Trump predicts imminent arrest, calls for protestsMarch 18, 2023
Former President Donald Trump on Saturday called on his supporters to protest as he girds for an expected effort by the Manhattan district attorney to bring an unprecedented criminal charge over his handling of a hush money payment during his 2016 presidential campaign.
“Protest, take our nation back!” the former president and 2024 GOP presidential candidate declared on his social media platform Truth Social, after pointing to news reports about the possibility he could be arrested Tuesday or soon thereafter.
Trump provided no clear basis for his expected arrest, beyond citing what he called “illegal leaks” about the ongoing investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. And, indeed, a Trump spokesperson later clarified that there had been no actual “notification” about an imminent arrest. The spokesperson added that he would “be in Texas next weekend for a giant rally. Make America Great Again!” Trump played golf Saturday morning and is scheduled to travel to Oklahoma Saturday afternoon to attend the NCAA wrestling championship.
Though a person familiar with the Trump operations said that they were not actively organizing protests, the Saturday morning post by the ex-president underscores the degree to which he is trying to turn the legal cases against him into a political tinderbox. His description of his anticipated arrest followed a lengthy, rambling thread in which he claimed “The American Dream is dead” and falsely asserted the 2020 election was stolen from him. The rhetoric is similar to his remarks on Jan. 6, 2021, when he urged supporters to “fight like hell” to prevent Joe Biden from taking office.
“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump said at the time, before thousands of supporters marched to the Capitol and stormed the building, endangering Congress and the transfer of power. In a later post Saturday, Trump said, “It’s time! ... We just can’t allow this anymore.”
A spokesperson for Bragg declined to comment Saturday. A spokesperson for the NYPD declined to comment. A Secret Service spokesperson said they were not able to comment on specific protection plans or protectee movements.
Fabien Levy, press secretary for New York City Mayor Eric Adams, said: “In coordination with other local, state, and federal law enforcement, the NYPD always remains prepared to respond to events happening on the ground and keep New Yorkers safe.”
A flurry of news reports Friday evening said Bragg asked law enforcement authorities in New York City to begin discussions about the security issues and logistics involved in responding to a potential indictment of Trump there. It’s unclear whether the potential criminal charge would result in Trump being arrested at his new home in Florida, but one of Trump’s attorneys, Joseph Tacopina, has said Trump would turn himself in to face the charges in Manhattan if a grand jury returns an indictment in the coming days.
Bragg’s predecessor as district attorney, Cy Vance Jr., conducted a lengthy investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices. That probe resulted in tax evasion charges against two Trump business entities and the group’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. He pleaded guilty last year and a jury convicted the Trump companies on the charges.
However, the probe did not result in any charges against Trump himself before Vance was replaced by Bragg at the start of last year. One of the prosecutors leading that investigation quit, saying that Bragg had balked at proceeding with a broad tax fraud and business fraud case.
But Bragg’s investigation intensified in recent months on a far narrower issue: whether Trump committed a crime by disguising a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016 as a legal expense rather than as an expenditure aimed at boosting his then-ongoing presidential campaign.
The former Trump attorney who made the arrangements, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges, including one admitting to a federal campaign finance law violation in connection with the payment. However, Trump was never charged over his role.
Trump has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in connection with the payment and has denied Daniels’ claim that the pair had sex on one occasion in 2006.
Trump’s legal straits aren’t limited to the Manhattan probe. He’s facing an anticipated indictment in Fulton County, Ga., where a district attorney has been investigating his effort to subvert the 2020 election. He’s also facing increasingly acute legal threats from a special counsel probe into his election subversion attempt and efforts to prevent the government from reclaiming scores of sensitive national security documents stashed at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
Meridith McGraw, Alex Isenstadt and Julia Marsh contributed to this report.