‘Reckless’ Trump rhetoric could get someone killed, top Democrat warns

<span>Photograph: Michael Conroy/AP</span>
Photograph: Michael Conroy/AP

Donald Trump’s incendiary rhetoric over his expected indictment in New York could “get someone killed”, the Democratic leader in the US House warned.

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“The twice-impeached former president’s rhetoric is reckless, reprehensible and irresponsible,” Hakeem Jeffries, from New York, told reporters at the Capitol in Washington.

“It’s dangerous, and if he keeps it up, he’s going to get someone killed.”

Trump faces indictment in a Manhattan investigation of a hush money payment to the porn star Stormy Daniels. Daniels claims an affair, which Trump denies.

Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, served jail time after admitting making the payment shortly before the presidential election in 2016, then being reimbursed by Trump when Trump was president. Trump first denied then admitted the payment. Cohen is now a key witness in the Manhattan case.

Trump claims the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, is politically and racially motivated. Bragg, a Democrat and the first Black man to fill the prestigious post, is believed to be considering charges including falsification of business records, campaign finance violations and tax fraud.

Trump has falsely predicted his own arrest, mused on wanting to be seen handcuffed and called for supporters to protest. Security preparations have been made around the courthouse in lower Manhattan but no serious protest has emerged.

On Thursday, Trump upped the ante, using his Truth Social platform to post a composite picture of himself wielding a baseball bat next to Bragg.

Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics tsar now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, responded: “Threatening a prosecutor is a crime in New York. In fact MULTIPLE crimes: Harassment in the first degree … menacing in the second degree … stalking in the fourth or third degree … and that’s just for starters.”

But Trump kept going. Early on Friday, he claimed “potential death and destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our country”.

He also called Bragg “a degenerate psychopath that truely [sic] hates the USA”.

Earlier this week, bomb threats were made in lower Manhattan. It was not clear if they were related to the Trump payment case, though one of the threats forced the postponement of a hearing related to a separate court case involving the former president.

On Friday, an envelope containing white powder and marked “Alvin” was delivered to Bragg’s office in New York. The powder was found not to be hazardous.

The civil rights leader the Rev Al Sharpton told the New York Daily News the powder delivery was “alarming but not surprising given the kind of rhetoric that we heard by some of the supporters of Trump and by Trump himself posing for a picture with a [bat] next to Alvin Bragg”.

In Washington, Jeffries said: “We’ve already seen the consequences of incitement from the former president. He is principally responsible for inciting the violent insurrection that happened on January 6. But clearly he has not learned his lesson.”

On 6 January 2021, Trump told supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat by Joe Biden, based on his lie about electoral fraud.

A mob attacked Congress, seeking to stop certification of election results. Some rioters sought lawmakers to capture. Targeting Trump’s vice-president, some chanted “Hang Mike Pence” as makeshift gallows went up outside.

Nine deaths have been linked to the riot, including a Trump supporter shot by police, an officer who collapsed the next day, and officer suicides in the following months.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested and hundreds convicted. The Department of Justice has indicated more charges to come.

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Trump was impeached but acquitted when enough Republican senators stayed loyal. Despite wide-ranging legal jeopardy, he is the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

Senior Republicans including Trump’s chief rival for the nomination, the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, have rallied to his defense over the New York case.

Most have accused Bragg of political bias and linked him to the progressive philanthropist George Soros, an attack with established antisemitic overtones. On Thursday Bragg hit back, telling Republicans to back off.

Using Trump’s campaign slogan, which stands for “Make America Great Again”, Jeffries said: “It’s also very unfortunate that the extreme Maga Republicans in the House of Representatives continue to back President Trump and his reckless, and his violent, and his hateful and his disgusting rhetoric.”