NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump on Saturday claimed 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.
Even as Trump’s lawyer and spokesman said there had been no communication from prosecutors, Trump stated in a post on his social media platform that he expects to be taken into custody on Tuesday.
His message seemed designed to prevent a formal announcement from prosecutors and to spark outrage among his supporters ahead of the long-awaited indictments. Within hours, his campaign sent fundraising requests to his supporters, while influential Republicans in Congress and even some declared and potential rival candidates issued statements in his defense.
In a later post that went beyond urging loyalists to protest his legal jeopardy, the 2024 presidential candidate directed his all-caps anger at the Biden administration and posed the prospect of civil unrest: “IT’S TIME!! !” He wrote. “WE JUST CANNOT ALLOW THIS ANYMORE. THEY ARE KILLING OUR NATION WHILE WE SIT BACK AND WATCH. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA! PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”
It all evoked in ominous ways the rhetoric he used shortly before the uprising at the 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 tried to stop the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the White House, breaking down doors and windows of the building and leaving agents beaten and bloodied.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg is said to be eyeing charges in the hush money investigation and recently offered Trump the chance to testify before the grand jury. Local law enforcement is bracing for the public safety implications of an unprecedented prosecution of a former US president.
But there has been no public announcement of any time frame for the grand jury’s secret work on the case. At least one additional witness is expected to testify, further indicating that no indictment vote has yet been held, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke 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 FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WILL BE ARRESTED. ”
A Trump attorney, Susan Necheles, said Trump’s post was “based on the media reports,” and a spokesperson said there had been “no reporting” from Bragg’s office, though the origin of the reference of Trump on Tuesday was unclear. remark.
Trump’s aides and legal team have prepared for the possibility of an indictment. If that happened, 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 police station or directly to Bragg’s office.
It is unclear whether Trump’s supporters would heed his protest call or whether he maintains the same persuasiveness as president. Trump’s posts on Truth Social generally get a lot less attention than they used to on Twitter, but he maintains a very loyal base. The aftermath of the January 6 riot, in which hundreds of Trump loyalists were arrested and prosecuted in federal court, may also have tempered supporters’ passion for confrontation.
The indictment against the 76-year-old Trump would be an extraordinary development after years of investigation into his business, political and personal dealings.
Even as Trump continues his latest White House campaign — his first rally is scheduled for 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 – there is no question that an indictment would be a distraction and fodder for detractors and critics weary of the legal scandals that have long enveloped him.
In addition to the New York hush money investigation, Trump faces separate criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
A Justice Department special counsel has also presented evidence to a grand jury investigating Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate. It’s not clear when those investigations will end or if they could lead to criminal charges, but they will continue regardless of what happens in New York, whatever the continuing severity — and broad geographic scope — of the legal challenges facing the former president , underlined.
Trump’s post on Saturday echoes a post from last summer when he broke the news on Truth Social that the FBI searched his Florida home as part of an investigation into possible mishandling of classified documents.
News of that search sparked a flood of contributions to Trump’s political operation, and on Saturday Trump sent a series of fundraising emails to his supporters, including one that claimed, “I’m not worried at all. “
Following his post, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy denounced any plans to prosecute Trump as “outrageous abuse of power by a radical prosecutor” who he claimed was pursuing “political revenge.” Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third House Republican, issued a statement with 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 said they had with Trump a decade earlier.
Trump denies the meetings took place, says he did nothing wrong and has portrayed the investigation as a “witch hunt” by a Democratic prosecutor bent on sabotaging the Republican’s 2024 campaign. Trump has also labeled Bragg, who is black, a “racist” and has accused the prosecution of rampaging crime in the city while focusing on Trump. New York remains one of the safest cities in the country.
Bragg’s office apparently investigated whether any state laws were broken in connection with the payments or the way 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 spokesperson Hope Hicks — are among 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 about Trump, who was then in the middle of his first presidential campaign.
Cohen and federal prosecutors said Trump’s company paid him $420,000 as compensation for paying Daniels $130,000 and to cover bonuses and other alleged expenses. The company classified those payments internally as legal fees. The $150,000 payment to McDougal was made by the then-publisher of the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer, which kept her story from coming to light.
Federal prosecutors agreed not to prosecute the Enquirer’s parent company in exchange for its cooperation with a campaign finance investigation that led to charges against Cohen in 2018. Prosecutors said the payments to Daniels and McDougal amounted to impermissible, unrecorded gifts to the election effort from Trump.
Cohen pleaded guilty, served jail time, and was disbarred. Federal prosecutors have never charged Trump with any crime.
News that law enforcement agencies were preparing for a possible indictment was first reported by NBC News.
Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Colleen Long in Washington, Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, and Sean Murphy in Tulsa, Oklahoma contributed to this report.