NEW YORK: Former United States President Donald Trump said he expects to be arrested on Tuesday (Mar 21) as prosecutors consider charges over a hush money payment to a porn star and called on his supporters to protest.
A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which has been investigating a US$130,000 payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels, declined to comment.
No US president – while in office or afterward – has faced criminal charges.
Trump is seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2024. He has said he will continue campaigning even if he is charged with a crime.
“Illegal leaks from a corrupt & highly political Manhattan district attorney’s office … indicate that, with no crime being able to be proven … the far & away leading Republican candidate & former president of the United States of America, will be arrested on Tuesday of next week,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform on Saturday.
“Protest, take our nation back!” the 76-year-old, whose supporters stormed the US Capitol building on Jan 6, 2021 to try to overturn his 2020 presidential election defeat, added.
Trump did not say he had been formally notified of forthcoming charges and provided no evidence of leaks from the district attorney’s office. He did not discuss the possible charges in the post.
A Trump spokesperson said in a statement that “there has been no notification” beyond leaks to the media.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg earlier this year began presenting evidence to a grand jury investigating a US$130,000 payment that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, made to Daniels in the waning days of his 2016 campaign.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, says she had an affair with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has denied the affair happened.
Trump was Republican president from 2017 to 2021 and has said he will make a bid to return to the White House in the 2024 US presidential election.
Bragg’s office earlier this month invited Trump to testify before the grand jury probing the hush money payments, according to Trump’s lawyer, Susan Necheles. Legal experts said that was a sign that an indictment was close.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal campaign finance violations tied to his arranging payments to Daniels and another woman, among other crimes.
He has said Trump directed him to make the payments. The US Attorney’s office in Manhattan did not charge Trump with a crime.
Cohen testified before the grand jury on Monday and again on Wednesday, according to his lawyer, Lanny Davis. Grand jury proceedings are not public.
Outside the courthouse in lower Manhattan, he told reporters he did not testify out of a desire for revenge against Trump.
“This is all about accountability,” he said. “He needs to be held accountable for his dirty deeds.”
Daniels’ lawyer said she spoke with prosecutors last week.
An additional witness is expected to appear before the grand jury on Monday, at the request of Trump’s lawyers, the person familiar with the matter said on Saturday.
Trump’s statement that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday is based on news reports that Bragg’s office is going to be meeting with law enforcement to prepare for a possible indictment, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The probe is one of several legal woes Trump faces as he seeks the Republican nomination for the presidency.
Trump is also confronting a state-level criminal probe in Georgia over efforts to overturn the 2020 results in that state.
A special counsel named by US Attorney General Merrick Garland is currently investigating Trump’s handling of classified government documents after leaving office, as well s his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to President Joe Biden, a Democrat.
Bragg’s office last year won the conviction of the Trump Organisation on tax fraud charges. But Bragg declined to charge Trump himself with financial crimes related to his business practices, prompting two prosecutors who worked on the probe to resign.
Trump leads his early rivals for his party’s nomination, holding the support of 43 per cent of Republicans in a February Reuters/Ipsos poll, compared with 31 per cent for his nearest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has not yet announced his candidacy.
Trump in 2018 initially disputed knowing anything about the payment to Daniels. He later acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payment, which he called a “simple private transaction”.