Former President Donald Trump on Saturday called on his supporters to protest and “take our nation back” 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 exhorted his followers Saturday morning 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.
It’s unclear if Trump’s legal team has informed him of an impending indictment or whether he’s speculating based on news coverage.
A Trump spokesperson 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!”
A person familiar with the Trump operations said that they were not actively organizing protests.
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.
Trump played golf Saturday morning and is scheduled to travel to Oklahoma Saturday afternoon to attend the NCAA wrestling championship.
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.
But Trump’s new call for supporters to “take our nation back” is indicative of the type of civil unrest he could unleash if he faces charges. 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.
Trump’s clarion call to his backers came in a pair of rambling social media posts early Saturday that painted a grim, dystopian vision of America and suggested that his arrest was imminent.
“Our nation is now third world & dying. The American dream is dead! The radical left anarchists have stollen [sic] our presidential election, and with it, the heart of our our [sic] country. American patriots are being arrested & held in captivity like animals, while criminals & leftist thugs are allowed to roam the streets, killing & burning with no retribution,” Trump wrote.
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.
However, Bragg’s investigation has 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 and Alex Isenstadt contributed to this report.
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