In a Truth Social post on Saturday, former President Donald Trump urged his followers to protest his potential arrest by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which he predicted would happen sometime this week.
In his post, Trump wrote that he expects to be “ARRESTED ON TUESDAY,” and instructed his followers to “PROTEST” and “TAKE OUR NATION BACK” if that is the case.
Many political commentators have condemned Trump’s message to his loyalists as a thinly veiled call for violence. Though GOP lawmakers have characterized investigations into the former president as politically motivated, some in the party advised against protesting in Trump’s name should he be arrested.
Shortly after his comments were posted, a spokesperson for Trump sought to clarify his remarks, saying that Trump didn’t know for certain if or when he’d face charges.
If an arrest is made, it will likely be connected to alleged criminal activity relating to payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The payments were conducted by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to compel Daniels to stay silent about an affair that allegedly took place between her and Trump. Daniels has spoken publicly about the extramarital relationship and being paid to keep silent about it.
Cohen has said that his payments to Daniels were reimbursed by Trump in an illegal fashion. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is reportedly investigating if Trump falsified business records in order to make the payments.
The district attorney’s office responded to Trump’s post by stating that it does not “tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York.”
Trump’s call for protests echoes calls he made in the run-up to January 6, 2021, the day a mob of his loyalists violently breached the U.S. Capitol building. Trump encouraged his followers to “take back” their country that day, ordering them to descend on the Capitol to protest the certification of the Electoral College.
“Trump incited an attack on the government once. Now he’s trying to do it again,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said on Twitter.
“Donald Trump’s ‘take our nation back’ talk must be seen for what it is: a call to violence,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-New York). “We can’t let January 6 happen all over again.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California), who was a member of the House select committee that investigated the January 6 attack, echoed those sentiments. “[Trump’s] goal is acts of violence in his name,” Swalwell wrote on Twitter. “And we must be prepared to protect against it.”
Violence could break out anywhere in the U.S. because the former president “continues to engage in this kind of stochastic terrorism that as we’ve seen in the not too distant past, really has devastating consequences,” Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, said in an interview on MSNBC.
Trump’s allies, meanwhile, appear to be using the situation to attack his potential political opponents in the Republican presidential primaries, demanding that those he will likely face off against — including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — speak out against the supposedly impending arrest.
Trump operatives are pushing a public pressure campaign on DeSantis “to condemn the law enforcement officials in New York,” The New York Times reported, adding that Trump-backers are “portraying his silence on the matter as bordering on treason.”
“It has been over 24 hours and some people are still quiet. History will judge their silence,” Trump’s War Room Twitter account wrote on Sunday.
On Monday morning, DeSantis derided Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, describing him as a “Soros-funded attorney” — an anti-Semitic reference to philanthropist George Soros, who often donates to Democratic candidates. DeSantis also took a jab at Trump.
“Look, I don’t know what goes into paying hush-money” to an adult film actor, he said, “to secure silence over some type of alleged affair.”
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-California) has expressed strong opposition to a potential Trump arrest, but discouraged the former president’s loyalists from protesting.
“I don’t think people should protest this,” McCarthy said on NBC News over the weekend. “And I think President Trump, if you talk to him, he doesn’t believe that, either.”
McCarthy also appeared to acknowledge that Trump’s words were a call for violence. “Nobody should harm one another” because of Trump’s demands for protests, he said. “We want calmness out there.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), a Trump ally who some believe is vying to become his vice presidential running mate, also advised against protesting, referencing baseless conspiracy theories that the January 6 attack was a “false flag” event orchestrated by federal law enforcement officials in order to imprison Trump supporters. These claims are demonstrably false.
NBC News reporter Ben Collins, who regularly monitors far right groups online, has noted that plans for protests haven’t materialized so far.
“January 6th was so publicly organized on these forums and extremely predictable. Not seeing that level of coordination in public (or in quasi-private Telegrams),” he said.
Collins noted, however, that his assessment was an early one.
While Trump and his allies have claimed that investigations into his actions are “politically motivated,” such investigations are warranted if a crime has taken place, law experts say.
“There’s nothing particularly wrong with politically motivated prosecutions: if one wishes to run for the highest office in the land, one probably shouldn’t go commit a bunch of felonies; if one does commit the felonies then run, one is fair game,” Northwestern University constitutional law professor Paul Gowder said in February 2016, alluding to lawsuits Trump faced at the time.