House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said supporters of Donald Trump should not protest if the former president is indicted — after Trump called on people to rally against what he claimed would be his imminent arrest in a Manhattan investigation. In an all-caps message on his social media platform, he called on followers to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”
“I don’t think people should protest this, no,” McCarthy said during a news conference Sunday. “And I think President Trump, if you talk to him, he doesn’t believe that, either.”
Posting on his Truth Social platform on Saturday, Trump wrote that he “WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY” and called on people to “PROTEST.” Despite the post from his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, his advisers said Trump’s team did not have specific knowledge about the timing of any indictment.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) is investigating Trump’s role in hush money paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election. The case centers on a $130,000 payment from Michael Cohen, a former Trump attorney, to Daniels — and Bragg is probing whether Trump broke campaign finance laws to reimburse Cohen for keeping Daniels quiet about allegations that she and Trump had an affair. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels and has described the payments as extortion.
Trump’s demand that people take to the streets to denounce a possible indictment stoked fears of violence and echoed rhetoric he used while addressing supporters shortly before a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Five people died in the attack or in its aftermath, and 140 police officers were injured in the assault.
“Nobody should harm one another,” McCarthy said Sunday, following Trump’s call for protests. “We want calmness out there.”
While McCarthy appealed for peace, he also slammed the investigation into Trump and accused Bragg of unfairly targeting the former president. “Lawyer after lawyer will tell you this is the weakest case out there, trying to make a misdemeanor a felony,” McCarthy said during the news conference.
Lawyers and advisers to Trump, who is running for president again in 2024, have expected for days that he will be indicted in the case.
Former vice president Mike Pence said he was “taken aback at the idea” that Bragg was “prioritizing” an investigation into Trump “at a time where there is a crime wave in New York City,” and he called the investigation “politically charged.”
Pence said that should Trump be indicted, his supporters “understand” that they should protest peacefully and in “a lawful manner.” He noted that it is their constitutional right to do so.
Josh Dawsey, Shayna Jacobs, Carol D. Leonnig and Justine McDaniel contributed to this report.