Former President Donald Trump predicted Saturday morning that he will be arrested next Tuesday for his role in making an alleged $130,000 hush money payment to an adult film actress in the waning days of the 2016 election to silence her about claims she’d had an affair with him.
More:Donald Trump claims he will be arrested Tuesday in Manhattan probe, calls for protests
A spokesperson said Trump has gotten no specific notification that he would be indicted.
The speculation about Trump’s potential legal trouble as an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office nears its conclusion has put law enforcement and the political world on edge. If Trump’s claims prove true, it would mark the first time in U.S. history that a former president has faced criminal charges, legal experts say.
Will he be taken into custody or indicted by a grand jury soon? Here’s what we know:
Here’s why Trump’s indictment may be imminent
Trump says he’ll still run for president again if he’s indicted in any of the several current investigations into his conduct. But in one of those probes – in the hush-money case in New York – there are new indications that criminal charges might be imminent, according to new information that’s come to light this week.
- Trump himself predicted on his social media site Truth Social that he’ll be arrested Tuesday in connection with the investigation conducted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and called on his supporters to protest ahead of a possible indictment by the grand jury hearing evidence in the case.
More:Former Trump attorney Cohen to testify before NY grand jury in porn star hush money probe
Trump has denied wrongdoing, and federal investigators ended their own inquiry into the payments in 2019.
Danielle Filson, a spokesperson for Manhattan’s District Attorney’s office, declined to comment Saturday on Trump’s statement. But there are other indications that an indictment may be imminent.
- Trump ex-lawyer Michael Cohen’s cooperation
Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, spent two days last week testifying before the grand jury against his former boss. Cohen, who has already served prison time in connection with this and other cases, reiterated his claims that Trump personally instructed him to pay Daniels so it would not hurt his chances of defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
A source familiar with the investigation told USA TODAY that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his team are relying on a wealth of evidence to bolster Cohen’s testimony.
That includes volumes of emails, texts and other documentation gathered during search warrants of Cohen’s premises and electronic devices, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
- Porn actress Stormy Daniels’ cooperation
Daniels, who claimed to have an affair with Trump in 2006, was also asked by prosecutors from Bragg’s office to meet with them, and did so by Zoom with her lawyer last Wednesday.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, also agreed to be a witness before the grand jury – and during a trial if Trump ultimately is charged with a crime in connection with the payments.
A second source familiar with the investigation said at least seven DA prosecutors and investigators have been involved in the discussions with Daniels and her lawyer, and that she is prepared to share some form of corroborative documentation of her own from the time period in question.
Daniels’ lawyer, Clark Brewster, told USA TODAY he could not comment on what he and Daniels discussed with prosecutors. But he said it was not the first time he has been in touch with them about the case during his representation of Daniels, which began in 2019.
Brewster had no comment on whether Daniels has actually testified before, or has been asked testify, before the Manhattan grand jury that would hand up an indictment in the case.
But Brewster said that Daniels “would make an excellent witness,” citing her cooperation and testimony in the trial of her former lawyer Michael Avenatti.
- Trump’s own lawyer’s comments
Trump himself was invited to testify before the grand jury, which prosecutors say is a sure sign that the investigation is in its final stages and likely to produce an indictment. After that invitation came to light, Trump’s own lawyer in the case, Joe Tacopina, acknowledged the possibility of a looming indictment.
“You know, it’s becoming more probable, I think now,” Tacopina told News Nation in an interview Tuesday night, adding, “But the one thing I still hold on to is hope that justice will prevail.”
Trump himself has, in recent days, admitted to making the payment to stop Daniels from publicly disclosing an alleged affair with him just before the election. Previously, Trump denied complicity in a series of public statements.
“I did absolutely nothing wrong, I never had an affair with Stormy Daniels, nor would I have wanted to have an affair with Stormy Daniels,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social social media platform. “I relied on counsel in order to resolve this extortion of me.”
Some former prosecutors, including Glenn Kirschner and Paul Pelletier, told USA TODAY that such comments could potentially implicate Trump in the suspected criminal wrongdoing under investigation by the DA’s office, including making illegal campaign donations.
Will Trump be handcuffed and arrested if he is indicted?
Kirschner told USA TODAY on Saturday that authorities often negotiate the surrender of a high-profile defendant like Trump to avoid the spectacle of a “perp walk” in which the person is paraded before the media as they enter the courthouse or police station.
“There will be no reason to cuff him and walk him into police headquarters to be booked,” Kirschner said.“There will still be a mug shot, fingerprints and lots of paperwork filled out as part of the booking process. So we will see a mug shot of a former President of the United States but I do not think we’re going to see a perp walk.”
Trump’s spokesperson told USA TODAY there has been “no notification” related to the timing of possible criminal charges. But the former president’s call for protests caused concern for law enforcement involved in preparing for such an event.
The appeal for demonstrations, said one official familiar with the arrangements, may immediately require a larger security footprint in New York and more agents assigned to shadow the movements of the former president.
Will Trump’s call for protests by supporters lead to violence?
Kirschner said authorities should take seriously Trump’s call to action, saying it could potentially result in the kind of widespread rioting that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“This is a play right out of Trump’s playbook,” said Kirschner. “We started with ‘Stand back, standby.’ We then moved to ‘Come to DC on January 6 , it’ll be wild.’ Now we have ‘Come to Manhattan for my arraignment. Protest, take our country back.’”
But Kirschner said he doubts Trump’s effort will have the same result this time.
“On January 6, people were aggrieved because they had been told their vote was stolen. So they took it personally. Here. I don’t think there’s that kind of personal motivator the way there was on January 6,” Kirschner said.
Contributing: Ella Lee, David Jackson, Kevin Johnson
Story Credit: usatoday.com