Axios buys my premise

Earlier today I wrote about Trump’s capacity to destroy the Republicans from within just by remaining active in the party and doing what he do.

Of course, an important premise of that piece was that Trump could and would remain a powerful player, in my mind, the frontrunner, for the 2024 GOP nomination. KG called out that premise in the comments:

I think Trump is going to be fully occupied trying to stay out of prison.

While I take KG’s point, it wasn’t something I hadn’t thought about. It was merely something I had thought about but chose not to include any analysis on within that piece.

In explaining why I disagree with KG, let me say only a little. It is, after all, an opinion, and I do not have any capacity to predict the future.

First, I think KG’s assessment that Trump will have to spend a lot of effort to stay out of prison depends on a faith in the willingness of the US justice system to hold the wealthy accountable for their crimes. I see very little evidence in favor of that willingness. While a few officials might be eager to do so, the entire system will have its say before any jail term is served. Will cops – consistent supporters of Trump – testify on the stand with the same confident tone with which they testify against the powerless? Will judges, consciously or not, demand higher burdens to be met by prosecutors seeking search warrants or a broader scope for expert testimony? Will appeals courts shade those decisions even further in Trump’s favor? My guess is that Trumpist cops will be involved in the investigation and thus subject to being called by defense attorneys in the event of a trial. Even if literally every single piece of evidence weighs in favor of conviction, all a Trumpist cop has to do to significantly advance the manufacture of reasonable doubt is tell the truth while employing body language indicating self doubt, or doubt of the evidence or the investigation. Constraining warrants and experts is also likelier for any prosecution of Trump than for any defendant of average or modest means. To put it bluntly: the system will inflict thousands of paper cuts on Trump’s prosecution.

Second, even if Trump is convicted of a crime, the white collar crimes of which he stands credibly accused don’t necessarily result in a prison sentence upon conviction. Just because the maximum sentence is years in prison doesn’t mean that a convicted defendant is guaranteed to spend years or even days in jail.

Third: it will be lawyers doing the work. The process will rarely require any attention from him at all. The idea that he might be “distracted” emotionally is sound, but he’s been petulant and easily distracted since long before his first run for President in 2000. He can run while emotionally distracted. So instead of distraction, the question is whether the proceedings will simply require his time too many hours of the day for other tasks to be completed. Sadly, I don’t see that happening either. Most of what occurs, I suspect, will require attention from his lawyers, but not from Trump himself.

In sum, to predict that Trump will be “fully occupied” with his efforts to remain free is, again merely in my opinion, not likely to prove true.

KG’s comment concludes with something else, however, for which I don’t have to rely solely on my own opinions to contest. Here is that conclusion:

One way or another, I think a 2024 run is a longshot.

While I disagree, you knew that already and it would be uninteresting if I wrote this merely to repeat myself. But I’d actually like to add this from Axios:

President Trump has already told advisers he’s thinking about running for president again in 2024, …

Aides advising Republicans who are likely to run in 2024 are dreading the prospect of a Trump run given the extraordinary sway he holds over millions of GOP voters.

  • Even four years after leaving office, he could remain formidable in a Republican primary.

  • That fact alone could freeze the ambitions, fundraising and staffing of individual candidates

It’s true another Trump candidacy would face significant hurdles (and I agree with Pierce R. Butler & KG that his health would be one). But while I think he would be severely hurt in the general for the reasons KG cites, I’m with Axios in seeing him as being a very strong competitor in the GOP primary where any prosecution of Trump by (perceived to be or actually) liberal New Yorkers would be more likely to be a blessing than a curse. The hard right that votes in those primaries believes that persecution by liberals is a sign you’re doing something right, and they won’t look to the details of the indictments or admitted evidence for any contradiction of that presumption.

Nope, Axios believes Trump can win the nomination again and so do I.


As a postscript, allow me to answer a question from Pierce R. Butler:

What do you think of the prospects for DJT, Jr. &/or the Peroxide Princess?

I don’t see them succeeding for at least 3-4 years after Donald is entirely gone from the GOP’s power players, which likely means 3-4 years after his death or 8-10 years after he announces his retirement, should he live that long.

Why? Because the GOP loves a strongman, and Sr. will not let Jr or Ivanka challenge him while he’s still a player.

