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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Joanna Walters, Edwin Rios and agencies

Trump claims he ‘will be arrested’ on Tuesday in New York criminal case

Donald Trump in Ohio in November 2022.
Donald Trump in Ohio in November 2022. Photograph: Michael Conroy/AP

Donald Trump has posted on his platform Truth Social that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday in the criminal case in New York involving hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Earlier this year the former US president called for protests by his supporters if he was indicted in any of the numerous criminal investigations in New York, Georgia and by federal authorities into various allegations involving illegal campaign payments, election interference, efforts to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss and keeping top secret documents at home after leaving office. On Saturday he posted: “Protest, take our nation back!”

In New York, Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg’s team is investigating the hush money case amid rising expectations that Trump could be indicted as early as next week.

But without any official confirmation, Trump, who is running for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election, posted a message, referring to himself in the third person, saying: “The far and away leading Republican candidate and former president of the United States of America will be arrested on Tuesday of next week.”

Law enforcement officials in New York have been making security preparations for the possibility that Trump could be indicted.

There has been no public announcement of any timeframe or any indictment.

A spokesperson and a lawyer for Trump said later on Saturday that his post was based on media reports rather than any actual update from, or communication with, prosecutors. Trump’s post cited “illegal leaks from a corrupt and highly political Manhattan district attorney’s office”.

The district attorney’s office declined to comment.

In his postings, he repeated his lies that the 2020 presidential election that he lost to Joe Biden was “stolen” because of voter fraud, and he urged his followers to protest.

That evoked the message from the then president that preceded the insurrection by extremist supporters at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, that ultimately failed to thwart the certification of Biden’s victory.

Also on Saturday, Trump sent out a fundraising email that said the “Manhattan DA could be close to charging Trump” and later posted again slamming the current US government and urging protests.

It emerged in January that Bragg had made the surprise move to impanel a grand jury to hear evidence in the Daniels case, which had previously faded from the spotlight amid turmoil among prosecutors about a wider investigation into Trump’s business practices.

Daniels met with investigators in Manhattan earlier this week to discuss Trump’s role in a $130,000 payment she received in 2016 aimed at dissuading her from going public during the election about claims she had a sexual liaison with the married Trump in 2006 – an infidelity Trump denies.

This as Cohen gave testimony before the New York grand jury into the case. In 2016 during the election that Trump went on to win, Cohen made the payment and arranged another payout to a different woman, as Trump faced allegations of previous sexual assault and harassment from multiple women – with the money paid at Trump’s direction, Cohen has asserted.

Any charges in this case would most likely involve state crimes of falsifying business records, typically a misdemeanor but a felony if it was part of a cover-up or wider criminal wrongdoing, and here could revolve around campaign finance illegality.

Kevin O’Brien, a former federal prosecutor and now a partner at Ford O’Brien in New York specializing in white-collar criminal defense, told the Guardian that for a felony charge, prosecutors would have to prove Trump showed an “intent to defraud” when his company “falsely accounted” for the payments to Stormy Daniels as legal expenses and effectively argue that the payments were synonymous with illegal donations to Trump’s 2016 election campaign, which would violate New York election law.

No former or sitting US president has been indicted. Richard Nixon, the only president to resign, over the Watergate scandal, was pardoned by his successor Gerald Ford before he could be indicted.

O’Brien said that any criminal charges for Trump would be messy and confusing for voters and potential jurors alike.

“How could this guy be running for president facing a conviction for an act of dishonesty that was indictable?” he asked.

Federal prosecutors in 2018 charged Cohen with campaign finance crimes related to payments to Daniels and to a Playboy model, Karen McDougal, arguing that the payouts amounted to impermissible gifts to Trump’s election effort.

McDougal, who was paid $150,000, alleged she had an affair with the married Trump in 2006-2007. He denied it.

Cohen pleaded guilty, served prison time and was disbarred. Federal prosecutors never charged Trump with any crime.

Separately, last year the US attorney general, Merrick Garland, announced the appointment of Jack Smith, a veteran prosecutor and top former justice department official, as special counsel to oversee the investigations into Trump’s role in retaining classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and his efforts to subvert the 2020 election.

And Georgia’s Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, is investigating whether Trump interfered in the 2020 election there.

Meanwhile, the New York attorney general, Letitia James, is suing Trump and the Trump Organization family business, saying it misled banks and tax authorities about the value of assets.

In January the Trump Organization was fined for tax fraud. Trump himself was not on trial and denied any knowledge of the criminal scheme. Bragg at the time said it closed one chapter but “we now move on to the next chapter” as the Stormy Daniels case continued.

And in April the civil trial is due in a case where former magazine columnist E Jean Carroll accuses Trump of raping her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s.

Earlier this month the judge said he would allow an infamous tape of Trump boasting about sexual aggression towards women to be used at trial.

Carroll has also sued Trump for defamation after he denied the rape happened or that he knew her, after she first described in a 2019 book the alleged attack.

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