As former US president Donald Trump prepares for a potential indictment by prosecutors in the coming days, Republicans have backed his claims of a witch hunt while Democrats criticised his calls for street protests.
Mr Trump on Saturday said he expected to be charged on Tuesday in relation to allegations that he paid $130,000 hush money to a porn star with whom he had an affair in advance of the 2016 presidential election.
Mr Trump has denied any affair and denounced the investigation as being politically motivated.
No serving or former US president has ever faced criminal charges. Mr Trump being arrested, photographed and fingerprinted – as is the normal procedure – would be a sensation and throw the 2024 presidential election campaign, in which he is seeking the Republican Party nomination, up in the air.
However, there is no confirmation that the Manhattan district attorney will bring an indictment against Mr Trump on any specific date.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, Mr Trump wrote on his social media platform that the “far and away leading Republican candidate and former president of the United States of America, will be arrested on Tuesday of next week” .
Mr Trump appeared to be seeking to galvanise his base and at the weekend his campaign sent a series of fundraising emails to supporters.
A spokesman said later that the former president had not been notified of any impending arrest. He appeared to have made his comments based on media reports.
There were reports at the weekend that the grand jury in New York which is looking at the case will hear from another witness on Monday.
As well as his forecasts of being taken into custody, Mr Trump’s calls on supporters to protest have generated considerable attention in the United States.
“Protest, take our nation back,” he said.
Some have seen these comments as echoes of his calls for supporters to rally in Washington on January 6th, 2021, amid his false claims that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen.
The former president told his supporters that day: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country any more.”
Shortly after, some stormed the US Capitol where members of Congress were certifying the election victory of Joe Biden as president.
The former president is under a separate investigation by federal prosecutors over his activities before the attack on the US Capitol on January 6th.
Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg told his staff on Saturday that “we do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York”.
The Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, denounced the investigation into Mr Trump.
“Here we go again – an outrageous abuse of power by a radical district attorney who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance against president Trump.”
However former speaker and Democrat Nancy Pelosi strongly criticised Mr Trump’s calls for protests as “reckless”.
“He cannot hide from his violations of the law, disrespect for our elections and incitements to violence.”
Former vice-president Mike Pence also hit out at the New York investigation saying that it “just feels like a politically charged prosecution here”.
However Mr Pence and the Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, called for any protests to be peaceful.