Two years after Donald Trump left office in the wake of a deadly attack on the nation’s capital, he may be about to face criminal charges.
The looming charges, which are completely unrelated to the attack on Capitol Hill that left dozens of police officers injured and traumatized, stem instead from 2016 payments made by his then-lawyer to a porn star who allegedly had an affair with Mr Trump. amorous. The former president himself announced his impending arrest and indictment in a post early Saturday on Truth Social.
“The leading Republican candidate far and wide and former President of the United States of America, will be arrested on Tuesday next week,” Mr. Trump wrote in an angry rant.
The former boss has long denied having an affair with Daniels, but in the months since the payment was reported, he has admitted to compensating his attorneys for hush payments.
He is now expected to face charges filed by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The Prague office returned to the case in 2022, constituting a grand jury only as recently as January in the investigation.
So what will happen next in this unprecedented case?
As with any high-profile court case, Trump’s potential criminal trial will be slow and marked by constant battles. Expect Mr. Trump to fight the indictment every step of the way, with motions of disapproval, allegations of wrongdoing targeting Mr. Bragg and perhaps even the judge, and a long-running dispute over allegations that have been public knowledge for half a decade. He might even fight extradition to New York with an appeal to Florida state authorities, though that likely won’t work. Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, has accused the former president of cooperating in the event of his indictment. “There will be no confrontation at Mar-a-Lago with the Secret Service and the Manhattan DA,” he said.
Ultimately, Mr. Trump will be brought to trial, which will likely happen in person in Manhattan. This would be the first of several potential hearings where Trump would actually be forced into a courtroom, setting up a media spectacle every time he appears. Each appearance would be endlessly dissected by satellite news networks and picked for some clues about the former president’s mood or confidence in overcoming impeachment.
How will this affect the Trump campaign?
The case could affect Trump himself in two main ways: time and money. Mr. Trump will need lawyers to defend him in court — real lawyers, rather than the amateur hour spectacle that was his 2020 legal team. Criminal charges are a serious matter for an expensive and high-powered defense attorney, rather than a political operative who defended Mr. Trump’s bogus plots in 2020 and willingly suffer massive damage to their careers as a result. Expect Mr. Trump to have to divert a significant amount of his various stockpiles of war chests to fund these new legal defense efforts.
There is also the problem of time. Don’t expect a judge to be so lenient when it comes to rescheduling court appearances to make room for Trump campaign rallies. Trump is unlikely to be kept out of major events, such as the Republican primary debate (which usually takes place at night anyway), but frequent trips to and from Manhattan would make for an expensive and time-consuming experience that could interfere with Mr. Trump’s ability to host campaign rallies in across the country at any given moment.
How will his Republican opponents respond?
Expect every Republican to handle this differently. Some, who envision themselves less a presidential run and more tests for a place in Trump’s Cabinet 2.0, might join in denouncing the charges as illegitimate, the product of a Democratic local attorney who armed their office to go after a political enemy.
Others with a real chance of ousting Mr. Trump, most likely Florida native Ron DeSantis, will likely grab the case by the horns and try to use it against him like a cudgel. There is plenty of room for Republicans to mock their former leader when it comes to the Stormy Daniels story. His appointment of Michael Cohen despite his later denouncing the man as a liar, his ever-changing explanation when he learned of the payment, and Rudy Giuliani’s bizarre explanation that Mr. Trump “diverted” money to his former attorney to make the payment.
That would be a narrow line for Republicans to walk, as Mr. Trump has long woven a narrative of political persecution that would fit charges brought by any law enforcement body, let alone one controlled by a Democrat.
How will this affect the general election?
If Trump makes it through a GOP primary without any of his potential challengers knocking him out, there remains the problem of attracting a national audience.
The potential accusations create a double problem for Trump — one in the minds of independent voters, and one in the minds of his supporters. Mr. Trump’s war for political power has always been fought on two fronts: energizing the far-right GOP voter base that tanked from previous elections but propelled him to victory in the 2016 Republican primary, and winning over independent voters who find themselves voting on countless votes. Often issues related to the economy carry a lot of weight.
First, the issue of the charges against Trump may demoralize his more hawkish supporters. We saw it happen in Georgia, in early 2021 after Trump lost the general election in that state and his party proceeded to lose two Senate seats in a runoff. Trump fans stayed home in greater numbers, allowing the Democrats to snap clean wins. If Mr. Trump leans heavily on the idea of being persecuted by the “deep state,” that could have the same effect in November 2024.
And don’t forget independents: Barring a major downturn in the economy between now and the 2024 election, independent voters will have an interesting choice. Are they holding on to Joe Biden, the aging but seemingly unfamiliar president who has overseen America’s economic recovery from Covid-19 while staying out of the headlines most days, a relief for many Americans after four years of running a reality TV show? Or are they handing the reins back to Donald Trump, a man whose track record is clear but who has now returned to national politics embittered by his defeat in 2020 and, by all accounts, exacting revenge on Biden and his national GOP rivals. see traitor?
One thing can be expected: Filing an indictment in the Stormy Daniels case will serve as a reminder in the minds of the undecided in America that electing Mr Trump means accepting the baggage that comes with him, a very dangerous prospect to consider in light of the other criminal investigation the US Department of Justice continues to pursue until 6 January and the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
While there are few guarantees that Mr. Trump will go to trial, let alone be found guilty or face meaningful punishment, the political weight of the case itself is far more tangible. In the end, this may be the real outcome of Mr. Trump’s actions: a seemingly unsustainable burden that could bring Mr. Trump’s aspirations back to reality at a time when he is at his most vulnerable and could face his first real challenge for control of his party in half a decade.
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