By Arul Louis
New York, Mar 21 (IANS): New York City has girded itself for the fallout from a possible arrest of former US President Donald Trump -- a historic event if it happens -- setting up barricades around the city and mobilising law enforcement, while Republicans prepared a counter-offensive.
However, it appeared unlikely that Trump would be arrested on Tuesday as he said over the weekend and charged in connection with alleged payment to an adult film actress to keep her quiet about an affair and had called for protests.
Media reports said that at least one more witness was expected to testify on Wednesday before a grand jury, the panel of citizens that will decide if there is a prima facie case against him to bring charges.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued an alert that "at the present time there is no information to confirm this indictment".
Former Trump cabinet member and a rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Nikki Haley, was among Republican leaders to condemn the attempt to prosecute him, calling it "revenge".
"When you get into political prosecutions like this, it's more about revenge than it is about justice," she said during a TV interview on Monday.
If Trump is indicted, he will be the first former President to suffer the ignominy and the first to be arrested.
Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren, said in a TV programme on Sunday: "No one is above the law -- not even the former president of the United States."
But Democrat Senator Mark Kelly introduced a note of caution, saying that "there are certainly risks involved here".
Being an unprecedented case, he said: "I would hope that, if they brought charges, that they have a strong case."
Illustrating the quirkiness of the situation, Trump is entitled to Secret Service protection and they will be there even when he is arrested.
Making the situation even more unique is that Trump is running for the Republican Party's nomination to contest again against President Joe Biden -- and they are neck and neck in the polls, according to RealClear Politics aggregation of polls showing Biden ahead by a mere 1.2 per cent.
Under the Constitution, he will not be barred from running in the election or serving again if he is convicted.
Trump did not commit any crime if he had paid off the adult film star Stormy Daniels, but he is ensnared in book-keeping criminality because he allegedly falsely showed the $130,000 payment as fees to his lawyer.
A secondary possible violation of election laws would be if the payment is construed as an illegal election contribution, compounding the first accusation.
Federal prosecutors had looked into the allegations and decided not to prosecute.
It was picked up by Manhattan public prosecutor Alvin Bragg, who was elected to the office as a left-wing Democrat in partisan elections and who is under assault from his own party leaders in the city for his failure to prosecute or keep in custody many violent criminals as crime soared in the city.
Bragg the seemingly petty allegation, even though he had dropped investigations started by his predecessor into whether Trump had artificially inflated the values of his properties to mislead banks and insurance companies.
The FBI said that there was no indication of violence being planned.
As of Monday evening signs of protest fizzled out as only a few dozen supporters of Trump gathered outside his New York residence, Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, and the courts.
Earlier, police set up metal and concrete barricades around both places and prepared to keep apart his supporters and opponents.
Trump's call for protests against him being declared the loser in the 2020 election led to an attack on the Capitol building housing Congress on January 6, 2021, with his supporters rioting inside, endangering members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence gathered to ratify the elections.
To avoid such an embarrassment to the Republican Party from happening again, Speaker Kevin McCarthy and even Trump's diehard supporter Representative Marjorie Taylor advised against protests.
Republicans, who have denounced Bragg's bid to prosecute Trump as politically motivated, have announced a probe of Bragg himself.
Three Republican heads of committees in the House of Representatives have written to him that there would be Congressional scrutiny of his "decision to pursue such a politically motivated prosecution" and he is likely to to be called to testify before committees.
Bragg's election was helped by as much as $500 million from the Democratic Party-backing billionaire George Soros, who throws his money around the world to interfere in domestic politics and spread his leftist ideology -- just last month he attacked India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi as not a democrat and asserted that the financial setback to Gautam Adani would weaken him.
Republicans have used that connection to attack Bragg.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan told Politico: "This is a Soros-backed, crazy, left-wing prosecutor and he is doing this purely political sham."