Donald Trump announced over the weekend that he was going to be arrested on Tuesday by publishing a series of hysterical posts on his Truth Social media platform exhorting his followers to take to the streets in protest. As it turns out he doesn't actually know that he's being arrested on Tuesday but surmised it from the media reports and decided to signal his loyal followers to get organized. As I write this it seems that an indictment is imminent but there is at least one more witness scheduled to testify to the grand jury today (Michael Cohen's former lawyer), so it's unclear exactly when it's coming.
Trump isn't taking it well:
Social media set itself on fire over Trump's announcement and some of Trump's minions appeared on TV to echo his rage suggesting that the case is being brought to hide the crimes of the "Biden Crime Family" which includes the widow of the late Beau Biden. One Fox News commentator bizarrely suggested that Manhattan District Attorney (DA) Alvin Bragg is being funded by the federal government and is therefore tampering with the 2024 election:
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani wailed that prosecuting political figures is a sign of a nation in decline. "You can look at ancient history, and you can see this is the kind of thing that ends a civilization." Alex Jones claimed that this is timed with the International Criminal Court charging Russian president Vladimir Putin for "evacuating children from a war zone" (actually child trafficking) because it's a globalist conspiracy. An attorney who represents January 6 defendants even went so far as to compare Trump to Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and yes, even Jesus Christ. It is Lent, after all.
The Republican establishment was hardly more restrained.
Former vice president Mike Pence ran with one of Trump's talking points slamming the DA for allegedly ignoring violent crime, claiming it "tells you everything you need to know about the radical left." And House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was out of the gate immediately with this statement:
Here we go again — an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance against President Trump. I'm directing relevant committees to immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.
After a flurry of media criticism (and probably some quick polling) he called for "calmness" on Sunday, weirdly insisting that Trump didn't actually mean that people should protest when he posted "PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!"
After spending the last seven years chanting "lock her up!" at every political gathering they are now declaring the end of the republic if Trump is prosecuted.
It's very interesting to see all these newly minted civil libertarians clutching their pearls at an "overzealous prosecution" after denigrating DAs all over the country for using prosecutorial discretion. It's equally notable that after spending the last seven years chanting "lock her up!" at every political gathering they are now declaring the end of the republic if Trump is prosecuted. Consistency is not their strong suit.
More concerning is the prospect of real violence breaking out over this There is already some talk on the Trump forums about surrounding Mar-a-Lago to prevent police from entering. Some posters even suggested they be prepared to shoot helicopters out of the sky. There was a time when I think we would have ignored such talk as the cosplaying of a bunch of online poseurs but after January 6 you can't brush this kind of talk off lightly.
Trump's attorney has been all over TV assuring the public that he will voluntarily appear if he is indicted so a big Florida confrontation is unlikely. According to the Guardian, when Trump traveled to Tulsa Oklahoma on Saturday for the NCAA Wrestling Championship, he indicated that he would like to personally go to the Manhattan criminal court so that he can turn it into a massive spectacle, which sounds like him. As long as it's happening anyway he might as well get some face time on TV, right? His lawyers disagree, wisely suggesting that they try to negotiate a surrender at a remote location for security reasons. Who knows what he'll ultimately decide to do?
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
Just about everyone weighed in on this development over the weekend with one glaring exception: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
As Mike Pence and Kevin McCarthy and dozens of others including Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., JD Vance, R-Oh.,and Elise Stefanik, R-NY, rushed to condemn the impending indictment, not a word was heard from the presumed presidential candidate and Trump's greatest rival. Recall, DeSantis stepped up immediately after the Mar-a-Lago search last August and ranted against the federal government for failing to raid Hillary Clinton's house. "They're enforcing the law based on who they like and who they don't like. That is not a republic, maybe it's a banana republic when that happens!" he thundered. So far this time, on news of a looming indictment, crickets.
You have to almost admire the elegance of the straight jacket in which Trump has wrapped DeSantis.
This has not gone unnoticed by the Trump people. The New York Times reported that the knives are out. There is a concerted effort across the right-wing media to call DeSantis out for failing to support the former president against the witch hunt:
Mr. Trump has used the possibility of charges, which would stem from an investigation into hush money Mr. Trump's lawyer paid to a porn actress before he was elected in 2016, to cast himself as a victim of political persecution. Although his rivals largely want to keep a distance, Mr. Trump's team is bent on pushing them to choose sides, risking the wrath of Republicans loyal to the former president.
You have to almost admire the elegance of the straight jacket in which Trump has wrapped DeSantis. If he defends Trump he looks like a weakling, especially in light of the barrage of insults Trump has been hurling at him over the past couple of weeks. If he doesn't he offends the MAGA base that he's been turning himself inside out for to prove that he's more Trump than Trump. And although it's unlikely, DeSantis could be forced into an even more painful position should Trump decide not to surrender, requiring his rival to decide whether to extradite him to New York.
Trump has been telling everyone who will listen that this will actually help his campaign by rallying the troops. If he's right that may just leave DeSantis standing there at the station as the Trump train speeds right by him. Donald Trump is the only politician in America whose criminal indictment might very well wind up destroying his top rival's candidacy as he sails to the Republican nomination.