as Trump continues his final White House campaign – his first rally is scheduled for Waco, Texas, later this month and he was due to make a public appearance Saturday night at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma — there’s no doubt an indictment would be a distraction and give fodder to naysayers and critics weary of the court scandals that have long shrouded him.
In addition to the secret money investigation in New York, Trump faces separate criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
A Justice Department special counsel also presented evidence before a grand jury investigating Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate. It’s unclear 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 current severity – and wide geographic reach – of the legal challenges facing the former president faces. .
Trump’s message on Saturday echoes one from last summer when he announced on Truth Social that the FBI was searching his Florida home as part of an investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents.
News of the search sparked a flood of contributions to Trump’s political operation, and on Saturday Trump sent a fundraising email to his supporters saying “MANHATTAN DA MAY BE CLOSE TO LOADING TRUMP.”
After his post, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy denounced any plans to prosecute Trump as an “outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA” who he said was pursuing “political revenge.” Representative Elise Stefanik, the third Republican in the House of Representatives, issued a statement with a similar sentiment.
The grand jury heard from witnesses, including former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who claims he orchestrated payments in 2016 to two women to silence them about sexual encounters they said they had with Trump a decade ago. earlier.
Trump denies the encounters happened, says he did nothing wrong and called the investigation a “witch hunt” by a Democratic prosecutor determined to sabotage the 2024 Republican campaign. Trump also called Bragg , who is black, of being “racist” and accused the prosecutor of letting crime in the city run wild as he focused on Trump. New York remains one of the safest cities in the country.
Bragg’s office apparently looked into whether any state laws were violated in relation to the payments or how Trump’s company compensated Cohen for his work in keeping the women’s allegations quiet.
Porn actor Stormy Daniels and at least two former Trump aides – former political adviser Kellyanne Conway and former spokeswoman Hope Hicks – are among witnesses who have met with prosecutors in recent weeks.
Cohen said that at Trump’s direction, he arranged payments totaling US$280,000 to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. According to Cohen, the payments were to buy their silence on Trump, who was then at the heart of his first presidential campaign.
Cohen and federal prosecutors said Trump’s company paid him $420,000 to reimburse the $130,000 payment to Daniels and to cover bonuses and other alleged expenses. The company has classified these payments internally as legal fees. The US$150,000 payment to McDougal was made by the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid, 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 charges against Cohen in 2018. Prosecutors said the payments to Daniels and McDougal amounted to impermissible and unregistered gifts to Trump’s campaign effort.
Cohen pleaded guilty, served time in prison, and was disbarred. Federal prosecutors have never charged Trump with any crime.
The news that law enforcement was preparing for a possible indictment was first reported by NBC News.
Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Washington and Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.
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