Trump warns of ‘potential death and destruction’ if he is charged

Former US president escalates his attacks on prosecutor overseeing investigation into hush money payment to porn star.

Trump supporter holding a sign that says "Drain the swamps, Vote Trump."
A supporter of former US President Donald Trump attends a gathering outside his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 22, 2023 [Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters]

Former United States President Donald Trump has warned of “potential death and destruction” if he is charged in a New York investigation into a hush money payment that his personal lawyer paid to a porn star in 2016.

Trump made the comment on Friday, nearly a week after he claimed he would be arrested in relation to the case and urged his supporters to protest.

“What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country?” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform on Friday.

The former president, who is running for the White House again in 2024, has repeatedly rebuked Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor overseeing the investigation.

Hours earlier, Trump posted an article that featured a split image showing a photo of the former president holding a baseball bat on one side and a picture of Bragg on the other.

Former US President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, the US.
Trump has accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of targeting him for political reasons [File: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

The former president’s bellicose rhetoric and calls for protests have renewed fears of political violence, more than two years after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, to try to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election win.

NBC News cited law enforcement officials as saying on Friday that Bragg’s office received a letter containing white powder and a threatening message. “ALVIN: I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!” it said, according to NBC.

US media outlets later cited a spokesperson for Alvin’s office as saying that the letter was immediately contained and law enforcement officials determined “there was no dangerous substance”.

“If you still support Donald Trump, you are supporting an individual who has called for chaos and violence, and continues to call for chaos and violence,” Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries also called Trump’s rhetoric “reprehensible” and “disgusting”.

“It’s dangerous, and if he keeps it up, he’s going to get someone killed,” Jeffries told reporters.

In a letter to key Republican members of the House of Representative on Thursday, Bragg, an elected Democrat, rejected accusations that the investigation is politically motivated, stressing that he is exercising his legal duties as a prosecutor.

The New York case revolves around a payment that Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen made to adult film actor Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Daniels said she had an affair with Trump, who is married, and Cohen said he paid her on Trump’s orders.

The former president has denied the affair and said the payment was to protect his reputation from a false accusation, insisting that he did nothing wrong.

A grand jury has been meeting behind closed doors this week to determine whether to lay charges against Trump.

Several US media outlets have reported that the potential charges relate to the way Trump reimbursed Cohen. Prosecutors allege that he improperly labelled the payments as legal expenses, which could lead to charges of falsifying business records.

Many prominent Republicans have come to Trump’s defence, echoing his accusations of political meddling by Bragg. Still, most have ignored or dismissed Trump’s calls for protests.

“We want calmness out there,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Trump ally, said this week.

On Monday, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said he was “not aware” of any specific threats relating to Trump’s remarks.

“We’re constantly monitoring this as you would think we should, particularly in the wake of what happened on January 6,” Kirby told reporters.

Trump is to hold a campaign rally in Waco, Texas, on Saturday. The event will coincide with the 30th anniversary of a bloody standoff between federal law enforcement and Branch Davidians, a religious cult, that killed 80 people from the group and four US agents.

The incident turned into a major grievance for anti-government and far-right groups.

Trump’s campaign has dismissed any link between the rally and the anniversary of the violence, telling US media outlets that Waco was chosen because of its central location in Texas.

Beyond the New York case, Trump is facing federal investigations over his role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, as well as his possible mishandling of classified documents.

The state of Georgia also is conducting an investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing in all the cases, dismissing them as politically motivated.

Source: Al Jazeera