Talk of Trump arrest builds sympathy for the former president, Sununu says

March 20, 2023 8:00 am

The possibility that Donald Trump may be charged for allegedly covering up hush money payments to a porn star during his 2016 campaign is garnering sympathy for the Republican former president, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said on Sunday.

Trump, whose supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 to overturn his 2020 election defeat, said he expects to be arrested on Tuesday and called for protests. He did not cite any evidence for his arrest concerns and his spokesman said the former president had not been notified of any impending arrest.

“It’s building a lot of sympathy for the former president,” Sununu, also a Republican, told CNN’s “State of the Union” program, saying he spoke to some people on Sunday who were not “big Trump supporters but they all said … they felt he was being attacked.”

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Trump is seeking the 2024 Republican nomination for president. Sununu, a relative moderate, is considering a run and appeared to be trying to avoid alienating Trump supporters.

Asked if Trump had special responsibility to ensure protests did not turn violent, Sununu said “well, sure” but quickly added this was a broader societal responsibility, saying “you can’t just put it on the former president.”

Trump’s former national security adviser H.R. McMaster and former economic adviser Gary Cohn on Sunday both urged Trump supporters to respond peacefully to any developments this week.

Prominent Republicans, such as Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence and House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, suggested a possible prosecution by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, would be politically motivated.

No U.S. president, while in office or afterward, has faced criminal charges. Trump has said he will continue campaigning even if charged with a crime.


In a social media post on Sunday, Trump accused President Joe Biden of playing a role in the Manhattan probe but offered no evidence. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Bragg, whose office has been investigating a $130,000 hush payment made by Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to porn actor Stormy Daniels, declined to comment on Sunday.

Sources have said Bragg’s office has been presenting evidence to a grand jury about the payment, which came in the waning days of the 2016 campaign in return for Daniels’ silence about an affair she said she had with Trump a decade earlier.

Trump has denied the affair happened and called the investigation by Bragg a witch hunt.

Robert Costello, a lawyer, is expected to appear before the Manhattan grand jury on Monday, a source familiar with the matter said, suggesting Costello would call Cohen’s credibility into question.

A witness has been expected to appear on Monday at the request of Trump’s attorneys to provide information exculpatory of the former president, another source told Reuters on Saturday.

Costello’s expected appearance was first reported by the New York Times.

Legal experts have said if Trump were indicted that any trial would still be more than a year away, possibly coinciding with the final months of the 2024 presidential campaign.

When asked if the legal drama surrounding Trump could help him politically, the top House Democrat, Hakeem Jeffries, told MSNBC’s “Inside with Jen Psaki” that American voters had rejected political extremism during the 2022 midterm elections.

“It’s my expectation that they will continue to do so moving forward,” he said on Sunday. “It is unfortunate that the extreme has become mainstream for this version of the Republican Party.”