Thursday March 23, 2023

Expecting arrest, Trump calls on supporters to protest

March 19, 2023

NEW YORK: Former US President Donald Trump said he expects to be “arrested” on Tuesday over hush money allegedly paid to a porn star before the 2016 election, calling on his supporters to protest.

With signs mounting that prosecutors are moving closer to indicting Trump, the 76-year-old billionaire took to his Truth Social platform on Saturday morning, saying: “Leading Republican candidate & former President of the United States of America will be arrested on Tuesday of next week. Protest, take our nation back!”

Trump chose to use his own social media platform to make the announcement, despite being reinstated on Facebook and YouTube on Friday, more than two years after he was banned over the US Capitol riot.

The indictment would make Trump the first former US president to be charged with a crime and would send political shock waves as he tries to secure the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election.

Already, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reacted with fury, accusing New York prosecutors of pursuing “political vengeance” against Trump and saying he would launch a congressional probe of the matter. The investigation led by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, an elected Democrat, centers on $130,000 paid weeks before the 2016 polls to stop Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, from going public about an affair she says she had with Trump years earlier.

Trump’s lawyer told CNBC on Friday evening that his client would surrender to face criminal charges if he was indicted. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels and has dismissed the investigation as politically motivated. In his Truth Social post, written in capital letters, Trump referred to “illegal leaks from a corrupt & highly political Manhattan district attorneys office” and said the investigation was “based on an old & fully debunked (by numerous other prosecutors!) fairytale.”

Hours later, Trump doubled down in another all-caps post, assailing his successor as “crooked” and urging his followers to “Protest, Protest, Protest!!!”

Trump’s lawyer Susan Necheles indicated that his posts were based on media reports and not on any fresh action taken by prosecutors. “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,” Necheles said in a statement to AFP.

Facebook and YouTube, where Trump has millions of followers, benched him days after the attack, arguing that his posts incited unrest. Some observers believe an indictment bodes ill for Trump’s 2024 chances, while others speculate that it could on the contrary serve as a huge boost. “The arrest secures the nomination for Donald Trump,” tweeted Rick Wilson, a political strategist who quit the Republican Party in protest over Trump. “The base will rally politically, and possibly physically. (Let me know how that goes.)”

Tech billionaire Elon Musk, a self-described libertarian who has increasingly aligned with Republican positions and who overturned the Twitter ban on Trump in the name of free speech, went even further. “If this happens, Trump will be re-elected in a landslide victory,” Musk said in a tweet. Trump called a new campaign rally in Texas on March 25.