Former US President Donald Trump has claimed that he will be arrested on Tuesday and urged his supporters to march in protest against such a move.
The supposed forthcoming arrest is believed to be in relation to an investigation by Manhattan prosecutors into money paid by Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen to adult movie star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair she had with the former president.
With the US presidential elections looming next year, any move to arrest Trump could have significant political consequences.
Why has Donald Trump predicted that he will be arrested?
On Saturday, Trump took to his social media platform, Truth Social, to claim that he would be arrested on Tuesday.
“Illegal leaks from a corrupt & highly political Manhattan district attorney’s office […] indicate that, with no crime being able to be proven, & based on an old and fully debunked (by numerous other prosecutors!) fairytale, the far & away leading Republican candidate & former president of the United States of America, will be arrested on Tuesday of next week,” Trump posted on Truth Social, apparently referring to himself.
Although the social media post did not specify a reason for the arrest, it is widely believed to be in connection with an ongoing investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office into Trump’s dealings with an adult performer.
In 2016, Stormy Daniels, a performer in explicit adult movies, contacted media outlets and offered to sell the story of what she claimed was an adulterous affair with Trump which took place in 2006.
The former president has denied any involvement with the adult movie star since the allegations became public in 2018.
Nevertheless, when Trump’s team became aware that Daniels was offering to sell the story to the media, lawyer Michael Cohen paid her $130,000 to remain quiet.
This itself is not illegal. However, when Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment, he listed the payment as a legal fee. According to prosecutors, this amounts to falsifying business records and is a misdemeanor (a criminal offense less severe than a felony) in New york.
Prosecutors could potentially make the claim that Trump also broke election law. This would be on the basis that efforts to conceal the payments to Daniels were made to hide the alleged affair from voters in order to maintain political support.
Concealing a crime by falsifying records would count as a felony, which is a more serious charge carrying heavier penalties.
A conviction for a misdemeanor would result in a fine, whereas for a felony, the former president could face a maximum of four years in prison, although even in the latter case a fine would still be more likely.
Ultimately, the decision on whether to charge Trump will be made by New York City District Attorney Alvin Bragg. He established the grand jury to investigate whether there was sufficient evidence to bring about a prosecution and is responsible for deciding whether or not to indict Trump.
Prosecuting the former president would be far from easy, however. The line between campaign expenses and personal finance is hard to define, and previous attempts to charge politicians for similar alleged crimes have ended in failure.
The political consequences of arresting a former president and presidential candidate would be significant and unpredictable.
It is possible that such an arrest would spark mass demonstrations by Trump’s supporters, similar to those which occurred on January 6, 2021 at the US Capitol.
The effect of an arrest on Trump’s electoral chances in 2024 would also be uncertain. On the one hand, criminal charges could discredit the former president, but on the other hand, they could just as likely bolster his image as a persecuted political outsider.
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