With Charges Looming, Donald Trump Is Calling for Protests, Will His Followers Listen?

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Trump’s attempt to whip up his base last week feels eerily similar to the posts he made in the days leading up to Jan. 6.

Donald Trump has managed to seize the national spotlight again, this time by claiming that he’s going to be arrested this week — and sounding the alarm to his supporters to hit the streets if he is.


Shortly after he made the declaration, a spokesperson for Trump clarified that the former president doesn’t actually have direct knowledge of an indictment or when it could be filed. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has signaled that they may seek felony charges against Trump, but haven’t commented on the timing. That’s left many to wonder why Trump would make the assertion, and if his call for outrage could lead to unrest — or worse.

Why could Donald Trump be arrested?

The Manhattan D.A.’s office has been investigating Trump for a hush-money payment his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign. Cohen says he paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about an affair she claims to have had with Trump in 2006. 

Prosecutors are expected to accuse Trump of concealing the payment, making him the first former president ever to be criminally indicted, the New York Times reports. If that were to happen, the case wouldn’t be a slam-dunk — the Federal Election Commission and federal prosecutors in New York have already looked into the debacle and declined to pursue charges.

Will there be protests?

Trump’s attempt to whip up his base last week on Truth Social feels eerily similar to the posts he made across Twitter and Facebook in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. That’s prompted some of his supporters to begin discussing in online forums how they could take action. Some have floated creating a “patriot moat” around Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate to prevent law enforcement from reaching him. Others have suggested traveling to a heavily Democratic area like New York City and blocking the bridges and tunnels to bring traffic to a halt. 

CNN reports that agencies in New York are bracing for demonstrations that may break out if Trump were arrested this week. They’re also focused on protecting the prosecutors working on the case. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg told his staff in an internal email that threats and intimidation against them won’t be tolerated and that any “credible threats” against the office “will be fully investigated.”

Will there be another insurrection?

However, Some of Trump’s most ardent supporters don’t seem interested in protesting. Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a MAGA diehard, agreed with Trump’s claim that he was being unfairly targeted but wrote on Twitter that “we don’t need to protest.”

Ali Alexander, who helped organize the “Stop the Steal” movement after the 2020 election, also made clear that he wouldn’t be participating in a rally this time around. “Previously, I had said if Trump was arrested or under the threat of a perp walk, 100,000 patriots should shut down all routes to Mar-a-Lago,” Alexander wrote on the messaging platform Telegram. “Now I’m retired. I’ll pray for him though.”

Conservative broadcaster Jesse Kelly even warned his followers to sit this one out. “The last time Trump’s biggest fans protested on his behalf, he left them all to rot in jail without so much as a penny from him in legal fees,” he tweeted. “Shame on him for this. Do NOT go to a blue area and protest for this man. Ignore this.”

Even if they won’t back another demonstration, plenty of GOP politicians aren’t happy about Bragg’s probe into Trump. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Saturday accused the Manhattan D.A. of “pursuing political vengeance” and has ordered an investigation of Bragg’s office.

South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds said on Meet the Press that what Trump is doing now is not the same as his social media activity leading up to Jan. 6. “There’s a difference between the former president and what he did on Jan. 6 as the president of the United States and his call for support at the Capitol, versus an individual person, today, asking people to show up to protest if he is indicted,” he said. He added that threatening to interfere with the justice system is “something that you always have to take seriously, whether it’s from an individual person or a former president of the United States.”