Donald Trump is claiming that he’s going to be arrested on Tuesday, and has called for his supporters to protest.
But how likely is it that the former US president will be arrested, as he says?
Trump’s claim comes as a New York grand jury investigates hush money payments to women who alleged sexual encounters with the former president.
Even as his lawyer and spokesperson said there had been no communication from prosecutors, Trump declared in a post on his social media platform that he expects to be taken into custody on Tuesday.
His message seemed designed to preempt a formal announcement from prosecutors and to galvanise outrage from his base of supporters in advance of widely anticipated charges. Within hours, his campaign was sending fundraising solicitations to his supporters, while influential Republicans in Congress and even some declared and potential rival candidates issued statements in his defense.
In a later post that went beyond simply exhorting loyalists to protest about his legal peril, the 2024 presidential candidate directed his overarching ire in all capital letters at the Biden administration and raised the prospect of civil unrest:
“IT’S TIME!!!” he wrote. “WE JUST CAN’T ALLOW THIS ANYMORE. THEY’RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA!PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”
It all evoked, in foreboding ways, the rhetoric he used shortly before the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. After hearing from the then-president at a Washington rally that morning, his supporters marched to the Capitol and tried to stop the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s White House victory, breaking through doors and windows of the building and leaving officers beaten and bloodied.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg is thought to be eyeing charges in the hush money investigation, and recently offered Trump a chance to testify before the grand jury. Local law enforcement officials are bracing for the public safety ramifications of an unprecedented prosecution of a former American president.
In an internal email following Trump’s statements, Bragg said law enforcement would ensure that the 1,600 people who work in his office would remain safe, and that “any specific or credible threats” would be investigated.
There has been no public announcement of any time frame for the grand jury’s secret work in the case. At least one additional witness is expected to testify, further indicating that no vote to indict has yet been taken, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to publicly discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
That did not stop Trump from taking to his social media platform to say “illegal leaks” from Bragg’s office indicate that “THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK.”
A Trump lawyer, Susan Necheles, said Trump’s post was “based on the media reports,” and a spokesperson said there had been “no notification” from Bragg’s office, though the origin of Trump’s Tuesday reference was unclear. The district attorney’s office declined to comment.
Trump’s aides and legal team have been preparing for the possibility of an indictment. Should that happen, 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.
It is unclear whether Trump’s supporters would heed his protest call or if he retains the same persuasive power he held as president. Trump’s posts on Truth Social generally receive far less attention than he used to get on Twitter, but he maintains a deeply loyal base. The aftermath of the 6 January riot, in which hundreds of Trump loyalists were arrested and prosecuted in federal court, may also have dampened the passion among supporters for confrontation.
The indictment of Trump, 76, would be an extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings.
Even as Trump pursues his latest White House campaign, there is no question an indictment would be a distraction and give fodder to opponents and critics tired of the legal scandals that have long enveloped him.
Besides the hush money inquiry in New York, Trump faces separate criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington over his efforts to undo the results of the 2020 election.