Ahead of an expected indictment of former US President Donald Trump, New York is bracing for possible protests. Yesterday (local time) there were increased security measures in front of the courthouse in downtown Manhattan - metal fences were erected and the police presence increased.
"We are monitoring the comments on social media," said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. The New York Police Department is making sure there are no "improper actions" in the city, Adams said. He was "confident" that it would be able to do this. Trump had previously called for protests in the face of an expected charge of hush money payments to a porn star and claimed that he would be "arrested" today.
Potentially improper campaign donation
According to US media, an indictment is unlikely today. Among other things, the broadcaster CNN reported yesterday evening (local time) that this is now expected in the coming week at the earliest. New York prosecutors are investigating the ex-president for hush money payments to actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal. An indictment in the case seems increasingly likely.
Investigators are wondering whether Trump may have violated campaign finance laws by making the payment. Hush money is not illegal in the United States, but the indictment could present Daniels' $130,000 and McDougal's $150,000 as campaign donations illegal in New York State. Trump, who is again running for a Republican presidential nomination, sees the procedure - like many other legal disputes - as a politically motivated "witch hunt".
US intelligence adjusts security plans
On Monday evening there was a small protest in front of the court in Manhattan - until the evening (local time) there were no riots. The CNBC broadcaster reported that the US secret service, together with the New York police, adjusted security plans yesterday. Trump's call for protests brought back memories of the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, when Trump goaded his supporters before they violently entered the Houses of Parliament in Washington.
Trump's environment had assured in advance that the ex-president would follow the usual procedure should there be an indictment - and would also voluntarily appear in court to find out details of possible charges. This would not require a sensational arrest. It is also considered likely that Trump could go home after such a formal procedure.
The grand jury in charge of the case also heard witness Robert Costello, a lawyer, yesterday. In the United States, a jury decides whether to indict a case after the prosecutor has presented evidence. "I can't read minds," Costello said after testifying when a reporter asked if charges would be brought against Trump.
Costello had fallen out with the prosecution's key witness, Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen. He now questions Cohen's credibility. "If they want to take action against Donald Trump and have solid evidence, then so be it," Costello said. But Cohen is far from being "solid evidence".
DeSantis speaks of "political spectacle"
Meanwhile, prominent US Republican Ron DeSantis has criticized New York prosecutors for their investigation into Trump. The governor of the state of Florida accused prosecutor Alvin Bragg of running a "political spectacle". When a prosecutor ignores everyday crimes and instead deals with a case from years ago involving hush money payments to porn stars, they are pursuing a "political agenda" and using their office as a weapon. "That's fundamentally wrong."
DeSantis is currently considered Trump's biggest internal party competitor. He is also expected to run as a presidential candidate in the November 2024 election. While DeSantis was now dishing out against the prosecutor in Manhattan, he also took a dig at Trump during his appearance. He couldn't say anything about how it came about that a porn star was being paid hush money to ensure silence about an alleged affair of some kind. This earned DeSantis laughter from the audience.
Trump immediately teased back and made ambiguous allusions. DeSantis may learn of "false allegations and false stories at some point in the future if he is unfairly and illegally assaulted by any woman, even a classmate who is 'underage' (or possibly a man!)," he wrote the network he co-founded, Truth Social. He also accused his party colleague of wanting to cut social benefits.