Former President Donald Trump is leaning into a toxic new attack line against Black law prosecutors who could charge him with crimes: They’re “racist.”
Trump’s racially-charged heckling has only grown more aggressive amid signs that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg could indict him as soon as this week. On Sunday, Trump blasted Manhattan’s first Black DA as a “racist in reverse.”
Other targets include Georgia’s Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who’s eyeing Trump for possible criminal charges over his attempts to flip his 2020 election defeat in that state into a victory. Willis, a Democrat and daughter of a Black Panther, is the first Black woman ever elected to serve as chief prosecutor in Georgia’s most populous county. Trump also used the same language to target Attorney General Letitia James, the first Black woman ever elected to statewide office of any kind, who filed a $250 million fraud suit against Trump and his company.
Bragg, Willis, and James all won historic elections to become the first Black men and women to ever hold their offices. But Trump seems to feel it’s unfair for Black law enforcement officials to look into his long series of questionable activities. Trump doubles down on these racist attacks by claiming that while these law enforcement officers are looking into his affairs, they’re ignoring violent crime in their own urban districts.
Trump also constantly links Bragg to George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who’s become a kind of bogeyman for the hard right, and symbol of antisemitic conspiracy theories about Jews controlling the world. Soros supported Bragg’s campaign indirectly through his donations to the Color of Change PAC, a group that led a nationwide effort to elect district attorneys who want to end mass incarceration. But Trump has seized on this connection to present Bragg as Soros’ pawn.
He’s also targeted NY State Attorney General Letitia James with the belittling nickname: “Letitia 'Peekaboo' James.”
Trump’s race-based attacks, of course, go all the way back to his first days on the campaign trail, when he famously launched his 2016 campaign by accusing Mexican migrants of being “rapists.” He went on to argue that a judge handling a fraud lawsuit against Trump University could not rule on the case because the judge, an American citizen born in Indiana, was, according to Trump, “Mexican.”
But now, Trump’s not just running for president: He’s fighting for his freedom. Any of three sets of prosecutors now investigating could bring charges within the next few months that would put him behind bars for months, and the New York AG’s lawsuit could smash his business empire. For Trump, the stakes are only getting higher.
His call for “protest” in reaction to his looming New York indictment have also raised anxiety about the possibility of unrest, especially in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot, when Trump supporters overran the Capitol building.
This isn’t the first time Trump has used racially-divisive language while urging his base to stage protests against his criminal accountability.
In early 2022, Trump told a rally: “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, D.C.; in New York; in Atlanta; and elsewhere, because our country and our elections are corrupt.”
Willis sought additional security assistance from the FBI after Trump made those remarks. She has since reportedly passed out bullet proof vests to her staffers working on the Trump probe, according to the New York Times, and a bomb-sniffing dog patrolled the special purpose grand jury that investigated Trump.
Bragg sent an email to his office following Trump’s posts last weekend vowing not to be intimidated, and appearing to address the security concerns without naming Trump directly, according to Politico.
“As with all of our investigations, we will continue to apply the law evenly and fairly, and speak publicly only when appropriate,” Bragg wrote.
The New York Police Department said it has increased the presence of uniformed officers “throughout the five boroughs,” But a spokesperson for the department added on Tuesday afternoon: “There are currently no credible threats to New York City.”
In late January, Willis said her charging decisions in the case are “imminent.”
Bragg appears to be nearing the end of a grand jury probe that could soon result in criminal charges against Trump in a case revolving around the potentially criminal activity related to a $130,000 hush money payment made to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress who claimed she slept with Trump. Bragg’s team recently invited Trump to speak to the grand jury, which is a step that indicates criminal charges are close. Trump has denied all wrongdoing, and denied sleeping with Daniels.
In Georgia, Trump has given his full-throated support to a plan by Republican officials to create an oversight panel with the power to discipline or remove state prosecutors for “willful misconduct.” The proposal would effectively allow the state’s leading Republicans to appoint the members of the panel, giving them a potentially powerful lever over Willis’ investigation of Trump.
Trump, naturally, has voiced his support with his usual lack of reserve—and his new favorite epithet.
“The Racist District Attorney in Atlanta, Fani T. Willis, one of the most dangerous and corrupt cities in the U.S., is now calling the Georgia Legislature, of course, RACIST, because they want to make it easier to remove and replace local rogue prosecutors who are incompetent, racist, or unable to properly do their job,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social account earlier this month. “This is a great development for Georgia, but also other parts of the Country. Congratulations to the Georgia Legislature for having the courage to act boldly, fairly, and fast!”
Willis hasn’t commented on Trump’s use of racially charged language.
But she has argued the oversight panel is itself a racist backlash against the state’s election of more minority district attorneys than ever before in its history.
“I’m tired and I’m just going to call it how I see it,” she recently told the Fulton County legislative delegation, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I, quite frankly, think the legislation is racist. I don’t know what other thing to call it.”