Trump, allies are confident after unprecedented indictment
Former President Donald Trump and his team are projecting confidence in the wake of his indictment by a Manhattan grand jury as his third White House campaign enters uncharted territory.
Trump allies were reassured as members of Congress, potential 2024 presidential rivals and prominent Fox News hosts uniformly went on the attack against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and decried the case against Trump as a politically motivated effort to take down a top Republican.
A grand jury voted earlier Thursday to indict Trump on criminal charges for his role in organizing hush money payments made to an adult film star during his 2016 campaign.
The former president and a Trump-aligned super PAC quickly issued statements condemning the indictment and vowing he would be vindicated through his re-election to the White House in 2024.
“Our Movement, and our Party – united and strong – will first defeat Alvin Bragg, and then we will defeat Joe Biden,” Trump said in a statement.
Trump’s campaign pumped out fundraising emails within minutes of the news breaking, and the former president spent Friday morning churning out posts on Truth Social with video clips of lawmakers and Fox News hosts defending him.
The sentiment in Trump’s camp is that the indictment freezes the Republican primary field, forcing other candidates to attack Bragg and the case against Trump as politically motivated.
“Bragg is getting the whole political party behind Trump, including Youngkin and DeSantis,” said one GOP strategist who has worked with Trump’s team, referring to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), respectively.
Youngkin and DeSantis were among several potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates who on Thursday decried Trump’s indictment as politically motivated.
The strategist said the governor’s statement in particular “speaks volumes politically.” DeSantis had previously taken a dig at Trump, saying he wouldn’t know about making hush money payments, but on Thursday vowed to fight any extradition effort.
Trump’s team will be closely watching polls that come out in the aftermath of the indictment, but they were heartened by data released in the days before the announcement.
A Quinnipiac University poll published Wednesday found 62 percent of Americans believe the Manhattan District Attorney’s case against Trump was mainly motivated by politics, compared to 32 percent who believe the case is mainly motivated by the law.
A Fox News poll conducted March 24-27– days after Trump predicted he would be arrested – and published Wednesday found 54 percent of Republican primary voters surveyed support Trump for the 2024 nomination, up from 43 percent a month ago. The next closest candidate was DeSantis, who polled at 24 percent.
Though Trump just two weeks ago predicted his arrest, on Thursday he had expressed his appreciation for the Manhattan grand jury that voted to bring charges by him.
Joe Tacopina, an attorney representing Trump in the Manhattan case, told “Good Morning America” that Trump was surprised by news of his indictment.
“It was shock because this actually was coming to fruition,” Tacopina said, adding that he wasn’t sure what to expect in the coming days beyond an arraignment.
Trump is scheduled to be arraigned in Manhattan on Tuesday. Tacopina said he does not expect Trump will be handcuffed, but he will appear in front of a judge and his attorneys have vowed to fight the charges.
There will likely be pandemonium in New York City when Trump appears, with media, protesters, law enforcement and onlookers descending on Manhattan for the former president’s arraignment. And the legal proceedings that follow are certain to suck any oxygen out of attempts by other Republicans to draw contrasts with Trump on policy.
“It’s not good for our country, most importantly, and obviously it’s a huge distraction for anyone who wants to talk about the economy, or federal spending, or about the border. It is a distraction,” former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who is expected to decide in April on a 2024 bid of his own, said on Fox Business Network.
Hutchinson called on Trump to drop out of the race because of the indictment, but he acknowledged the former president will not do so.
Republican strategists, and even some with ties to Trump’s orbit, acknowledge a conviction in Manhattan, plus ongoing investigations around his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, could be an albatross in a general election.
The same Quinnipiac poll that showed many Americans believe the Manhattan case is politically motivated found Trump losing by two percentage points to President Biden in a hypothetical 2024 rematch.
“Being indicted may solidify some Trump supporters, but it wins back absolutely zero voters who left him between 2016 and 2020. None,” tweeted Mike DuHaime, a veteran GOP strategist. “No independent who voted for Biden thinks Trump is a martyr or victim suddenly worthy of support.”
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