Donald Trump is turning a challenge into opportunity as he attempts to cash in on his legal woes to fundraise for his 2024 White House bid and reportedly seeks to be handcuffed in a show of defiance to would-be voters.
Mr Trump could become the first former US president to be charged with a crime, as a Manhattan grand jury is expected to vote on whether to indict him for his role in the hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016.
Reports say the grand jury, which has been hearing evidence in the case for several weeks, is due to hear from one more witness before voting on whether Mr Trump should be prosecuted.
The grand jury meets during the afternoon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but it is unclear why the jury was not meeting on Wednesday or whether other witnesses could be called to give evidence.
“The grand jury has been told to stay home today. They’re on standby for tomorrow,” one senior law-enforcement official told Politico. “The DA’s office didn’t tell the court why the day off, [they] just said, ‘I don’t want them today, maybe tomorrow,’” the official added.
Two unnamed law enforcement officers also told Business Insider, which first reported Wednesday’s cancelled session, that it is unlikely that the grand jury will meet at all this week.
It follows reports that Mr Trump is not expected to be arraigned (have his first appearance in court) until sometime next week.
With the extra publicity the legal saga has brought him, Mr Trump has voiced his outrage in a series of posts on his Truth Social app.
“Every article I read, every show I watch, even the so-called Haters say that ‘President Trump did nothing wrong, there IS NO CRIME HERE!’ As Biden would say, ‘No, I mean it, I’m not kidding.’ The Crime would be if I get charged!!!” he wrote on Wednesday morning.
The business tycoon has urged his supporters to sign a petition to denounce the potential charges against him, but when clicking on the petition link sent by email to his followers, it directs people to a page where they are encouraged to donate up to $3,300 (about £2,700) to his 2024 presidential campaign.
“They’re trying to intimidate YOU and cancel out YOUR vote!” Mr Trump’s team wrote the email seen by Insider.
Despite his rallying cries for supporters to come out and protest against his possible indictment, it has so far garnered a tepid response. At Trump Tower in New York City, where police have put up barricades in anticipation of potential unrest, a handful of his fans gathered on Tuesday night in a show of support.
“I wish more people had shown up,” said Philippe Lejeune, 38, whose small group had to face off with a much larger demonstration demanding Mr Trump is charged. One supporter was seen dressed in a Trump mask, bikini and a nappy.
According to the New York Times, Mr Trump is ready to travel to New York and be subjected to a “perp walk”, where handcuffed defendants are made to walk through a public place filled photographers and journalists usually screaming questions such as, “Did you do it?”
Mr Trump has reportedly told his associates at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida that he welcomes the idea of being paraded by authorities, and has “even mused openly about whether he should smile for the assembled media”, the New York Times reported, adding that the 76-year-old described the potential “spectacle” as a “fun experience”.
“He wants to be defiant — to show the world that if they can try to do this to him, they can do it to anyone,” an unnamed source who spoke to Mr Trump told the newspaper.
It echoes a message Mr Trump declared in a video posted on his Truth Social app on Monday night, in which he says to his supporters: “They are not coming after me – they are coming after you. I’m just standing in their way. And I always will stand in their way.”
Mr Trump also reportedly told his advisers that he wants to be handcuffed, The Guardian reported, citing unidentified sources close to the former president.
Sources told both newspapers that they were not sure how serious Mr Trump’s comments were, but his advisers said that they questioned how much he fully grasps “the enormity of what an indictment might mean for him legally”.
The decision to be handcuffed may be out of Mr Trump’s hands, as reports suggest the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, whose office is investigating the hush money case, may refuse the perp walk out of security concerns, experts told Business Insider. They also speculated that Mr Bragg, a Democrat, would want to avoid anything that would expose him to claims that the charges are politically motivated, as Mr Trump has often alleged.
It appears to be a view also held by nearly half of Americans, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.
The two-day survey, which concluded on Tuesday, found 54 per cent of respondents – including 80 per cent of Republicans and 32 per cent of Democrats – said politics was driving the criminal case being weighed by the Manhattan grand jury.
But the poll also found that 70 per cent of the 1,003 respondents said it was believable that Mr Trump paid Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter.
Adding to Mr Trump’s legal troubles was a report that prosecutors have presented compelling preliminary evidence that he knowingly and deliberately misled his own lawyers about the classified materials he had in in his possession after he left the White House.
In a sealed filing, a judge ruled on Friday that prosecutors working with Jack Smith, Special Counsel for the US Justice Department, had made a “prima facie showing that the former president had committed criminal violations,” sources told ABC News.
Mr Trump has denied any wrongdoing in his handling of classified documents.