Former U.S. President Donald Trump, in a social media posting Saturday, told his followers that, based on what he called leaks from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, he expects to be arrested Tuesday.
Trump, in the message on his Truth Social platform, called on his supporters to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”
There is no confirmation from authorities of any criminal charges against Trump. Media reports in the past several days have indicated law enforcement agencies in New York City have been discussing security arrangements for the surrender of Trump, should he be indicted.
In advance of his possible arrest, some Republicans have come to Trump’s defense, including Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice president.
“Here we go on to another politically charged prosecution,” Pence told ABC’s “This Week” show Sunday, while acknowledging, “I can’t speak to the merits of the case.” The case involves Trump’s alleged $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet just ahead of the 2016 election from talking about her claim that she and Trump had a one-night affair, which Trump has long denied.
Pence, however, continued to condemn Trump’s actions in trying to block Congress on January 6, 2021, from certifying the Electoral College vote showing that he had lost his 2020 reelection bid to Democrat Joe Biden. About 2,000 Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building and about half of them have been arrested so far on an array of charges.
“History will hold Donald Trump accountable for the events of January 6,” Pence said. The former vice president, considering his own run for the presidency in 2024, says that he and Trump have “just gone our separate ways.”
If Trump is indicted in the Stormy Daniels case, “it will be yet another norm broken by the man who has infamously proclaimed his intent to disrupt the entire political universe,” said Bradley Moss, a Washington attorney specializing in litigation involving national security.
If Trump were to be criminally charged it would mark the first time in American history a former president is arrested.
“The fact that a former president of the United States may be indicted within hours or days is absolutely unprecedented if it happens,” said David B. Cohen, a political science professor, who researches presidential history at the University of Akron. “There’s a long history in the country of very powerful people avoiding any kind of accountability for their actions and this may be a situation which disproves a lot of the nonbelievers out there who think that there are two different systems of justice.”
Both Moss and Cohen noted Richard Nixon, who resigned as president in 1974 due to the Watergate scandal and was subsequently pardoned by his successor Gerald Ford, is the only former U.S. president to face the potential level of legal jeopardy confronting Trump.
Trump also faces wide-ranging investigations by a Justice Department special counsel and a state prosecutor in the southern state of Georgia for his role in trying to upend the 2020 election result to stay in power. Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith is also investigating Trump’s role in fomenting the Capitol riot and how he kept classified documents at his Florida estate after leaving office, rather than turning them over to the National Archives as he was required by law to do.
Unlike Nixon, who faded into obscurity after his ignominious departure from the White House, Trump is running again for president after losing in 2020. Only one president has ever achieved a nonconsecutive comeback, Grover Cleveland, in 1892.
Cleveland, however, did not leave office the first time in 1889 mired in controversy, as did Trump in 2020.
“Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination,” noted Cohen at the University of Akron. “If he's not in jail and he continues to stay in the race I think he is absolutely going to be the nominee of the Republican Party.”
Others see a Trump indictment throwing the presidential race into disarray.
“No one knows what impact this will actually have on the 2024 campaign. Everyone is speculating wildly because we have never had a previous situation against which to compare,” Moss told VOA. “We are in unchartered territory.”
Trump is expected to be challenged for the party’s nomination by several prominent Republicans, possibly including Pence, as well as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and others. Trump’s former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has already jumped into the race.
Trump’s call for protests if he is arrested in the coming days echoes the incendiary rhetoric he posted online before the attack on the Capitol two years ago, when rioters broke into the building and for hours disrupted the ceremonial Electoral College vote tabulation certifying Biden’s election.
Trump has faced criminal investigation for decades, primarily in connection with his New York real estate business, and his time as president led to other investigations but he has never been criminally charged. This latest case, which could see him taken into custody, where he would be fingerprinted, photographed for a mugshot and arraigned, involves hush money payments his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, made to Daniels.
Cohen was repaid $310,000, Trump has acknowledged, but the former president has contended the financial transaction was legal as part of a nondisclosure agreement.
Cohen, five years ago, pleaded guilty in federal court to making an illegal payment to Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford) for the “principal purpose of influencing” the 2016 presidential election and said he did so at Trump’s direction. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for that and other crimes.
A surrender by Trump at the office of the Manhattan district attorney would likely attract demonstrators and the potential of physical clashes between the former president’s supporters and detractors.
U.S. Secret Service agents in charge of Trump’s security detail at his home at Mar-a-Lago in Florida have been in touch with the New York office of the Secret Service to discuss how to get the former president into the district attorney’s office, according to federal law enforcement sources, as reported by CNN and NBC.