Yoopya with Associated Press
Donald Trump claimed on Saturday that his arrest is imminent and issued an extraordinary 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.
Despite no evidence that Manhattan prosecutors have given any official notice to him or his lawyers, Trump declared in a post on his social media platform that he expects to be taken into custody on Tuesday. The message seemed designed to preempt a formal announcement from prosecutors and to galvanize outrage from his base of supporters in advance of widely anticipated charges. Within hours, he sent a fundraising email to supporters while influential Republicans in Congress issued statements in his defense.
In a later post that went beyond simply exhorting loyalists to protest about his legal peril, the 2024 presidential candidate directed his overarching ire in all capital letters at the Biden administration and raised the prospect of civil unrest: IT’S TIME!!! he wrote. WE JUST CAN’T ALLOW THIS ANYMORE. THEY’RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA!PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!
It all evoked, in foreboding ways, the rhetoric he used shortly before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. After hearing from the then-president at a Washington rally that morning, his supporters marched to the Capitol and tried to stop the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s White House victory, breaking through doors and windows of the building and leaving officers beaten and bloodied.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg is thought to be eyeing charges in the hush 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 prosecution of a former American president.
But there has been no public announcement of any time frame for the grand jury’s secret work in the case. At least one additional witness is expected to testify, further indicating that no vote to indict has yet been taken, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to publicly discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
That did not stop Trump from taking to his social media platform to say “illegal leaks” from Bragg’s office indicate that THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK.
A spokesperson and a lawyer for Trump said his Truth Social post was based on media reports — though they did not say which ones — rather than any actual update from, or communication with, prosecutors. The district attorney’s office declined to comment Saturday.
Should Trump be indicted, he would be arrested only 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 Police Department precinct or directly to Bragg’s office.
It is unclear whether Trump’s supporters would heed his protest call or if he retains the same persuasive power he held as president. Trump’s posts on Truth Social generally receive far less attention than he used to get on Twitter, but he maintains 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 the passion among supporters for confrontation.
The indictment of Trump, 76, would be an extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings.
Even as Trump pursues his latest White House campaign — his first rally is set for Waco, Texas, later this month and he was scheduled to make a public appearance Saturday evening at the NCAA Division I wrestling championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma — there is no question an indictment would be a distraction and give fodder to opponents and critics tired of the legal scandals that have long enveloped him.