Trump’s historic criminal indictment all but clinches another GOP presidential nomination

If you wondered what that shrill, high-pitched wail you heard late yesterday afternoon was, it was the sound of millions of MAGA Republicans hysterically keening over the news that their Dear Leader, Donald Trump, had been indicted in the New York porn star hush-money case. According to social media and Fox News, this so-called “weaponization” of the government by the Democratic Party spells the end of the Republic as we know it, and “the people” aren’t going to stand for it.

Trump released a statement that began:

“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history. From the time I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower, and even before I was sworn in as your President of the United States, the Radical Left Democrats – the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this Country – have been engaged in a Witch-Hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement.

Same old, same old.

His devoted minion, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, hit all the highlights with a statement he immediately released when the news was announced:

Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election. As he routinely frees violent criminals to terrorize the public, he weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump. The American people will not tolerate this injustice, and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.

Many other elected GOP officials pounded the same drum with statesmanlike sentiments such as “the anti-American left is going to fuck around and find out” from Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins.

Meanwhile, Fox News, which has had a bit of a fraught relationship with the former president lately, immediately jumped to his defense with everything they have. Under a chyron that said, “Third World Banana Republic,” host Tucker Carlson said it was a worse assault on the system than January 6 (which is interesting since he claims that was merely a peaceful tourist visit). He told his audience that it’s “probably not the best time to give up your AR-15s ..the rule of law appears to be suspended tonight — not just for Trump, but for anyone who would consider voting for him.”

Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo.,told Fox News host Jesse Watters that “this is burning down the rule of law. They will regret doing this because I think the American people won’t stand for it.” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican babbled incoherently on the network:

Even the pious Mike Pence went full MAGA, proclaiming it a “political prosecution.” (If he thinks the Trumpers will forgive him his trespasses by doing this, he’s dreaming.)

It’s going to be very hard to run against Trump when he’s under indictment.

They’re all rending their garments over “the rule of law” being destroyed because a district attorney is bringing a criminal case against a man he says committed a crime. How this is an assault on the rule of law I don’t know, particularly since none of them even know what the charges are much less the evidence that’s been amassed. Essentially, they are all saying that a private citizen who was once president and wants to be president again cannot be prosecuted. These are the same people who spent the last seven years lustily chanting “lock her up” at the mere mention of Hillary Clinton.

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Still, it’s a bit surprising that the reaction was so overwrought considering that there have been reports that this indictment was imminent for the last couple of weeks and Trump himself had been screeching about it non-stop since he announced they were planning to arrest him last Tuesday. But since that didn’t happen and some new witnesses were called in this week, I suppose they may have convinced themselves that Trump’s claim that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg had backed off was true. Trump himself posted on Truth Social on Thursday morning:

That didn’t work out the way he hoped it would, did it?

Despite all the bluster over the past couple of weeks, according to the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, Trump and his team were caught off guard by Thursday’s announcement. They had come to believe that any indictment would not be handed down until next month. But they nonetheless wasted no time in getting out the fundraising requests. As much as Trump may be dreading arrest, he’s anticipating a massive haul from his followers who are always thrilled to give the supposed billionaire their hard-earned cash when they feel he’s being persecuted.

And Trump is also buoyed by the recent spate of polling that has him substantially expanding his lead over his potential primary rivals. Fox News released a poll this week that has him over 50%, doubling his lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to 30 points. That’s a 15-point gain since last month which, coincidentally, is when Trump went on the attack against DeSantis and the rumors of imminent indictment started to circulate. Quinnipiac’s latest survey shows that 75% of Republicans believe that an indictment should not disqualify him from running for president and 62% of the general public thinks the Manhattan DA’s case is motivated by politics, not the law. 47% of Republicans support him compared to only 33% for DeSantis.

Perhaps this explains why, after trying to subtly diss Trump by repeating the words “hush money” and “porn star” when responding to the rumor that Trump would be indicted, DeSantis has reverted to unalloyed support with his statement last night in which he vowed not to “help” extradite the former president to New York. Of course, Trump’s lawyers had already announced that he would voluntarily appear for the arraignment so it was just a bit self-serving — but that says something in itself. DeSantis knows that when it comes to Trump and his legal troubles he simply cannot cross him. The GOP base won’t have it. That is the most likely reason why Trump’s poll numbers are up and DeSantis’ are down. It’s going to be very hard to run against Trump when he’s under indictment.

Count me among those who think it’s quite likely that instead of harming his chances of winning the Republican nomination, this indictment and any that follow, will almost guarantee it. As we can see by the reaction from the elected officials, it’s not just the MAGA hardcore who feel compelled to rush to defend him. This is an organizing tool and a fundraising vehicle for the whole party and it may just vault him to the nomination without much competition. It’s even possible that DeSantis might decide not to run after all.

It may have been possible for someone to challenge Trump unless he was indicted at which point the whole party has to circle the wagons to defend him. That’s how perverse the Republican Party has become.

It remains to be seen if the rest of the electorate will be so forgiving. That Quinnipiac Poll may show that Republicans think an indictment has no bearing on his ability to run for president, but by a 57 – 38 percent margin, the general public disagree and believe a criminal charge should disqualify him. Those GOP officials quoted above can read that poll too but, as always, have decided their interest lies in supporting him even if it destroys the party. When he said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any votes, for once in his life he wasn’t lying. 


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