(JTA) — A Manhattan grand jury has indicted former President Donald Trump in connection with his role in a payoff to an adult film star about their sexual encounter, making history and prompting Trump to once again invoke the name of a Jewish billionaire who is at the center of antisemitic conspiracy theories.
The indictment Thursday means a former president will be arrested, an American first. Trump has called for protests in that event, which could come as soon as next week. Jewish security watchdogs have been on the alert for violence. Trump’s similar calls for protests to overturn the 2021 election culminated in the deadly Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol.
Within minutes of the news of the indictment leaking to media including The New York Times, Trump, who is running for a second term in 2024, repeated his claim, now made daily in his campaign fundraising emails, that Jewish billionaire George Soros was behind the charge.
“Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who was hand-picked and funded by George Soros, is a disgrace,” Trump said in emails to reporters and in social media postings. “Rather than stopping the unprecedented crime wave taking over New York City, he’s doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on.”
Soros, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor and financier, has been at the center of countless conspiracy theories for decades, and was the target of a 2018 bomb scare carried out by a pro-Trump antisemitic attacker. He featured prominently in the conspiracy theories embraced by the gunman who massacred 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life building in 2018.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Twitter he would not extradite Trump if Bragg tried to force the issue, and mentioned Soros twice, which stood out because he did not name Trump or Bragg in his statement.
“Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda,” he said.
Bragg is among a number of liberal prosecutors backed in recent election cycles by Color of Change, a political action committee that Soros has funded. He was the largest donor to the group in the most recent election cycle, giving it $1 million out of the $4 million it raised. Beyond that relationship, there is no evidence that Soros is pressing any legal case against Trump.
Jewish groups that track antisemitism and Jewish security said they have been keeping an eye on Trump’s recent calls for protests in the lead-up to his indictment but noted that so far those posts have not attracted the groundswell of support that followed his past appeals. It is unclear whether the indictment or looming arrest will further galvanize Trump’s supporters.
There are multiple investigations into Trump, including by state officials in Georgia into election interference and by federal authorities into the role he played in spurring the Jan. 6 violence by rioters who believed his falsehoods about the 2020 election, and into his alleged mishandling of highly classified documents.
The details of the indictment are not yet public. One possible crime Bragg might be investigating is whether Trump falsified records to cover up his payment to Daniels, which was made through his former lawyer Michael Cohen. PJC