Jr has some of the bluster of his father, but I don’t trust him to have the confidence and skill to shove back with any skill when the political infighting starts. In politics, it often matters not only that you take revenge on those criticizing you (to prove you are strong and dangerous to cross and thus someone for whom it is better to give way), but also that you do so in the right way. There are, of course, norms for this, for how severe a revenge you’re allowed to extract before you’re perceived not as dangerous, but as unskilled. There are also enemies that you should not revenge yourself upon if you wish to be President. These are more the money sources rather than one’s direct competitors, but do I trust Jr to consistently draw that distinction? Nope. I think he’ll brashly make enemies of anyone, not having the skill or intelligence to know in advance whom he cannot afford to alienate.

Ivanka, meanwhile, can avoid making unnecessary enemies, but she doesn’t have the strongman bravado that can win her the GOP nomination. If she were to accomplish anything in politics, I suspect it would be a significant  legislative position (senator, or prominent House member) where the strongman personality is less valued than it is in the executive.

I also don’t see either ever making a long career of politics. For Jr, it would likely be the Presidency or a governorship or nothing. By the time he had served his term or two (assuming he didn’t pull a Palin), I think he’d be burnt out with the expectations and failures.

As for Ivanka, it’s just my impression, but I would guess that the attention wouldn’t be worth the work to her – not with all that family money to spend on lavish vacations and repeated home redecorations. Crafting legislation is a difficult process. I know a little about that, having been involved in drafting a statute or two, but I was only involved in initial language. I wasn’t even involved in the lengthy negotiations an important bill can require, with all the associated amendments and additions, just to get one’s original idea into law. Imagining Ivanka follow that process through from beginning to end, she seems ill suited. The whole family wants quicker negotiations than that, quicker action. And they expect to give up little in exchange for their expectations being met. And, further, I think they mostly expect others to do that work. But if she did work on any important legislation, she’d need to personally know all the details of her legislation, all the details of proposed modifications to wording, all the details of how small shifts in legal language in one part of the document might shift the meaning and effects of the law’s other parts, and all the details of why any changes are important to the other legislator(s) negotiating with her. Why? Because she’d expect to personally negotiate final details at least some of the time, and exactly when those negotiations happen isn’t always predictable. If your fellow senator approaches you in the hallway, you might have to be ready right that moment to say yes or no to a particular compromise. Could Ivanka do it? Could she study that hard? Could she work as one equal among many? I doubt it. She would, I think, like the press attention when it was positive. She’d like being an insider, getting special access to information the plebes don’t know. But I don’t see the benefits being worth the work over a long period. If she was elected directly to the Senate, I can’t see her staying more than 12 years (two terms). If the House, I can’t see her staying longer than 10.


  1. brucegee1962 says

    I know that this will be an unpopular opinion in these parts, but I don’t believe the prosecution of Donald Trump to be a wise course unless the evidence of major crimes is so manifest that it turns even his fervent followers against him. And that’s unlikely — they already know about his grift, his tax evasion, his perjury, and his corruption, and they love him anyway.

    For one thing, there is plenty of evidence from around the world that democracies die when a corrupt leader realizes that, if he is defeated democratically, he is likely to go directly to jail. Powerful people at risk of losing everything are likely to take any and all means to prevent that, including starting coups. That is one of the reasons that places like South Africa pardoned crimes on both sides — so many from the former regime would have deserved being locked up that the conflict would have been unending. We’re already seeing signs of that mentality in Trump now.

    We can thank our lucky stars that Trump never figured out a way to actually arrest Hillary or Obama the way he promised his followers he would. Think about how you would have felt in 2017 if you had woken up one morning to footage of the two of them in handcuffs being bundled into black police vans. Think of the outrage, the terror, the overwhelming urge to GO OUT AND SAVE THE COUNTRY you would have felt. Tens of thousands of Democrats would have taken to the streets and stayed there. That is exactly what Trump’s followers will feel if he is arrested — but they’ll all bring their guns.

    He’s not just a typical rich criminal. When someone receives a nomination from a major party, in a very real sense, they come to embody the hopes and dreams of millions of Americans. Locking him up would be exactly like assaulting their hopes and dreams. Yes, to us he’s an orange con man stooge, but to many of them, he is literally some kind of ideal. And this country has too many deep cracks in it already. A trial would just be taking a hammer to them. I would foresee not just violence, but outright secession — places like Wyoming and West Virginia offering him sanctuary and trying to separate themselves from the federal government. Maybe the risk wouldn’t be as great if this had been the blowout we were promised, but can we really risk it with just a 3.5% advantage?

    Finally, the precedent is terrible. Again, we’ve seen this in so many other country: once one former leader winds up in jail, it becomes almost a regular occurrence — there’s always going to be something your successor can pin on you. We don’t want to give any future Trumps the ammunition.

