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Trump wants ‘protests’ if he’s arrested

A man with blond hair, in dark blue jacket and red tie
Donald Trump attends an event on March 18, 2023, in Tulsa, Okla.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)
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Over the weekend, Donald Trump sent his supporters an urgent message.

He claimed that on Tuesday, he would be arrested by New York police after an investigation by Manhattan prosecutors.

The crime had already been “FULLY DEBUNKED” and was a “FAIRYTALE,” Trump claimed on Truth Social, his conservative social media platform styled after Twitter.

“PROTEST,” Trump wrote. “TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”

He followed up with another post: “IT’S TIME!!!” the former president wrote. “WE JUST CAN’T ALLOW THIS ANYMORE. THEY’RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA! PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”

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The former president claiming his arrest was imminent was newsworthy. But his calls for protests echoed similar comments he made in the run-up to Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election.

Why is Trump being investigated? Could his calls for protest lead to more political violence?

Hello, my name is Erin B. Logan. I cover national politics for the L.A. Times. This week, we are going to discuss hush money payments and political protests.

The payments, again?

Manhattan Dist. Atty. Alvin Bragg has been investigating Trump for potential violations of state law tied to $130,000 in hush money his former attorney Michael Cohen paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen, who in 2018 was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to a slew of crimes, including campaign finance charges, for his part in the scheme, said Trump was hoping to stave off embarrassment. Trump and Daniels had a sexual encounter in the early 2000s when Daniels was 27 and the future president was 60, the Washington Post reported.

Cohen said the former president reimbursed him and labeled the payment as “legal fees.” This would be a misdemeanor under state law. But Bragg can elevate the charge to a felony if he shows that Trump’s intended to defraud with the intent to cover up or commit another crime.

Three House Republican chairmen — Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, Kentucky Rep. James Comer and Wisconsin Rep. Bryan Steil demanded testimony from Manhattan prosecutors, claiming the Trump inquiry is politically motivated.

The Manhattan grand jury heard from pro-Trump witnesses on Monday, the Associated Press reported.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday declined to comment on the investigation or the Republican lawmakers’ demand for testimony.

What sorts of ‘protests’ are we talking about?

Andrew Weissmann, a former Justice Department prosecutor and current MSNBC legal analyst, said on air that Trump’s language in the post “stays on this side of the law” by calling for protests.

But Trump’s statement was notable because “he did not say you should protest peacefully,” Weissmann added.

“It was sort of conspicuous that he left that word out even though, as we all know, on Jan. 6, he did throw that word in, which gave him some potential legal cover. But he didn’t do that here.”

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On Sunday, the New York Republicans Club staged a pro-Trump protest. Journalists covering the rally significantly outnumbered the former president’s supporters.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) discouraged protests if Trump is arrested.

McCarthy said that Trump “was not talking in a harmful way” and that he wants to “educate people about what’s going on.”

Jennifer Rubin, an opinion journalist for the Washington Post, said on MSNBC that Trump “continually calls for violence when the law closes in on him.” And that “underscores why it is important to prosecute him when he breaks the law. You can’t have a system in which former presidents — or anyone — promises, threatens violence whenever they are indicted or fear they’re going to be indicted.”

She added: “That’s the ultimate subjugation of the rule of law.”

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The latest from Trumpland

— Trump’s White House failed to report more than 100 gifts from foreign nations worth more than a quarter of a million dollars, the Associated Press reported. Federal officials have been unable to find a life-size painting of Trump given by the president of El Salvador as well as golf clubs from the prime minister of Japan, according to a report Friday from House Democrats.

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— On Saturday, Trump said he will be arrested Tuesday in connection with a case brought by Manhattan Dist. Atty. Alvin Bragg, Times staff writer Jon Healey reported. That’s just one of several legal threats he is facing. Here’s a rundown of what’s happening now, as well as other looming problems for the former president.

— An unfounded bomb threat in lower Manhattan on Tuesday morning delayed a court hearing involving Trump as the city and much of the nation remained on edge over the prospects of protests or unrest in response to his possible indictment, Times staff writer Salvador Hernandez reported. It was unclear whether the threat mentioned Trump or his legal troubles, but the delay affected a hearing Tuesday morning involving a lawsuit filed by New York Atty. Gen. Letitia James against the former president and several of his family members, accusing them of fraudulently inflating his net worth.

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The latest from Washington

— With massive street protests, a mutiny by elite military reserve officers and outrage from diplomats, academics and former officials, Israel seems steeped in epic crisis, The Times’ Tracy Wilkinson reported.

— The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a major water rights dispute from Arizona to decide whether the federal government has broken its promises to the Navajo Nation for more than 150 years, Times staff writer David G. Savage reported.

— Biden signed a bipartisan bill Monday that directs the federal government to declassify as much intelligence as possible about the origins of COVID-19 more than three years after the start of the pandemic, the Associated Press reported.

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— Vice President Kamala Harris detailed $197 million in new federal grants on Monday to help fortify high-risk communities against wildfires, Times staff writer Courtney Subramanian reported.

The latest from California

— California’s influential labor unions, government watchdogs and environmental advocates repeatedly accuse corporations of lying to voters in campaigns to reverse state laws and thwart the progressive Democratic agenda at the state Capitol, Times staff writer Taryn Luna reported. Now they plan to do something about it.

— A new bill introduced in the California Senate aims to lay the groundwork for a state universal healthcare system, proposing an incremental approach that departs from recent sweeping, and unsuccessful, efforts to reshape how Californians receive care, The Times’ Melanie Mason reported. Under the measure by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), California would begin the process of seeking a waiver from the federal government to allow Medicaid and Medicare funds to be used for a first-in-the-nation single-payer healthcare system.

— During a news conference Saturday in Downey, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new $50-million contract with the nonprofit generic drugmaker Civica to produce insulin under the state’s own label, Times staff writers Taryn Luna and Emily Alpert Reyes reported. Newsom originally declared his intent to produce generic drugs three years ago.

Sign up for our California Politics newsletter to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and send pictures of your adorable furbabies to me at erin.logan@latimes.com.

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