This weekend marked some highs and lows for former US President Donald Trump. Just one day after announcing his supposedly-triumphant return to Facebook, Trump claims that he expects to be arrested this coming Tuesday. It would mark the first time in US history that a president was arrested or faced criminal charges while occupying the White House or after leaving office.
Rumours are swirling that government agencies are preparing for protests and riots akin to the January 6 insurrection if Trump is arrested. Trump has already taken to his Truth Social platform to claim that he will be arrested and call for his supporters to protest.
“Protest, take our nation back!”
He cited “illegal leaks” from the “corrupt” Manhattan district attorney’s office, although he has not provided any evidence for these claims. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office declined to comment.
Prosecutors investigate allegations over a hush money payment made to porn actress Stormy Daniels. The payment, which amounted to US$130,000, was allegedly made by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, in the closing stages of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. It is said to have been intended to prevent Daniels from disclosing that she had an affair with Trump.
The current probe by the Manhattan district attorney’s office into the matter has involved evidence being presented to a grand jury. No charges have yet been made against Trump, who is currently seeking the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election.
Trump’s lawyer Susan Necheles claimed that Trump has been invited to testify before the grand jury. This has been seen by legal experts as a sign that an indictment may be close. Cohen has already pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violations related to the payment to Daniels.
This investigation is not the only legal difficulty faced by Trump, who is also subject to a criminal probe in Georgia relating to the 2020 election result. He is also being investigated by a special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland.
With Trump facing possible arrest that will be sure to rile up his base, Facebook parent company Meta could not have picked a more turbulent time to reinstate the former president on their social media platform.
The reactivation of his account gives Trump a platform to rally his supporters to rise, which is exactly what got him banned in the first place.
Trump was previously kicked off of both Facebook and YouTube in the wake of the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol building. Social media companies laid at least some of the blame for the violent attack on the government on Trump’s use of their platforms to incite unrest.
However, Trump has now been reinstated to both platforms and has begun posting again. The world’s richest far-right conspiracy theorist Elon Musk previously reinstated Trump’s Twitter account shortly after purchasing the platform, but the ex-president hasn’t made much use of it yet.
YouTube released a statement also reinstating Trump’s account which had 2.6 million subscribers.
“Starting today, the Donald J. Trump channel is no longer restricted and can upload new content. We carefully evaluated the continued risk of real-world violence, while balancing the chance for voters to hear equally from major national candidates in the run up to an election.”
Many major advocacy groups are harshly criticising the decision to give Trump a platform to foment insurrection again. Media Matters for America spoke out against Facebook’s parent company.
“Meta’s decision is a green light for Trump to promote harmful content on its platforms, and it shows that the company still prioritizes profit — and appeasement of right-wing figures — over public safety.”
Meanwhile, the reinstatement did garner praise from an unexpected place. The American Civil Liberties Union is no friend of Donald Trump, having filed over 400 legal actions against him previously. But executive director Anthony Romero applauded the reinstatement as a fair decision for the public, though not without a backhanded ulterior motive.
“Like it or not, President Trump is one of the country’s leading political figures and the public has a strong interest in hearing his speech. Indeed, some of Trump’s most offensive social media posts ended up being critical evidence in lawsuits filed against him and his administration.”
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