MANHATTAN (CN) — On the day that Donald Trump appointed via social media as the date he would be arrested by New York prosecutors, the cadre of protesters proclaiming allegiance to the former president proved greatly outnumbered by the hundreds of photographers, reporters and law enforcement outside of the Manhattan criminal courthouse.
Trump had issued his call to the MAGA faithful over the weekend, urging them to protest Tuesday against what he says is a partisan witch hunt.
“PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK,” Trump wrote his Truth Social platform on Saturday morning, citing "illegal leaks from a corrupt & highly political Manhattan District Attorneys office."
As of Tuesday afternoon, the 2024 Republican presidential contender's all-capitalized exhortation of an expected arrest on Tuesday, March 21, appears miscalculated.
Sources familiar with the matter noted that the special grand jury hearing the case in New York City sits Mondays and Wednesdays, making Tuesday of this week an unlikely possibility for grand jury development. The next scheduled grand jury date is Wednesday.
Trump's expected indictment from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office stems from a long-running investigation into hush money that was paid in 2016, ahead of Trump's election, to cover up allegations of extramarital affairs. While Trump's former fixer already served prison time for the conspiracy, Trump's indictment would mark the first time that either a former or sitting president has ever faced criminal charges.
Trump’s call for protests against his looming arrest echoed his Dec. 19, 2020, tweet, that was seen as a call to arms in the lead up to the riot at Capitol building in Washington.
“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Trump wrote on Twitter, encouraging his supporters to head to Washington on the same day Congress was set to certify the results of the 2020 Electoral College.
On Tuesday, New York state court officers and NYPD surrounded the criminal courthouse and adjacent District Attorney’s office with additional metal crowd-control barricades.
Across the street from the courthouse, a motley collection of pro-Trump protesters arrived in waves throughout the day. As milled around in warm spring weather at the Collect Pond Park, some performed politicized braggadocio for smartphones — a far cry from the thousands of Trump supporters who joined the mob that violently overran the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.
Recalling an off-brand copy of the Capitol rioter who held himself out as the QAnon Shaman, one face-painted demonstrator on Tuesday wore fur vest and antlers with a Trump flag cinched at his neck to make a flowing red cape.
A megaphone at the pro-Trump demonstration was commandeered by a droll comedian whose absurd observations belied any apparent loyalty to the former president.
The scene outside of the courthouse on Tuesday included some familiar characters from New York protests, including the TikTok ambush interviewer known as Crackhead Barney and several dozen activists from the leftist political action group Rise and Resist, who reliably show up at every Trump-related hearing in New York with signs and placards.
One Trump supporter hocked pro-Trump and anti-Biden hats from the back of his pickup truck in Lower Manhattan near the courthouse.
Trump has repeatedly derided Democrat Manhattan District Attorney Alvin, who is Black, as “racist” and funded by George Soros.
On Monday, a group of House Republicans targeted Bragg in a letter that asked him testify before Congress "about what plainly appears to be a politically motivated prosecutorial decision" in any potential indictment of Trump.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy weighed in Monday from the GOP’s annual retreat in Florida, where he angled for a slightly more bipartisan approach.
“It doesn’t matter if this was President Trump, or if this was a Democrat,” the California Republican said. “It should be equal justice in America. Stop going after people because you have political differences.”
In a tweet Saturday, McCarthy accused Bragg of abusing his power and said he would direct House committees to investigate the use of federal funds to support what he called politically motivated prosecutions.
As Tuesday afternoon, the grand jury in New York still had yet to indict former President Trump or signal whether it soon would.
Representatives for the District Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.
Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina told reporters over the weekend that Trump will surrender himself if he's charged. “There won't be a standoff at Mar-a-Lago with Secret Service and the Manhattan DA's office,” the lawyer promised.
Coincidentally, Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign announced that his next "Make America Great Again" rally will be held on Saturday, March 25, in Waco, Texas, a town whose name is practically synonymous with the 1993 standoff near Waco between the ATF and the Branch Davidians, a cult led by David Koresh, that ended in a fiery siege by federal law enforcement.
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