A right-wing rally in support of Capitol-riot suspects is being planned for Saturday.
Trump thinks it's about making him look bad regardless of the outcome, sources told The Times.
There have been concerns that the rally, planned to be outside the US Capitol, could turn violent.
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Former President Donald Trump is staying away from the September 18 Washington, DC, rally in support of Capitol-riot suspects because he thinks it's a setup to damage his reputation, sources told The New York Times.
Trump has in the past spoken in support of his fans who attacked the US Capitol on January 6 in a bid to stop Joe Biden's certification as president.
But sources told The Times that he wouldn't be going anywhere near Washington on Saturday and would instead spend the day at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
"Mr. Trump views the planned protest as a setup that the news media will use against him regardless of the outcome," The Times said, citing people familiar with his thinking.
The Saturday rally was organized by Matt Braynard, a former data official for the Trump campaign, and is being held in support of those who have been jailed or have faced other punishments in relation to the Capitol riot.
Earlier this week, Braynard said attendees would not be allowed to wear clothing in support of Trump or Biden, adding that the event was not about the election or the candidates.
Trump is not the only Republican keeping his distance. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn, who were scheduled to speak at the event, both canceled their appearances, Politico reported.
The event had raised fears of a repeat of the violence on January 6, with intelligence officials saying that several far-right groups, such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, were expected to attend.
Amid the security concerns, police officers have reerected a security fence around the perimeter of the Capitol that was originally put there in the wake of the insurrection.
Trump appears not to be the only one concerned that the event was a setup, with NBC News reporting on Wednesday that hard-line Trump supporters and right-wing extremists on social media were riddled with paranoia that the event could be a decoy used to entrap them.
The Department for Homeland Security said about 700 people were expected to attend the event.