Bomb scares and a spike in online threats have sparked jitters in New York ahead of Donald Trump’s expected indictment.
The Manhattan Supreme Court was briefly shut down on Tuesday by a 911 call, one of several bomb threats which all turned out to be a hoax.
Protesters are expected on the streets and the New York Police Department is on high alert ahead of the charging of Mr Trump, who will be the first former President to be indicted for a crime.
While Mr Trump is not expected to appear in court in Manhattan until next week, police forces across the US are readying themselves for unrest the moment the decision is announced.
The bomb threats in New York targeted the Manhattan Supreme Court, which briefly shut down, the NYPD HQ and the office of the Manhattan District Attorney, which is bringing the case.
Mr Trump remains ensconced in his Florida estate and would have to fly to New York for his first court appearance where he would be fingerprinted and have his mugshot taken in the prosecution office.
According to the New York Times, he has appeared “significantly disconnected” from the potential of going to jail, instead focusing on details such as whether he should smile when he is arraigned.
Mr Trump supposedly is looking at the spectacle of being in court as a “fun experience”, though it is hard to tell if he is putting on a brave face.
The surge in online threats was reported by police in New York and the US Capitol police in Washington.
The Washington DC Fusion Centre, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence sharing network, said in a report obtained by Rolling Stone that charging Mr Trump remains a “line in the sand” for some extremists on the far right.
As a result they have the “potential to manifest in violence towards government targets or political officials”.
There has already been an “immediate increase in violent online rhetoric and threats towards government and law enforcement”, as well as calls for “Civil War”.
Early protests were smaller than expected and a group outside Trump Tower on Tuesday amounted to just a handful of people.
Among them was Trump supporter Philippe Lejeune, 38, who said: “I wish more people had shown up”.
In an embarrassing twist for Mr Trump, a larger group called for him to be charged and held up a giant sign saying: “Trump is guilty’”
All that could change with the expected announcement today (Wed) that Mr Trump is to face charges of falsifying business records related to his hush money payment of $130,000 to the former porn star Stormy Daniels.
The payment is alleged to have been disguised to avoid a breach of campaign finance violations, a felony with a maximum sentence of four years in jail.
Mr Trump faces two other legal cases which are set to dominate the Republican Presidential primary, which he is running in.
Despite the efforts of the party to move on from his Presidency and the riot at the US Capitol on January 6th 2021, Mr Trump is set to once again dominate the political discourse.
This time around, however, he is weakened and has significantly more baggage.
His weakness is being sensed by Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who is widely expected to run against Mr Trump in 2024.
He used an interview with Piers Morgan to launch his most personal attack on Mr Trump so far and criticized his decision to place America under lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr DeSantis said he runs his office with “no daily drama” and hit back at Mr Trump’s nickname for him, DeSanctimonious.
He said: “Call me whatever you want, just as long as you also call me a winner because that’s what we’ve been able to do in Florida”.
In another barb, Mr DeSantis said Mr Trump’s torrent of criticism about him on social media was “background noise”.
As for his Presidential ambitions, Mr DeSantis said: “Stay tuned”.
Mr DeSantis should note that his popularity among Republican primary voters has slumped to 26 per cent, his lowest since December when his success in the midterm elections cast him as Mr Trump’s biggest rival.
Mr Trump by contrast is moving in the opposite direction and his popularity is now up to 54 per cent.
The indictment has become a rallying call for Republicans who are demanding Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to testify before Congress, a potentially extraordinary twist to an already historic case.
Among them is Senator Rand Paul who Tweeted: “A Trump indictment would be a disgusting abuse of power. The DA should be put in jail”.