Former U.S. president Donald Trump said he expects to be "arrested" on Tuesday over an alleged hush-money payment to an adult film star in 2016 and urged his supporters to protest, as prosecutors gave signs of moving closer to an indictment.
If indicted, he would be the first former U.S. president to be charged with a crime, marking an explosive and unpredictable development in the 2024 White House race as Trump seeks to clinch the Republican nomination again.
On his Truth Social platform, the 76-year-old said: "Protest, take our nation back!"
Trump is facing possible indictment for a $130,000 payment he made just before the 2016 election to silence Stormy Daniels about an earlier affair he allegedly had with her.
Trump has denied having had an affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and has insisted the probe amounted to "blatant and unconstitutional" election interference and that the procedure wasn't "a prosecution, it's a persecution".
His lawyer told CNBC on Friday that Trump, if indicted, would surrender to face criminal charges.
Not even a conviction in the hush-money case would prevent Trump from running, but an indictment could have major consequences, galvanizing his critics but also electrifying his supporters, Agence France-Presse commented.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reacted with fury, accusing New York prosecutors of pursuing "political vengeance" against Trump. McCarthy vowed on Twitter to launch a congressional probe into the matter.
But his Democratic predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, who was speaker when Trump was impeached for inciting the Jan 6, 2021, rioting in the U.S. Capitol, said his announcement would "foment unrest among his supporters".
In his Truth Social post, written in capital letters, Trump referred to "illegal leaks from a corrupt &highly political Manhattan district attorney's office" and said the investigation was "based on an old& fully debunked (by numerous other prosecutors!) fairy tale."
He doubled down in another post, assailing his successor, President Joe Biden, as "crooked" and urging his followers to "Protest, Protest, Protest!!!"
Danielle Filson, a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney's office, declined to comment on the former president's statement.
The Associated Press reported that within hours of his comments, his campaign was sending fundraising solicitations to his supporters.
The Washington Post reported that Trump advisers said they were still discussing among themselves, and with Trump, the logistics of an indictment — whether the former president would have to travel to New York to appear in court, whether he could avoid having his mug shot released or any other public spectacle, and whether, if indicted, he will hold a news conference to discuss it.
An indictment is a formal charge of a crime, while an arrest is when a person is taken into custody. The arrest of Trump isn't likely, said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. "Typically defendants are not arrested in cases like this one when they're represented by counsel," he told USA Today.
Besides the Manhattan investigation, Trump faces separate criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington over his efforts to undo the results of the 2020 election.