Last month, fearing imminent arrest, Donald Trump called on supporters to take to the streets.
“THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK,” the 76-year-old, who is on his third campaign to win the Oval Office, wrote on his social media site Truth Social. “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”
To date, the response has been muted, with many fearing they could be arrested if they take to the streets. Authorities have made just one arrest.
But some high-profile supporters of the populist ex-president have vowed to be present outside the court on Tuesday when he makes his way inside. Among them is far-right Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who will join members of the hardline New York Young Republican Club.
“Protesting is a constitutional right and I am going to NY on Tuesday to protest this unprecedented abuse of our justice system and election interference,” she tweeted. “They’re not coming after President Trump, they’re coming after us. He’s just in their way.”
Ms Greene, 48, claimed some enemies of Mr Trump may try to mount a so-called “black ops” action to cause trouble and heap blame on his supporters.
“I also reject any attempt and anyone who dresses in MAGA [Make America Great Again] but incites violence or commits violence while pretending to be one of us,” Ms Greene added.
America’s biggest city is on heightened alert as it prepares for Mr Trump to appear in court to answer criminal charges – an historic first that has left many anxious about the prospect of violence similar to that which stunned the world on 6 January, 2021.
“Trump has used the indictment to raise money from his base and solidify backing from Republicans who had wanted to ‘move on’ from Trump,” Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, tells i.
“He hasn’t expanded his base, just lured some back to him after defections to DeSantis and others.”
All uniformed officers of the New York Police Department (NYPD) are on standby, and barriers have been placed aro]und New York County Supreme Court in Lower Manhattan. Several roads are shut off.
Barriers have been placed around Trump Tower, where Mr Trump is expected to stay overnight in anticipation of possible protests. Extra barricades were also reportedly added at the US Capitol in Washington DC.
“Officers have been placed on alert and the department remains ready to respond as needed and will ensure everyone is able to peacefully exercise their rights,” said an NYPD statement.
Lawyers for the 76-year-old Republican say he will plead not guilty to up to 30 charges relating to the alleged payment of hush money to former pornography actress Stormy Daniels. Specific details will only be unsealed when he actually appears in court.
“He’s someone who’s going to be ready for this fight,” Mr Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, told ABC News. “We’re ready for this fight. And I look forward to moving this thing along as quickly as possible to exonerate him.”
Many Americans of all political hues were jolted last week when Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, confirmed an indictment had been prepared by a grand jury and Mr Trump had been called to appear in court.
Like any other defendant, Mr Trump will be fingerprinted. He may or may have a “mugshot” picture taken before he appears in front of acting New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan. Unlike other defendants, Mr Trump will be escorted by a dozen US Secret Service agents. Unlike most defendants, Mr Trump will be spared a “perp walk” before the media and be released on bail “on his own recognisance”.
He will leave the city immediately, from LaGuardia airport, and return to Florida in time for prime time, and address supporters.
No US president has ever faced a criminal charge, and while supporters claim he is the victim of a “political witch hunt”, they are aware what is taking place goes beyond even what happened to Richard Nixon, who resigned the presidency in 1974 as it became clear he was to be impeached for his role in the Watergate scandal. He was later pardoned by president Gerald Ford.
At the same time, the episode also has an air of “only in America” about it. The one-time star of The Apprentice is being charged over allegedly falsifying business records over a purported payment of $130,000 to Ms Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford. This payment was allegedly made ahead of the 2016 election to buy her silence over claims she and Mr Trump had an affair in 2006. Mr Trump went on to win the election, a result that stunned Democrats and their candidate Hillary Clinton.
Mr Trump, who also faces two other criminal investigations, has denied either the affair or making a payment. In true Trump style, ahead of his appearance, Mr Trump has attacked the prosecutor as a “degenerate psychopath”, as well as the judge.
He has also attacked his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to charges that he made the payments on behalf of his employer.
Cohen was later sentenced to three years in jail.
One thing that appears certain is that the events have solidified Mr Trump’s support among Republican voters, as he makes his third bid for the White House.
A Yahoo News/YouGov poll taken after the indictment was announced, showed support for Mr Trump had jumped by as many as 18 points. He now leads Ron DeSantis by 26 points – 57 to 31, up from 47-39 a few weeks ago.
Mr Trump’s portrayal of himself as a victim of Democrats has forced his Republican rivals for the 2024 nomination, including Mr De Santis and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, to 8issue statements of support for him. He has also used the episode to raise millions of dollars for his campaign.