Trump, Escalating Attacks, Raises Specter of Violence if He Is Charged

In an overnight post, the former president warned of “potential death and destruction” if he was indicted. Hours later, the Manhattan district attorney’s office received a threatening letter.

March 24, 2023

Former President Donald J. Trump, who is again campaigning for the White House, has called the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt.” Credit…Desiree Rios/The New York Times


Maggie Haberman is a senior political correspondent and the author of “Confidence Man: The  Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America.” She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on President Trump’s advisers and their connections to Russia.

Jonah E. Bromwich covers criminal justice in New York, with a focus on the Manhattan district attorney’s office, state criminal courts in Manhattan and New York City’s jails.

William K. Rashbaum is a senior writer on the Metro desk, where he covers political and municipal corruption, courts, terrorism and law enforcement. He was a part of the team awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News.

Sean Piccoli and Kate Christobek contributed reporting.

In an overnight social media post, former President Donald J. Trump predicted that “potential death and destruction” may result if, as expected, he was charged by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, in connection with hush-money payments to a porn star made during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Hours later, the district attorney’s office discovered a threatening letter addressed to Mr. Bragg containing white powder — later determined not to be dangerous — in its mailroom.

The comments from Mr. Trump, made between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. on his social media site, Truth Social, were a stark escalation in his rhetorical attacks on Mr. Bragg ahead of a likely indictment on charges that Mr. Trump said would be unfounded.

“What kind of person,” Mr. Trump wrote of Mr. Bragg, “can charge another person, in this case a former president of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting president in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a crime, when it is known by all that NO crime has been committed, & also that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our country?”

“Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!” the former president wrote.

Mr. Bragg is weighing charges against Mr. Trump in connection with hush money that his former fixer and lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, paid late in the 2016 campaign to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump.

The grand jury that has been hearing evidence in the case does not typically meet on Fridays, and an indictment is not expected until next week at the earliest. Although there have been several signals that Mr. Bragg’s office is close to an indictment, the exact timing of any charges remains unknown.

Around midday on Friday, a threatening letter containing a suspicious white powder was found in the mailroom for the district attorney’s office, which is in the building where the grand jury meets, a spokesman for the Police Department said.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said that Mr. Bragg had informed the office that the powder was immediately contained “and that the N.Y.P.D. Emergency Service Unit and the N.Y.C. Department of Environmental Protection determined there was no dangerous substance.” In that message, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, the office’s leadership assured prosecutors that “we are well-prepared for any possibility.”

The envelope in which it was sent was addressed to Mr. Bragg, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The person said that inside the envelope was a single piece of white paper with a brief message containing the typewritten words “ALVIN: I AM GOING TO KILL YOU” followed by 13 exclamation points.

The district attorney’s office did not comment on Mr. Trump’s social media post. In an email to his staff last week, Mr. Bragg wrote that the office would “continue to apply the law evenly and fairly, and speak publicly only when appropriate.”

“We do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,” he added.

Mr. Trump is also being investigated by the Justice Department in connection with his efforts to stay in power leading up to the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob that he had just addressed on Jan. 6, 2021.

In a post early Saturday morning, Mr. Trump erroneously claimed that he was to be arrested three days later and urged people to protest and “take our nation back.”

Since then, he has called Mr. Bragg, the first Black district attorney in Manhattan, an “animal” and appeared to mock calls from some of his own allies for people to protest peacefully, or not at all.

“Our country is being destroyed as they tell us to be peaceful,” Mr. Trump said in a post on Thursday.

That day, Mr. Trump also posted an article about the investigation that featured a large picture of the former president holding a baseball bat, juxtaposed with an image of Mr. Bragg. The image was widely interpreted as menacing. On Friday, the social media post was deleted from Mr. Trump’s feed on Truth Social.

Mr. Trump has also attacked Mr. Bragg for having received indirect financial support from the billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

So far, Mr. Trump’s calls for protests have been largely ignored, with just handfuls of people coming out for a demonstration on Monday organized by some of his New York Republican allies.

In a statement published Friday in Politico’s New York Playbook newsletter, a group of civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and former Gov. David Paterson, condemned Mr. Trump’s statements.

“This disgraceful attack is not a dog whistle but a bullhorn of incendiary racist and antisemitic bile, spewed out for the sole purpose of intimidating and sabotaging a lawful, legitimate, fact-based investigation,” they said. “These ugly, hateful attacks on our judicial system must be universally condemned.”