    Again, I suggest reading about the Reconciliation process in South Africa. They didn’t sweep up the evidence of crimes, and neither should we. Get it all out in the open and into the history books, but then, I hope that Biden pardons him. For one thing, you know that would drive him nuts more than even being an imprisoned martyr would. Then just let him play golf at Mar-a-lago until it goes under water.

  2. says

    I had the same idea as you, though not in enough detail to turn it into an article. Just the basic idea that Trump could easily win the primary and have a very hard time in the general – and that I’d like to see it happen. Honestly, Joe is a flimsy enough candidate I think if Trump is dead in 4 years, he could get pushed over by any serious enough contender. Here’s hoping the orange scrote hangs on, lol.

  3. says

    Joe is a flimsy enough candidate I think if Trump is dead in 4 years, he could get pushed over by any serious enough contender.

    Yeah, I worry about this. I do think facing a repeat against Trump is almost best-case.

    That said, because of how terrible Republicans are, I think there’s actually a bigger than normal incumbency bump for dems. All the bullshit, “They’re going to steal your guns & lock you away forever,” rhetoric from Republicans is going to happen no matter what, but there are fewer people who will believe them if that person has already been president for 4 years and not done those things. But even for Senators, who at least get some national exposure, if they aren’t the Senator from your home state, you don’t already have an image of that person’s behavior in office built up to inoculate you against the Republican poison.

    So in addition to all the other benefits of incumbency, dems see a reduction in the effectiveness of reps’ most testerical messaging. As a result, I **think** a dem that gets 306 vs. Trump can still get 270+ against another right winger. I’m not sure, but I think that’s true.

  4. John Morales says

    […] I don’t believe the prosecution of Donald Trump to be a wise course unless the evidence of major crimes is so manifest that it turns even his fervent followers against him [..]

    Well, you will never believe it to be a wise course, then.

    His fervent followers damn well know his crimes, and his acts.
    And they love him for it. For real. USA! USA!

    Grabs women by the pussy? (What a macho man!)
    Doesn’t pay tax? (What a clever man!)
    Profits from his office? (What a cluey businessman!)
    Runs the Presidency like a Mafia Don? (What a strong man!)
    Pardons convicted criminals? (What a powerful man!)
    Ignores the pandemic? (What a freedom-loving man!)
    Gets into pointless trade wars? (What a statesman!)
    Encourages white supremacists? (What a patriot!)
    Pushes conspiracy theories? (What a cluey man!)

    Go on, name one crime, any crime and I’ll tell you just how much his fucking fervent followers love him for it.

  5. says

    Powerful people at risk of losing everything are likely to take any and all means to prevent that, including starting coups.

    But if they know there are no consequences, why not start a coup anyway? What do they have to lose?

    That, I think, will be the lesson is Trump is pardoned: Go ahead and try to overthrow the government. If you succeed, you become president-for-life. If you fail, you’ll be pardoned and can go back to enjoying all the money you embezzled from the taxpayers.

    There’s an argument for preferring state charges, which wouldn’t be covered by a presidential pardon. Ignore the big stuff, but get him on the small. Like Al Capone, I guess.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Trump™ faces challenges not only from federal and state legal charges, but from massive debts not as easily dismissed.

    Without the leverage of the US presidency, few non-USAians will see much incentive to throw money at his businesses, and many will feel strong pressure not to associate their names with his. I have no idea why, say, golfers in Scotland might pick one course or another, but since, e.g., Turnberry has reported heavy losses during the last four years, the cash bleed there and elsewhere seems likely to accelerate.

    The relatively minor Russian election interference this year may indicate that Putin, having profited immensely in strategic terms by his investment in Trump, feels content with the havoc thus wrought and won’t try to push that project into possibly diminishing returns. And who else with big bucks has motivation to ride to Trump’s rescue?

    As for the spawn, they surely know from childhood on that they must limit their efforts so as to support and never compete with Daddy (who probably also imposes rules against fighting with each other). Yet even Eric must recognize that the opportunities presented by the cult following will dwindle if not seized upon quickly, especially if legal/financial/bodily problems weaken the almighty patriarch: surely some sort of dynastic soap opera must ensue. The other ambitious Republicans, subject to such inhibitory programming only for the last four years or so, will also feel urges to pounce upon any real or perceived royal stumble…

    All of which supports our esteemed host’s observation in the previous post: Trump™ endangers Republicans more than Biden, Harris, & the other Democrats put together. Unfortunately, he also continues daily to damage the remaining positive aspects of the US.

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