Source: OC Register
Trump says he expects to be arrested March 21, calls for protest Associated Press %%item_date%% %%item_source%%
By Michelle L. Price
Donald Trump said he expects to be arrested Tuesday and called on supporters to protest as a New York grand jury investigates hush money payments to women who alleged sexual encounters with the former president. There is no evidence, however, that prosecutors have made any formal outreach to him.
In a Saturday morning post on his social media platform, Trump said he expected to be taken into custody as the Manhattan district attorney eyes charges in the investigation. Trump would be the first former president ever to be charged with a crime.
Trump’s post said “illegal leaks” from the office of prosecutor Alvin Bragg indicate that “THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK.”
Should Trump be indicted, he would be arrested only 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 Department precinct or directly to Bragg’s office.
There is no evidence that prosecutors have made any formal contact to warn Trump that he would be taken into custody. A Trump spokesperson said Saturday that “there has been no notification” of a pending arrest.
Danielle Filson of the district attorney’s office said prosecutors “will decline to confirm or comment” on questions related to Trump’s post, as well as potential charges. Trump’s lawyers, Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina, did not immediately return messages seeking comment about Trump’s post or the timing of a possible arrest.
Trump’s call for his supporters to protest that was especially jarring, evoking language that the then-president used shortly before the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
After a rally near the White House that morning, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, breaking through doors and windows and leaving officers beaten and bloodied as they tried to stop the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s White House election.
A statement from the Trump spokesperson said Trump’s Truth Social post was not based on any notification from prosecutors “other than illegal leaks” to the news media.
“President Trump is rightfully highlighting his innocence and the weaponization of our injustice system,” the statement said.
The indictment of Trump, 76, would be an extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings. It is likely to galvanize critics who say Trump, already a 2024 presidential candidate, lied and cheated his way to the top and to embolden supporters who feel the Republican is being unfairly targeted by a Democratic prosecutor.
In his social media post, Trump repeated his lies that the 2020 presidential election he lost to Biden was stolen and he urged his followers to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”
Law enforcement officials in New York have been making security preparations for the possibility that Trump could be indicted. There has been no public announcement of any time frame for the grand jury’s secret work in the case, including any potential vote on whether to indict the ex-president.
Trump’s posting echoes one made last summer when he broke the news on Truth Social that the FBI was searching his Florida home as part of an investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents.
News of that search sparked a flood of contributions to Trump’s political operation, and on Saturday, Trump sent out a a fundraising email to his supporters that said the “MANHATTAN D.A. COULD BE CLOSE TO CHARGING TRUMP.”
The grand jury has been hearing from witnesses, including former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who says he orchestrated payments in 2016 to two women to silence them about sexual encounters they said they had with Trump a decade earlier.
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 campaign.
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.
Porn actor Stormy Daniels and at least two former Trump aides — onetime political adviser Kellyanne Conway and former spokesperson Hope Hicks — are among witnesses who have met with prosecutors in recent weeks.
Cohen has said that at Trump’s direction, he arranged payments totaling $280,000 to 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 Trump’s company paid him $420,000 as reimbursement 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.
Federal prosecutors agreed not to prosecute the Enquirer’s corporate parent in exchange for its cooperation in 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 Trump’s election effort.
Cohen pleaded guilty, served prison time and was disbarred. Federal prosecutors never charged Trump with any crime.
In addition to the hush money probe in New York, Trump faces separate criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington over his efforts to undo the results of the 2020 election.
A Justice Department special counsel has also been presenting evidence before a grand jury investigating Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate. It is not clear when those investigations will end or whether they might result in criminal charges, but they will continue regardless of what happens in New York, underscoring the ongoing gravity – and broad geographic scope – of the legal challenges confronting the former president.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Eric Tucker in Washington and Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.