‘War room’ mentality pervades Mar-a-Lago with possible Trump indictment looming
Former President Donald Trump doesn't want to be indicted, but he believes Republicans will rally around him if a grand jury in New York City charges him in the case involving a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, according to four people familiar with the sentiments of Trump and his team.
A "war room" mentality now permeates Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach, Florida, nerve center of Trump's 2024 presidential campaign, said two people who recently spent time there. Aides have been "slammed," these sources said, as they respond to — and work to turn — the possible indictment into a political boon.
One of the sources, who spoke with Trump in the last week, said any suggestion Trump wants to be indicted is false. A second source who is close to Trump said he understands all that an arrest would entail in terms of his public image and the distraction an arraignment and trial would create for his campaign.
At the same time, all of the sources said, Trump is keenly aware of the political opportunity created by a fight with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
"This is a guy that for decades has spent his life trying to not be indicted,” said a onetime Trump campaign official who is in contact with the former president's team. “He thinks it’s a really bad look. But there’s just obvious political advantage. The rally around the flag is something that this man has spent his entire eight years in politics benefiting from.”
Trump remains optimistic that Bragg will decline to charge him, the source close to the former president said.
"THE D.A. WILL DO THE RIGHT THING!" Trump posted on social media Tuesday.
On Saturday, Trump predicted that he would be arrested Tuesday, touching off a scramble by fellow Republican luminaries to show their support for him. Former Vice President Mike Pence, who clashed with Trump over the Jan. 6 insurrection, ripped Bragg. House GOP leaders vowed to investigate Bragg and examine any federal funding flowing to his office.
But Trump's leading rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, waited to weigh in until he was asked a question at a news conference Monday. DeSantis portrayed Bragg as a pawn of liberal billionaire George Soros, but he also made sure to specifically mention the allegations about a porn star, an affair and hush money.
"I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just, I can’t speak to that," DeSantis said.
Trump's allies say that was a cheap shot that put DeSantis on the wrong side of a party that has stood by Trump during a series of investigations at the federal, state and local levels.
A Trump aide declined to discuss his outlook, saying the campaign does not, "as a matter of principle," participate in stories about his mood or the palace intrigue that surrounds him.
Still, as the Manhattan grand jury put off a scheduled Wednesday meeting, Trump allies said they view the possible indictment as a win-win prospect. If he's not charged, he will be able to boast that he defeated a liberal prosecutor. If he is indicted, they said, his base will be energized, he will bring in more campaign cash, and fellow Republicans will feel pressure to stand with him.
"When others have to march to his drumbeat," the source close to the former president said, "Donald Trump wins."
Garrett Haake and Olympia Sonnier reported from New York, Jonathan Allen reported from Washington, D.C., and Vaughn Hillyard reported from Palm Beach, Fla.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com