NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump said Saturday that his arrest was imminent and issued an extraordinary call to his supporters to protest as a New York grand jury investigates secret payments to women who allegedly had sex with the former president.
Although Trump’s lawyer and spokesman said there had been no communication from prosecutors, Trump announced in a post on his social media platform that he expected to be taken into custody on Tuesday.
His message appeared designed to forestall an official announcement by prosecutors and to infuriate his base of supporters ahead of the long-awaited charges. Within hours, his campaign was sending out fundraising appeals to supporters, while influential Republicans in Congress and even some declared and potential rivals issued statements in his defense.
In a later post that went beyond simply encouraging loyalists to protest his legal jeopardy, the 2024 presidential candidate directed his all-out anger at the Biden administration in all caps and raised the prospect of civil unrest: “IT’S TIME!!!” he wrote. “WE JUST CAN’T ALLOW THIS ANYMORE. THEY ARE KILLING OUR NATION WHILE WE SIT AND WATCH. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA! PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”
All of this evoked, in a foreboding way, the rhetoric he used just before the riot on the US 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 congressional certification Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the White House, smashing through the building’s doors and windows and leaving police officers battered and bloodied.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg is understood to be considering charges in the hush money probe, and recently offered Trump the chance to testify before a grand jury. Local law enforcement officials are bracing for the public safety implications of the unprecedented prosecution of a former US president.
But there has been no public release of any timeline for the secret grand jury work in the case. At least one other witness is expected to testify, further indicating that no indictment has yet been voted on, said a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
That didn’t stop Trump from taking to his social media platform to say that an “illegal leak” from Bragg’s office indicated that the “FAR LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE AND FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WILL BE ARRESTED Tuesday of next week.”
Trump lawyer Susan Necheles said Trump’s announcement was “based on media reports,” and a spokesman said there had been “no notification” from Bragg’s office, though the origin of Trump’s reference as of Tuesday was unclear. The district attorney’s office declined to comment.
Trump’s aides and legal team were preparing for the possibility of 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 turn himself in at a New York police station or directly to Bragg’s office.
It is unclear whether Trump’s supporters will heed his protest call or whether he will retain the same power of persuasion he had as president. Trump’s posts on Truth Social generally receive far less attention than he did on Twitter, but he maintains a deep loyal base. The aftermath of the Jan. 6 riots, in which hundreds of Trump loyalists were arrested and prosecuted in federal court, may also have dampened passion among supporters for confrontation.
An indictment against Trump, 76, would be a remarkable development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal affairs.
Even as Trump continues his latest campaign for the White House — 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 – No doubt the indictment would be a distraction and provide fodder to opponents and critics weary of the legal scandals that have long dogged him.
In addition to the New York money laundering investigation, Trump faces separate criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
The Justice Department’s special counsel also presented evidence to a grand jury investigating Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate. It’s unclear when those investigations will end or whether they could lead to criminal charges, but they will continue regardless of what happens in New York, underscoring the continuing gravity — and broad geographic scope — of the legal challenges it faces. former president.
Trump’s post on Saturday echoes one he posted last summer when he broke the news on Truth Social that the FBI was searching his Florida home as part of an investigation into possible mishandling of classified documents.
News of the search prompted a flood of contributions to Trump’s political operation, and Trump sent a series of fundraising emails to supporters on Saturday, including one that said, “I’m not worried at all.”
After his inauguration, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy denounced any plans to prosecute Trump as an “outrageous abuse of power by a radical prosecutor” who he claimed was pursuing “political vendetta.” Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, issued a statement with a similar sentiment.
The grand jury heard from witnesses, including former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who says he arranged payments to two women in 2016 to keep them quiet about sexual encounters they said they had with Trump a decade ago.
Trump denies the meeting took place, says he did nothing wrong and has called the investigation a “witch hunt” by a Democratic prosecutor who sabotaged the 2024 Republican campaign. Trump also called Bragg, who is Black, a “racist” and accused the prosecutor of letting crime run rampant in the city while he focused on Trump. New York remains one of the safest cities in the country.
Bragg’s office is apparently looking into whether any state law was violated in connection with the payments or how the Trump company compensated Cohen for his work to hush up the women’s allegations.
Porn actor Stormy Daniels and at least two former Trump aides — former political adviser Kellyanne Conway and former spokeswoman Hope Hicks — are among the witnesses who have met with prosecutors in recent weeks.
Cohen said he arranged payments totaling $280,000 to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal at Trump’s direction. According to Cohen, the payments were to buy their silence about Trump, who was then in the midst of his first presidential campaign.
Cohen and federal prosecutors said Trump’s company paid him $420,000 as reimbursement for the $130,000 payment to Daniels and to cover bonuses and other alleged expenses. The company has internally classified these payments as legal fees. The $150,000 payment to McDougal was made by the then-publisher of the supermarket tabloid, the National Enquirer, which prevented her story from going public.
Federal prosecutors agreed not to prosecute the Enquirer’s corporate parent in exchange for its cooperation in the campaign finance investigation that led to charges against Cohen in 2018. Prosecutors said the payments to Daniels and McDougal constituted illegal, unrecorded gifts to Trump’s campaign efforts.
Cohen pleaded guilty, served prison time and was disbarred. Federal prosecutors have never charged Trump with any crime.
News that law enforcement agencies are preparing for possible indictments 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.