Donald J. Trump has warned that “potential death and destruction” may result if, as expected, he is charged by the Manhattan district attorney in connection with hush-money payments to a porn star made during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The comments from Trump, made between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. on his social media site, Truth Social, were a stark escalation in his rhetorical attacks on the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, ahead of a likely indictment on charges that Trump said would be unfounded.
“What kind of person,” Trump wrote of Bragg, “can charge another person, in this case a former president of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting president in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a crime, when it is known by all that NO crime has been committed, & also that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our country? Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truly hates the USA!” the former president wrote.
After years of facing investigation after investigation, former President Donald Trump says one of those probes will lead to his arrest. President Trump reported that he expects to be arrested, and has urged his supporters to launch mass protests. Trump claimed in a post on his social media platform that he would be arrested related to the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
On Saturday last week, Trump wrote on his social networking site Truth Social that “illegal leaks” from the Manhattan district attorney’s office “indicate” he would be arrested on Tuesday, March 21st. As part of the post, Trump also called on his supporters to protest.
His lawyer is reported to have said there had been no communication from law enforcement and the former president’s post was based on media reports. Trump’s lawyer, Susan Necheles, said her team had not heard anything from law enforcement officials. The district attorney’s office has not yet commented. “Since this is a political prosecution, the district attorney’s office has engaged in a practice of leaking everything to the press, rather than communicating with President Trump’s attorneys as would be done in a normal case,” she said.
In a statement, a Trump spokesperson appeared to walk back the comments. The spokesperson said there is no notification the DA “has decided to take his Witch-Hunt to the next level. President Trump is rightfully highlighting his innocence and the weaponization of our injustice system. He will be in Texas next weekend for a giant rally.”
This case focuses on alleged hush money paid on Trump’s behalf by his lawyer to porn star Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 presidential election. It is one of several cases in which the 76-year-old is currently being investigated, although he has not yet been charged in any and denies wrongdoing in each.
The Stormy Daniels case is about how Trump reimbursed his lawyer Michael Cohen after Cohen paid Ms Daniels $130,000. The record for the payment reimbursing Cohen says the payment was for “legal fees”. Prosecutors may say this amounts to Trump falsifying business records, a misdemeanor in New York.
Cohen has said that at Trump’s direction, he arranged payments totaling $280,000 to porn actor Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. According to Cohen, the payouts were to buy their silence about Trump, who was then in the thick of his first presidential campaign.
Cohen and federal prosecutors said the company paid him $420,000 to reimburse him for the $130,000 payment to Daniels and to cover bonuses and other supposed expenses. The company classified those payments internally as legal expenses. 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.
The case of Stormy Daniels is one of several legal woes facing the former US President. Donald Trump faces a separate criminal investigation over efforts to overturn his narrow loss in the state of Georgia in the 2020 presidential election – though it is not known if the former president is being directly investigated.
The Department of Justice is also looking at whether classified government documents were handled incorrectly after Trump left office, as well as broader efforts to undermine the results of the presidential election three years ago – including the January 6th attack.
Meanwhile, Trump has pledged to continue his campaign to become the Republican nominee in the 2024 presidential election, even if he is indicted. Any indictment would create a complicated calculation for Trump’s rivals within the Republican Party, as they decide whether to up their attacks on the former president while he is potentially distracted or keep their heads down and hope for the best.
Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and ex-aides Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks, are among those reported to have given evidence so far. The Trump team has said the former president declined an invitation to appear, a sign the case is almost over, according to experts. Reports suggest one final witness could give evidence, possibly on Monday.
Once the investigation is complete, the grand jury votes on whether to recommend criminal charges. However, their verdict is not binding. Ultimately, it is up to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to determine what, if any, charges to bring. There is no deadline for this. It is a legal decision – what does he believe can he prove beyond a reasonable doubt to win a conviction – but also a deeply political one.
A former US president has never been indicted before but Trump’s lawyer said he would follow normal procedure. Typically, a defendant is either arrested or surrenders to the authorities – if they are facing a more serious felony charge they would be handcuffed. They then have their photo and fingerprints taken. After an initial hearing – called an arraignment – a defendant in a white-collar crime case like this is usually released until the next court date.
The Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, has hit out at the investigation, calling it “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA [district attorney]”. In a tweet, he also promised to investigate whether federal money was being used to interfere in elections “with politically motivated prosecutions”.
According to analysts, past efforts to investigate him, including two impeachment trials, the Russia investigation and the Mar-a-Lago raid, have tended to make him more popular with his base, so an indictment could have a similar effect.
Trump has a loyal base of followers, and the January 6th attack on the US Capitol by his supporters following his repeated calls to protest has proven that a fraught situation can quickly escalate into violence.
Trump denies the encounters occurred, says he did nothing wrong and has cast the investigation as a “witch hunt” by a Democratic prosecutor bent on sabotaging the Republican’s 2024 presidential campaign. “Democrats have investigated and attacked President Trump since before he was elected — and they’ve failed every time,” campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement Thursday about the inquiry.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has apparently been examining whether any state laws were broken in connection with the payments or the way Trump’s company compensated Cohen for his work to keep the women’s allegations quiet.
As per reports, prosecutors have been looking at a possible indictment of Trump. Reports say it could come next week. If he is indicted, it would be the first criminal case ever brought against a former US president. There has been no public announcement of any timeframe for the grand jury’s secret work, including any potential vote on whether to indict the ex-president.
Law enforcement officials in New York are making security preparations for the possibility that former President Donald Trump could be indicted in the coming weeks and appear in a Manhattan courtroom in an investigation examining hush money paid to women who alleged sexual encounters with him, law enforcement officials have been quoted to have said.
US media organizations say law enforcement agencies in New York are preparing for the possibility of Trump being indicted and appearing in a Manhattan courtroom as early as next week. According to the Associated Press, they are considering the practicalities of taking a former president into court, including questions around security.
It is not yet known if he is going to be criminally charged this week or even, beyond broad strokes, what those charges might be. But with the former president predicting an arrest, and calling for mass protests, this is a journey into unknown territory.