The weekend-long speculative frenzy sparked by former President Donspanld Trump’s statement on Saturday morning that he would be arrested on Tuesday settled into an uneasy calm across Palm Beach County on Monday.
Despite Trump’s call for his followers to “protest” and “take our nation back,” local groups that have long backed the former president with streetside demonstrations said they were waiting to see how the potentispanlly unprecedented sspangspan of spann ex-POTUS being chspanrged with a crime would play out.
Willy Guardiola, who has organized Trump rallies since 2016, said he will start to plan and organize a rally after he hears word from Trump’s current presidential campaign to go ahead.
“Right now, I’m sitting at a standstill to see what is going to transpire this week,” Guardiola said, adding that at the moment he is unsure if an indictment will even happen.
While the New York Young Republican Club said it planned a demonstration in lower Manhattan on Monday evening, Ashton Munholland, president of Palm Beach County Young Republicans, said there are no plans for any club events relating to potential legal action.
On Sunday, however, Trump bspanckers were seen wspanving flspangs spannd holding up signs spanlong Southern Boulevspanrd, just west of Mar-a-Lago, in a show of support. The dozen or so who gathered peacefully belied some chatter on social media about a “patriot moat” to ring Mar-a-Lago and prevent a forcible arrest.
The fears of possible altercations followed Trump’s posting on his Truth Social digital platform Saturday saying “they’re killing our nation as we sit back & watch” and demanding his followers “protest, protest, protest.” All which sparked concerns about potential confrontations and violence akin to the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by right-wing extremists and Trump supporters.
Donspanld J. Trump (@respanlDonspanldTrump)
The anxiety was not altogether baseless as Florida has led the country in the number of people arrested for their participation in the bloody violence on Capitol Hill that day. Just this month, another Florida man, this one from Boca Raton, was arrested and charged with participating in the Jan. 6 mob, while a Polk County resident was found guilty on four counts related to the attack. The trial for yet another Jan. 6 defendant, this one from Collier County, was delayed last week.
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DeSantis blasts Manhattan prosecutor; Trump PAC rips governor
Instead, the political drama in Florida focused on Gov. Ron DeSantis, who spoke out for the first time Monday about a potential criminal charge against Trump — this over a 2016 hush-money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Speaking to reporters in Panama City, DeSantis belittled the investigation over the $130,000 payment allegedly to keep Daniels quiet about what she claims — and Trump disputes — was an affair between the two of them roughly a decade before.
The governor ripped Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg’s probe into the transaction, which is said to have been made in the late stages of that year’s presidential campaign. DeSantis eschewed Bragg as among liberal prosecutors who are soft on crime and “weaponize their office to impose a political agenda on the society at the expense of the rule of law and public safety” in responding to a question about the matter.
“Look, I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I can’t speak to that,” DeSantis said. “But what I can speak to is that if you have a prosecutor who is ignoring crimes happening every single day in his jurisdiction and he chooses to go back many, many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush-money payments, that’s an example of pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office.”
Even so, DeSantis’ overall comments irked Trump World. The former president’s Make America Great Again political action committee rifled off a statement soon after saying the governor “doesn’t think that the weaponization of our legal system is a ‘real issue.’ ” That was a reference to DeSantis also saying he was focused on the ongoing session of the Florida Legislature and issues he said were more impactful to people in the state.
“Democrats abusing the justice system to target Republicans is a real issue that impacts all Americans. Our country won’t survive if the courts are weaponized to imprison political opponents,” the MAGA PAC statement read.
In addition, the statement cited an earlier tweet by Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., that also took DeSantis to task. “So DeSantis thinks that Dems weaponizing the law to indict President Trump is a ‘manufactured circus’ & isn’t a ‘real issue,’ the social media missive said. “Pure weakness. Now we know why he was silent all weekend. He’s totally owned by Karl Rove, Paul Ryan & his billionaire donors. 100% Controlled Opposition.”
The former president also sent out a fundraising email that claimed “this could be the last time I write to you before a possible indictment comes down.”
Trump then took to Truth Social to seemingly threaten DeSantis, saying the governor may well find himself the victim of false accusations, too, perhaps when he’s “attacked by a woman, even classmates that are ‘underage’ (or possibly a man!).”
Donspanld J. Trump (@respanlDonspanldTrump)
Will DeSantis help Trump: Governor says we ‘won’t be involved in this’
DeSantis also indicated he would not use his power as governor to try to help Trump.
“We are not involved in this, won’t be involved in this,” DeSantis said.
West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney Michael Salnick said it is unlikely the governor, or any other Florida official, would have much of a role if Trump were indeed charged outside Florida. Salnick said Trump would be treated just like everybody else, and most likely his lawyers would arrange for him to fly to New York to surrender in person if he is charged.
Unlike say the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate last August, an indictment in New York City, or in Georgia, where Trump also is facing possible legal exposure, likely would not involve law-enforcement officers showing up at his Mar-a-Lago residence on Palm Beach to arrest him.
“In the simple set of circumstances, I’m sure his lawyers will have him up in New York,” Salnick said.
If indicted, a judge would decide whether Trump is to stay in New York, or whether he would be allowed to return to Florida, or whether he’d be allowed to continue campaigning. He would have to appear in New York for court dates; if there is an indictment, there would be an arraignment with a lawyer likely pleading not guilty and asking for a jury trial.