COMMENTARY

Trump is feeling the heat from investigations — and wants his mob to save him

Trump threatens trio of Black prosecutors with violence — and that was part of his speech, not improv. What's next?

By Heather Digby Parton

Published January 31, 2022 9:55AM (EST)

Former President Donald speaks to a crowd during a rally in Texas on Jan. 29, 2022. (Sergio Flores/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Former President Donald speaks to a crowd during a rally in Texas on Jan. 29, 2022. (Sergio Flores/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

If you were wondering if former Donald Trump is feeling the heat from multiple investigations, his comments on Saturday at a rally in the Houston suburb of Conroe, Texas, confirmed it. He is freaked out — and signaling to his faithful followers that he may need them to take to the streets.

The rally featured all of Trump's greatest hits, as usual. He even did a tedious dramatic reading of "The Snake" for old times' sake. But he added some new material that not only revealed his current anxiety level over his legal troubles but also suggested he has developed an aggressive new strategy for dealing with them. These comments weren't just Trump riffing off the cuff, as he often does. They were scripted — he read them off the teleprompter.

If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere, because our country and our elections are corrupt.

They're trying to put me in jail. These prosecutors are vicious, horrible people. They're racists and they're very sick. They're mentally sick. They're going after me without any protection of my rights by the Supreme Court or most other courts.

RELATED: Trump's new legal troubles mount — even as Russia probe officially runs out of steam

As he was petulantly whining, "They're trying to put me in jail," he also inexplicably claimed that he was being prosecuted by Hillary Clinton's law firm and the crowd immediately started chanting, "Lock her up." (Self-awareness is not a strong suit among the Trump fan base.) He went on to suggest to the state attorneys general in attendance — who were in Texas for one of those border photo ops — that perhaps they could help him out and do something to put Hillary away. (One of them was South Dakota AG Jason Ravnsborg, who ran over and killed a man in 2020 and is currently facing impeachment — he's definitely Trump's kind of guy.)

But let's look more closely at what Trump said about these prosecutors. Presumably, he's speaking of New York Attorney General Tish James' civil investigation, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's criminal investigation into the Trump Organization (which Bragg inherited from previous DA Cy Vance) and the Fulton County, Georgia, criminal investigation into Trump's meddling in the election. All three of the prosecutors involved are Black, which explains why Trump bizarrely accused them of being racist on top of being "mentally sick." I don't think he's ever used that as an accusation before and it's noteworthy when you consider his call for "the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere."


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Perhaps one wouldn't naturally assume that was a call to violence if it weren't for the fact that the last time Trump called for a massive protest his supporters, some of them carrying Confederate flags, stormed the Capitol and tried to hunt down the speaker of the House and hang the vice president. If anyone should be a bit more circumspect about inciting people to take to the streets, it should be him. When you put that in the context of what Trump said just a few minutes later it becomes even more obvious:

If I run and I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly. We will treat them fairly. And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons, because they are being treated so unfairly.

I think his followers can feel confident that he will pardon those who committed the Jan. 6 insurrection. If others happen to get into trouble at "protests" against his prosecution, well, I would imagine think they'd be treated "fairly" under a second Trump presidency as well. After all, they would only be doing their patriotic duty in the face of prosecutors who are "vicious, horrible people," not to mention "mentally sick" racists. .

Again, all of that was on the teleprompter as part of Trump's scripted remarks, not a spontaneous commentary delivered in the moment. He has thought about this and said it purposefully. Once again, he is telegraphing his intentions right out in public.

Yes, he added enough phony caveats for his defenders to say with a straight face that he wasn't exactly calling for people to riot if he's prosecuted or specifically promising to pardon them if he wins the next election. But Trump has a track record of inciting violence. He has pardoned cronies who helped the Russian government interfere in the election his behalf, old friends and political allies like Steve Bannon and even war criminals Why wouldn't some of his ardent supporters believe that they have a "Get out of jail free" card as well?

They really should think twice. Politico reported a few months back that judges are taking Trump's ongoing insistence on the Big Lie into account when they decide whether to release some of the Jan. 6 defendants:

Judges have started citing this argument — as part of broader analysis — in cases where they've decided to detain defendants for presenting a threat of future violence, and even in some cases where they've agreed to let defendants go free, pending trial. They've agreed that Trump's rhetoric could spur his most radicalized supporters to attack again.

Prosecutors have also cited Trump's inflammatory lies about the "rigged election" as reason to detain those who continue to believe him, calling them an ongoing threat to the community. It's fair to say that a lot of the Jan. 6 defendants would be better off if the former president stopped "helping" them.

Of course I don't know if any of this will come to pass. At this point there are no actual prosecutions of Donald Trump, only investigations. There is every likelihood that he will slither out of trouble once again, as he has done his whole life. If he is prosecuted in civil court, that just means he'll have to fork over some money, something he's done many times in the past to cover up his misdeeds. Much as he may resent it, he  considers that a cost of doing business.

The Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, have been indicted for tax fraud in the Manhattan DA's criminal case, but it doesn't appear that Weisselberg will testify against his boss. Who knows where the Georgia election case is headed? But it's clear that Trump is very worried about these cases, so much that he's preparing to activate the mob to save him. I wonder which one of these has him so spooked?

Read more on the multiple Trump investigations:


Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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