Donald Trump is a liar. So there is no reason to believe he’s going to be “arrested” Tuesday, as he claimed in a Truth Social post on Saturday morning. There has been reporting that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is close to indicting Trump, presumably on charges related to the hush money he paid porn star Stormy Daniels (we don’t know that for certain), possibly as early as this week. But we don’t know that for sure either.
So where’s the news here in Trump’s blather, for those of us trying not to pollute the world with Trump’s every lie? I see two key facts we can’t ignore. First, Trump incited more potential violence at the end of his post when he urged his followers to “protest, take our nation back.” And GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy amplified Trump’s incitement, tweeting that Bragg’s alleged pending indictment is “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance against President Trump.”
McCarthy added: “I’m directing relevant committees to immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.”
Other House Republicans echoed him. Former moderate Elise Stefanik tweeted: “This is the Far Left’s final desperate attempt to silence voters at the ballot box who support President Trump and the America First Movement.”
McCarthy’s boss, wing nut Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, tweeted approvingly (and ungrammatically) that McCarthy “proves again that through his leadership [the House GOP] will not tolerate the Democrat’s [sic] weaponization of government and political persecution in [sic] the taxpayer’s dime.”
But even so-called moderates like former New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu criticized the allegedly impending indictment on political grounds. “I think it’s building a lot of sympathy for the former president,” Sununu told CNN on Sunday.
There are folks on the left who worry the same thing. Legal experts fret about whether Bragg’s evidence and charging possibilities are too flimsy. Political experts worry that indicting Trump over the Stormy Daniels hush money could indeed rile up his base over a relatively insignificant offense given the myriad other potential charges against him: election fraud in Georgia, inciting the January 6 insurrection, illegally possessing classified documents and then refusing to return them; that’s just what we know about since he lost the election.
I don’t know enough to have a legal opinion (and nobody does, because we still don’t know Bragg’s case). On the political questions: Sure, I wish it were Attorney General Merrick Garland and/or special counsel Jack Smith making plans to take Trump into custody next week for bigger crimes than paying off a porn star. But Smith’s investigation is steadily moving forward. On Friday, we learned that a federal judge found that Trump’s attorney on the Mar-a-Lago documents case could not claim lawyer-client privilege to avoid testifying because of the “crime-fraud” exception: Such privilege does not cover legal consultation that abetted a client’s crime. We also know Smith is trying to get former vice president Mike Pence to testify on issues related to January 6, though Pence is defying his subpoena. If Bragg makes his case first, so be it. He (and we) should not be cowed by the likes of Trump, McCarthy or the MAGA mob.
It’s noteworthy that in his all-caps, frothing incitement post on Saturday, Trump slurred Bragg as someone “funded” by George Soros—an anti-Semitic dogwhistle to his followers—and race-baited the Black DA as soft on crime, a fiction McCarthy amplified. All the better to rile up the crazies to “take our nation back” from the radical Black Jewish–controlled cabal that has wrongly taken power behind the figurehead of Irish Catholic centrist old-school Joe Biden. I used to laugh at these wild conspiracies, but I don’t anymore.
On Sunday Bragg reassured his staff that his administration “does not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York” and that law enforcement agencies are coordinating to keep them safe. Good. I could be wrong, but I’m not hugely worried about violence in New York if Trump is indicted—with so many of the bad actors from January 6 arrested, sentenced or currently on trial, a lot of the personpower that made the Capitol riot deadly is unavailable. Trump’s March 25 rally planned for Waco, Tex., on the 30th anniversary of the bloody Branch Davidian clash, worries me more.
Whatever Bragg decides, however Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis proceeds, if/when Garland and Smith do what needs doing, the truth is the same: An armed, angry, reactionary force exists within our society and threatens our democracy. Police, prosecutors and politicians, all of us really, should be devoted to fighting them, not placating them. On Sunday, former US Attorney Joyce White Vance took stock of what’s likely to unfold in the coming week and reassured her Substack readers: “We are entering the season where the rule of law, in the form of both criminal and civil cases, is coming for Trump.” I’m choosing to believe that, for now.