The arrest of a former president — who is also an active candidate for the White House in 2024 — would be unprecedented in American history.
In his usual bombastic style, Trump has railed against the “rigged” justice system and called on his supporters to launch protests.
“The leading Republican candidate and former president of the United States of America will be arrested on Tuesday next week,” the 76-year-old billionaire recently said on his Truth Social platform, adding, “Protest, take back our nation!”
Here’s what you need to know:
What is the case with the porn star?
The current investigation, led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, an elected Democrat, centers on $130,000 paid weeks before 2016 polls to stop the porn star Stormy Daniel from going public with an affair she says she had with Trump years earlier.
Trump denied having an affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and dismissed the investigation as politically motivated.
On March 13, a New York court heard former Trump attorney Michael Cohen make the payment to Daniels. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 on related federal charges. He pleaded guilty, but claimed he did Trump’s bidding.
Daniels herself met with prosecutors on March 15 and “agreed to make herself available as a witness, or for further investigation if needed,” according to her attorney Charles Brewster.
Trump has been asked to testify, which legal experts say suggests an indictment is close.
What are the charges against Trump?
Payment to Daniels, if not properly accounted for, could result in a misdemeanor charge for falsifying company records. This could be elevated to a felony if the false accounting was intended to cover up a second offense, such as a campaign finance violation.
Trump’s attorney said his client, if indicted, would surrender to face the criminal charges.
What could happen next week?
In the short term, any charges would require Trump to go to the district attorney’s office in downtown New York to surrender. In white-collar cases, the defendant’s attorneys and prosecutors typically agree on a date and time, rather than arresting the person at home.
Trump would be fingerprinted and mugshotd and would appear for the prosecution in court. He would likely be released on his own initiative and allowed to go home, experts said.
Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, said Trump would surrender if charged.
If Trump voluntarily refuses to enter, prosecutors could seek to have him extradited from Florida, where he currently resides.
When will Trump be arrested?
Trump said he expects to be “arrested” on March 21 as prosecutors have shown signs of getting closer to an indictment.
Trump’s attorney Susan Necheles, however, indicated that her posts on Saturday were based on media reports and not new actions by prosecutors.
Reports said authorities were planning to increase security around the Manhattan courthouse in the coming days.
Can Trump Really Be Arrested?
Sitting presidents are largely immune from prosecution, however, Trump was ousted from the White House in the 2020 election, making him as subject to the rule of law as anyone else.
However, a former president has unusual security protocols and the terms of any arrest would have to be agreed with the Secret Service.
This is uncharted territory for all the agencies involved. US President Richard Nixon was also pardoned before he could face the criminal justice system for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.
The average criminal case in New York takes more than a year to go from indictment to trial, and Trump’s case is far from typical.
Any trial of the former US president would still be more than a year away, legal experts said, and could coincide with the final months of the 2024 presidential campaign as Trump seeks a return to the White House.
What was Trump’s reaction?
Trump appeared to confirm rumors of his impending arrest in a series of posts on his Truth Social account on Saturday.
Using all caps for emphasis, Trump began with an apocalyptic tone, denouncing the “death” of the American dream; the depravity of “radical left anarchists”; and the injustice of “patriots arrested and held captive like animals”.
He continued, “Now, illegal leaks from a corrupt and highly political Manhattan District Attorney’s office … indicate that … the vastly leading Republican candidate and former President of the United States of America, will be arrested Tuesday next week.”
Trump called his supporters to take to the streets: “Protest, take back our nation! It’s time!!! We must save America! Protest, protest, protest!!!”
‘I’m back!’: Donald Trump returns to Facebook and Youtube after a two-year ban
The calls for a new wave of unrest — and eerie echoes from January 6 — come as Trump recently restored access to his traditional social media accounts, including his YouTube account on March 17.
How will an arrest affect Trump’s White House dreams?
Some observers believe an indictment bodes ill for Trump’s chances in 2024, while others say it could provide a huge boost.
“Arrest secures Donald Trump nomination,” tweeted Rick Wilson, a political strategist who resigned from the Republican Party in protest against Trump. “The grassroots will mobilize politically, and possibly physically.”
Tech billionaire Elon Musk, a self-described libertarian who increasingly aligned himself with Republican positions and who overturned Trump’s Twitter ban, went even further.
“If that happens, Trump will be re-elected with a landslide victory,” Musk said in a tweet.
Not even a conviction in the Hush Money case would keep Trump from running, but an indictment could have major consequences, galvanizing his critics but also electrifying his supporters.
What was the reaction of the Democrats?
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced Trump’s announcement as “reckless,” saying it would “stir up unrest among his supporters.”
He insisted that justice must take its course: “Whatever the grand jury decides, its consideration makes it clear: no one is above the law, not even a former president of the United States.”
“He can’t hide from his violations of the law, his disrespect for our election and his incitements to violence,” added Pelosi, who was still a speaker when Trump was impeached for inciting the January 6, 2021 riot in United States Capitol.
How did the Republicans react?
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reacted angrily, accusing New York prosecutors of pursuing “political revenge” against Trump.
McCarthy vowed on Twitter to launch a congressional investigation into the matter and said the impending arrest was “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical district attorney who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political revenge against the President Trump”.
Mike Pence, who recently said Trump put the former vice president’s family in danger on Jan. 6, chose to echo the party line: criticize the Manhattan district attorney and question his motives.
Rudy Giuliani on Truth Social said: “What the Democrats are doing to President Trump, they will do to you. They have destroyed the just and equitable administration of justice in the United States.”
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona played a dubious trick on Truth, writing, “President Trump is on track to be indicted before any of the Biden family criminals. Think about it. We have a two-tier justice system.”
Also on Truth Social, Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas (Trump’s former White House doctor) lashed out at “Soros-owned district attorneys” engaging in “revenge against conservatives” before appearing to support the ouster of President Biden. “The nation is falling apart. We need Trump back in charge NOW!
What are the other legal problems faced by Trump?
Trump is facing multiple state and federal criminal investigations into possible wrongdoing that threatens his new run for the White House.
In Georgia, a prosecutor is investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to reverse a 2020 election defeat in the southern state. The grand jury in that case recommended more charges, the foreman revealed last month.
The former president is also the subject of a federal investigation into his handling of confidential documents and his possible involvement in the January 6 uprising.
(With contributions from agencies)
Clock Former US President Donald Trump says he will be arrested next week