By Nathan Layne and Gram Slattery
(RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Donald Trump will try to turn his indictment to his advantage by stoking anger among key supporters over what they see as a weapon of the justice system, though it could also prompt more drama-weary Republicans to seek one out. other presidential candidate.
Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury after an investigation into secret money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election campaign, becoming the first former US president to face criminal charges even as he makes another run for the White House.
The prosecution of a former president is unprecedented in US history. But his supporters see him as politically motivated, and it might only harden their resolve to support him in the 2024 Republican primary, grassroots Republican voters, party officials and political analysts told RockedBuzz via Reuters.
“They did nothing but harass this kid,” said Gregg Hough, chairman of the Republican party in Belknap County, New Hampshire, predicting the prosecution will boost Trump’s support “to the moon” if he fails to provide conviction convincing.
Trump signaled the possibility of charges earlier this month and raised about $2 million from what he said was his impending arrest. In a statement Thursday, Trump called the allegation “political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history,” without providing evidence.
John Feehery, a Republican strategist, described the Manhattan case as “silly” compared to the other investigations looming over the Trump campaign. These include a special counsel investigating allegations he sought to overturn the 2020 election results and prosecutors in Georgia looking into his efforts to reverse his loss to the battlefield state.
To win the party nomination, Trump will likely need to broaden his support beyond the 25%-30% of the Republican electorate who are generally thought to be on his side, come what may, especially if the field of Republican candidates shrinks in the coming months. . An indictment could make it difficult for him to broaden his appeal.
“For all the things Trump can be indicted for, this is not in the top 20 list,” Feehery said. “But it’s a bit of a scarlet letter to Trump that opponents of him could use against him. An argument like that could be compelling to independent voters.”
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said some Republicans could be swayed by allegations that they support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or another potential candidate without Trump’s legal baggage, which has grown sharply since left the White House in 2021.
“It’s not good for Trump, the question is how bad is it for Trump,” he said Sabato. “There could be more charges…he starts adding up to a big deal.”
The Trump campaign has accused Manhattan District Attorney Democrat Alvin Bragg of doing the bidding of the Democratic Party in an effort to stop his run for the White House. During a campaign rally in Waco, Texas on Saturday, Trump likened the criminal investigation against him to a “horror show of Stalinist Russia.”
People close to Trump have said his campaign will try to frame the indictment as evidence that all of the prosecutions — including his two congressional impeachments — are unwarranted attempts by the “Deep State” to undermine him and his supporters.
Sam DeMarco, chairman of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, said Republicans would consider Manhattan’s prosecution political, given that federal prosecutors reviewed the Daniels case in 2018 and decided not to indict Trump, although it is Justice Department policy not to indict a sitting president.
Trump has defied predictions of his demise numerous times since launching his bid for the White House in 2015. Sometimes called the “Teflon Don” for his accountability record, Trump once boasted he could shoot someone in the middle of Manhattan and not face the consequences.
Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 despite the emergence of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape in which she made lewd comments about women. And in 2018, when he was president, he paid no apparent political price for the Stormy Daniels affair, even though his lawyer went to jail for arranging the payments and pointed the finger at Trump.
Trump remains the favorite in the 2024 Republican camp, with 44% support from Republicans in a RockedBuzz via Reuters/Ipsos March, ahead of 30% support from DeSantis.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, and Gram Slattery in Washington; Editing by Ross Colvin, Daniel Wallis, Lisa Shumaker, and Cynthia Osterman)