Donald Trump’s strategy to attack and threaten prosecutors worked for him
Trump predicted a week ago that he would be indicted by a New York grand jury for his role in paying silent money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The investigation, led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, appears to be nearing a decision point, with the grand jury set to reconvene on Monday.
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Typically, however, Trump did not wait for the grand jury to speak, calling on his supporters to stage protests in echo of what he tweeted before the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol (“Be will be Friday morning, the former president posted an even more disturbing message on Truth Social, calling Bragg a “degenerate psychopath” and warning of “potential death and destruction” if he is indicted in the part of what he called a “false accusation”.
In the past, such statements were not taken seriously enough. But after his lies about the 2020 election, the storming of the US Capitol, and all he did to undermine the integrity of the voting process, that’s no longer possible. No one today rules out the possibility of violence around the former president or provoked by him.
His call to protest prompted law enforcement officials in New York to erect security barriers around the criminal court complex. His statements on Friday led House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) to warn that Trump’s “reckless, reprehensible and irresponsible” rhetoric could “get someone killed.”
For much of the week, commentators debated whether an impeachment in the case, given the unprecedented nature of indicting a former US president for a crime, would help or hurt Trump politically.
On many occasions, Trump has faced serious allegations without paying the price in his political position, especially within his party. He was indicted twice (and twice acquitted). He resisted Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, an investigation that some of his opponents say brought him down.
He faces three more legal inquiries now. One relates to the January 6 attack, another to his efforts to nullify Georgia’s election results, and the third to his possession of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. All three are heavier than the New York case.
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Trump is carrying a lot of baggage as he attempts to return to the Oval Office. He lost the 2020 election to President Biden. His flawed 2022 candidate endorsements and continued lies about the 2020 election contributed to what turned out to be a disappointing midterm election for Republicans. Many in his party would rather move on, and most voters know where they stand.
Trying to anticipate its strength or weakness in the fall of 2024 is risky. But seen in the context of the 2024 Republican nomination race, the past few days have shown that indictments or threats from them can boost it, at least temporarily. The fact that Trump is leaning so forcefully shows that he believes the same.
The elected Republicans almost uniformly came to his defense, denouncing the Manhattan prosecutor, Democrat, as motivated solely by politics. Some of the attacks on Bragg by Trump supporters have anti-Semitic overtones, another consequence of Trump’s influence.
House Republicans responded to Trump’s pleas by trying to put Bragg in the dock. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) sent a letter asking Bragg for documents and testimony on his investigation, expanding the definition of legitimate congressional oversight.
In his response, the district attorney reminded House Republicans of the respective roles of the legislative and judicial branches of government; the risks of interference in an ongoing criminal investigation; and a federal system that draws lines between the roles and responsibilities of state and local governments versus the government in Washington, as it invoked New York’s sovereignty to deny the claim.
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Bragg’s request for cooperation underscored Trump’s proactive effort to make himself a victim even before the grand jury decided to indict him on criminal charges. It also has the desired rallying effect, and it has further reinforced Trump’s desire to make every legal threat – and the New York case is perhaps the least important in terms of the seriousness of ongoing investigations – a political fight.
Even Trump’s potentially strongest but unheralded rival for the 2024 nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has finally come to his defense. DeSantis denounced Bragg’s actions as politically motivated, though he embarked on a dig at Trump, saying he didn’t know “what goes into paying silent money to a movie star. porn”. While it seemed like a clever way to tweak the former president while attacking the Manhattan District Attorney, it was reminiscent of how Trump manages to coerce others into dancing to his tune.
Republican strategists see another benefit for Trump in the short term: the equivalent of millions of dollars in free publicity due to all the media attention he receives. This too sends the message that Trump remains the dominant force in the Republican Party. In 2016, cable television aired its first live rallies, giving it so much attention that its rivals were suffocated, leading to early losses in this campaign.
The week’s events have underscored the kinds of choices that lie ahead for Trump’s rivals, primarily DeSantis. The Florida governor had planned to focus on his state’s legislative session, after which he would move on to a formal candidacy announcement. That’s still the rough plan, but he’s been trained to play both defense and offense, maybe sooner than he expected, because of Trump.
On his book tour, DeSantis has at times seemed unstable. He tries to make it a test of character, his discipline against Trump’s erratic behavior, but he hasn’t been disciplined to explain his position on Ukraine. To defeat Trump, he must show the kind of strength as a candidate that Trump has shown since he started running in 2015. He will have to run against Trump to beat him.
Trump’s first campaign was unlike any other, a campaign that defied history and convention. The 2024 campaign is shaping up to be another one like no other, but this time because he’s simultaneously facing serious legal issues while battling for his party’s nomination and the possibility of a rematch with Biden in the election. fall 2024.
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A Republican who supports him said that under these circumstances, there is only one political strategy for Trump: attack, attack, attack. The former president will continue to try to turn every judicial inquiry into a political fight, as he has done since becoming president. He will play the victim and demand that his party defend him against the Democrats, the judiciary, the left and the media.
The short-term benefits were exposed last week. But is that enough to convince Republicans that he should carry their banner in the 2024 general election?