During an incendiary speech at a Saturday evening rally in Conroe, Texas, former President Donald Trump urged his followers to mount street protests across the country if the federal and state prosecutors currently investigating him and the Trump Organization "do anything illegal."
Denouncing all of those prosecutors as guilty of “prosecutorial misconduct at the highest level,” Trump clearly meant to invite mob action should they issue any indictment of him – a sign of fear and desperation as he faces the likelihood of criminal liability.
"If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had in Washington DC, in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt," he said. "In reality, they're not after me, they're after you, and I just happen to be the person in the way.” He repeated the “racist” slur several times in referring to the prosecutors, presumably because two of them – Letitia James in New York and Fani Willis in Atlanta – happen to be Black women and a third, Alvin Bragg in Manhattan, is a Black man.
James is investigating tax fraud and other possible crimes by the Trump Organization, while Willis is investigating Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 election outcome in Georgia by influencing state officials. He is also facing probes by the US Attorney in the Southern District of New York and the Manhattan District Attorney.
"They're going after me without any protection of my rights by the Supreme Court or most other courts," Trump said. In fact, Trump has employed the services of multiple defense attorneys and has not seen any of his rights violated.
Beyond his dog-whistling call for a violent response, Trump went still further by suggesting he will pardon the hundreds of criminal defendants currently under investigation and prosecution for the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Alluding to his potential presidential candidacy in 2024, Trump said: "If I run and I win, we will treat those people from January 6 fairly….And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons. Because they are being treated so unfairly."
Trump has played this pardon game before, abusing the power granted in the Constitution to discourage witnesses from cooperating with investigation or prosecution of his alleged crimes. He dangled pardons, successfully, to interfere with the Mueller probe of his campaign’s 2016 collusion with the Kremlin -- and then delivered pardons to the likes of Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Roger Stone.
The nation would have benefitted greatly if Trump had been prosecuted for his corrupt abuses of the pardon power. Having gotten away with it already, he is attempting to run the same crooked game again.
More broadly, he is attempting to intimidate prosecutors and Congressional investigators in the style of a mob boss – threatening mass violence like the riot that he fomented and then failed to curtail on January 6. But his menacing speech was nothing if not a signal of his own consciousness of guilt -- and his own gnawing fear that he will ultimately face justice.