With news that Donald Trump is preparing to be arrested, Americans rightly have questions. The arrest of a former president — who is also an active 2024 candidate — would be unprecedented in American history. Trump is railing on social media, his minions are calling the judicial system rigged, protests are brewing, and it’s a good time to catch up on the long, sordid, confusing saga of the former president’s legal woes.
Here’s what you need to know:
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Is Trump really getting arrested?
Nothing here is certain until it happens, but there are lots of reasons to believe it’s coming — and soon. Trump himself said on Saturday that his arrest was coming soon (more on exactly when in a moment), and Fox News reported Friday that early preparations for arresting the ex-president were underway.
When is Trump getting arrested?
Trump initially said Tuesday, but his team has since suggested that the president has no specific knowledge of when an arrest is coming. So while the broad consensus is that it’s expected this upcoming week, we won’t know until it happens.
What would Trump be getting arrested for?
We won’t know the specific charges against Trump until the indictment is unsealed. According to reports, and Trump himself, that could be as soon as next week. What we do know is that Trump is not in imminent legal jeopardy over the elephant in the room — his role in sparking the bloody insurgency at the Capitol on Jan. 6 after losing the 2020 election.
Instead, the investigation in question here is focused on a hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels one month before the 2016 election. The money was advanced by Trump fixer Micheal Cohen — but soon reimbursed by the Trump Organization.
Since the payment may have been made to prevent news of the decade-old tryst from interfering with Trump’s presidential bid, investigators have argued that it could constitute an illegal campaign contribution. (Some in Trump’s orbit have suggested he should argue the payment had nothing to do with his campaign and everything to do with keeping his marriage pacific, though the president, Rolling Stone reported last month, has been reticent to use that defense.) Reports indicate that prosecutors may also be eying charges of falsifying business records, regarding the effort to conceal the payment.
On his Truth Social account, Trump referred to the charges as relating to “an old & fully debunked (by numerous other prosecutors!) fairytale.”
Who’s behind the indictment?
Alvin Bragg. Bragg was elected Manhattan District Attorney in 2021. He was previously a deputy New York State attorney general, where he helped oversee litigation that led to the shuttering of the Trump Foundation.
Can you really arrest a former president? And can you put him in jail?
We’re in uncharted territory. Richard Nixon was pardoned before he could face the criminal justice system for his involvement in Watergate. While sitting presidents are largely immune from criminal prosecution, voters’ 2020 ouster of Trump makes him subject to the rule of law like anyone else.
A former president does have unusual security protocols, however, and terms on any arrest would need to be worked out with the Secret Service. Nobody is kicking down any doors here. Will there be handcuffs? A frog march? Fox News reported Friday on negotiations between the Manhattan DA’s office and the Secret Service on how to execute an anticipated arrest, finger-printing, and booking.
If the Stormy Daniels thing was so long ago, why now?
In short: Because Trump is no longer in office. News of the Daniels payment broke in 2018, almost a year into Trump’s term. In May of that year, Trump admitted that he’d directed his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to be reimbursed for the $130,000 payment made to Daniels. The loan to Cohen had been omitted from earlier disclosures, prompting allegations of a coverup.
Cohen would ultimately plead guilty to multiple charges related to the payment, including tax and bank fraud, as well as campaign finance violations. During the proceedings, Cohen directly implicated Trump as the mastermind behind the payment scheme.
Throughout Trump’s presidency, courts and the Department of Justice engaged in an extended argument over whether criminal charges could be brought against a sitting president, to no conclusions. Now that Trump is no longer in office, a major roadblock to prosecution has been lifted.
Is Trump mad? OK. Fine. We know already. How mad is Trump?
Trump appeared to confirm rumors of his impending arrest in a series of posts on his Truth Social account Saturday. Using all caps for thunderous emphasis, Trump began in an apocalyptic tone, decrying the “death” of the American dream; the depravity of “radical left anarchists”; and the injustice of “patriots being arrested & held in captivity like animals.”
He then continued: “Now, illegal leaks from a corrupt & highly political Manhattan District Attorneys office… indicate that… the far & away leading Republican candidate & former president of the United States of America, will be arrested on Tuesday of next week.”
Trump called his supporters to take to the streets: “Protest, take our nation back! It’s time!!! We must save America! Protest, protest, protest!!!” The calls for a new wave of unrest — and unsettling echoes of Jan. 6 — come as Trump has recently had access to his mainstream social media accounts restored, including his YouTube account on March 17.
What are Trump’s minions saying?
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted that the impending arrest was “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance against President Trump.”
Mike Pence, who recently said Trump endangered the former vice president’s family on Jan. 6, opted to take the party line on this one, criticizing the Manhattan district attorney and questioning his motives.
Rudy Giuliani on Truth Social argued: “What the Democrats are doing to President Trump, they will do to you. They have destroyed the fair and equal administration of justice in the United States.”
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona played dubious whataboutism on Truth, writing: “President Trump is on the path to be indicted before any of the crooks in the Biden family. Think about that. We have a two-tier justice system.”
Also on Truth Social, Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas (Trump’s former White House physician) railed against “Soros-owned DAs” engaged in “vendettas against conservatives” before appearing to advocate President Biden’s ouster. “The nation is falling apart. We need Trump back in charge NOW!”
What are top Democrats saying?
Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took to Twitter Saturday in an attempt to calm the waters. ”Whatever the Grand Jury decides, its consideration makes clear: no one is above the law, not even a former President of the United States.”
She called Trump’s Truth Social rant a “reckless” attempt to “foment unrest among his supporters.” And she insisted that justice must work its course: “He cannot hide from his violations of the law, disrespect for our elections and incitements to violence. Rightfully, our legal system will decide how to hold him accountable.”
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