Former President Donald Trump called on supporters to descend on the Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday to protest – as he is on the brink of being indicted for his role in paying off adult movie star Stormy Daniels.
Some of those supporters did show up. But they were outnumbered by demonstrators who support the indictment of the former president, a Manhattan native who achieved just over 12 per cent of the vote in his former home borough in the 2020 election.
The demonstrators there called for Mr Trump’s arrest and chanted “No one is above the law.” It was not, some observers mused, the type of protest Mr Trump was likely hoping for.
Mr Trump said over the weekend that he expected to be arrested on Tuesday, but the day ended with no further news on his legal status.
The total number of demonstrators was relatively small given the size of pro- and anti-Trump rallies in the past, and there were no reports of violence.
Over the last few days, New York officials have been bracing for potential protests or unrest if or when an indictment lands.
Barricades have been erected round the Manhattan Criminal Court where Mr Trump could appear to face charges and local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have been meeting to prepare security plans.
The grand jury is now expected to convene in Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon where it will hear from at least one more witness.
It is not clear who exactly this witness is.
Mr Trump could then be indicted on criminal charges by the close of the day.
If an indictment is handed down, the former president is not expected to appear in court until sometime next week after Mr Trump’s attorneys and the Secret Service make arrangements with prosecutors to turn himself in.
This would mark a historic moment for America, making Mr Trump the first current or former president to ever be criminally indicted.
The indictment would carry added weight given that Mr Trump is not only the former president, but also the leading Republican candidate for president in 2024.
Manhattan prosecutors have been investigating whether Mr Trump falsified the Trump Organization’s business records when Mr Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen made a payment of $130,0000 to Ms Daniels days before the 2016 election.
Prosecutors claim that the money was used to silence Ms Daniels about an alleged affair she had with Mr Trump.
Mr Trump has long denied having an affair with the adult film star.
Mr Trump’s former fixer and personal attorney Cohen was convicted of tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations related to the payments to Ms Daniels. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Last week, Cohen and Ms Daniels both testified before the grand jury as the investigation ramped up.
Then, on Monday, Mr Trump ally and Cohen foe Robert Costello gave testimony at the request of the former president’s team – in a bid to pick holes in the credibility of Cohen’s testimony.
Mr Trump himself was also invited to testify – an invite he unsurprisingly turned down.
As well as a possible indictment in Manhattan, Mr Trump is also facing a number of other criminal and civil legal concerns related to his efforts to overturn the result of the 2020 election and his real estate dealings.
Mr Trump is hoping a potential indictment doesn’t harm his chances of being elected again next year, and while he may remain popular in a number of more heavily Republican states, he is decidedly unpopular in New York: at lastcheck, his approval rating in the state was just 38 per cent.
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