I have been avoiding much of the news about the possible indictments of Donald Trump because prosecutors’ offices tend to be pretty tight-lipped, so the constant speculation about if or when he will be indicted, by whom and for what, tends to be fact-free and thus of not much value. One might as well wait until something actually happens. But then last week Trump himself said that he expects to be indicted and also arrested on Tuesday by the Manhattan district attorney on the recommendation of the grand jury looking into his case and that caused a media frenzy. It is not clear if Trump had some inside source for this news or whether he was also guessing and simply trying to rally support in the event that he does get indicted soon.
Tuesday came and went with no indictment. Since the grand jury only meets on Mondays and Wednesday, that would make today the possible day. I do not how how the process works in detail but I would have thought that in complex, high-profile cases it would take at least a day or two after the grand jury ends its deliberations and delivers its verdict for the DA to prepare and file an indictment, so I would not expect anything today either.
Trump had called on his supporters to protest but according to news reports, police, media, and anti-Trump protestors outnumbered pro-Trump supporters outside the Manhattan DA’s office on Tuesday. Some of the pro-Trump ‘protestors’ even looked like they were not sincere supporters but performance artists. I can well understand his supporters being a little cautious this time around. Many of them are bitter that after they responded to his call to protest on January 6th 2021, he did not march with them to the Capitol as he had promised and for a short while even seemed to abandon them. The fact that so many of them have been prosecuted, convicted, and jailed, ruining their lives, must have a cooling effect on their passions.
So did Trump get wrong information? It is possible that the DA had planned to do something on Tuesday but deferred it in order to defuse any gathering of the Trump supporters. Or it is possible that Trump simply made up the story (he has absolutely no regard for the truth) in order to fund-raise. He has already sent out appeals to his followers. It is also possible that he wanted to shift attention to himself and away from the retreat being held in Florida by Republican members of Congress to plan their strategy. If so, it worked. Speaker Kevin McCarthy had to answer questions about the possible indictment instead of what his party was discussing.
Whatever his reasons, the discussion among the chattering classes immediately turned to their favorite topic: Is this news good for Trump?
I have found it to be a good rule of thumb that anything, absolutely anything at all, however damaging it may seem on the surface, will be seized upon by rightwing media as being good for Trump and the Republican party. Have you ever heard people on Fox News say that some event will damage Trump or the party? Me neither. They will claim that it will energize his supporters, unite the Republican party behind him, help them raise money, and increase their vote share in the next election. And the rest of the media will tend to take those claims seriously and even echo them and Democrats start fretting that it may be true.
But it is hard to see how an indictment and arrest can be good for anyone. If Trump is tried and acquitted, then I can see them trying to portray it as a victory but until then, surely even the most ardent Trump fan cannot see an arrest as something to celebrate? They already firmly believe that he is being persecuted by the legal system. What extra benefit will an indictment bring?
Alexander Burns writes that those who are not Trump supporters but yet think that an arrest will be good for Trump are overthinking it: that there is no question that it would be bad.
The widely expected indictment of Donald Trump in Manhattan has all the makings of a political disaster for him. It should be the climactic event in a years long saga involving marital infidelity, sleazy financial dealings and now the first-ever criminal charge against a former American president.
Naturally, the question arises: Could this actually be good for Trump?
That thought generates itself by reflex in America’s political brain. It is a habit forged in 2016, when Trump defied countless terminal prognoses to defeat Hillary Clinton.
For all his unusual strengths, Trump is defined these days more by his weaknesses — personal and political deficiencies that have grown with time and now figure to undermine any attempt to exploit the criminal case against him.
His base of support is too small, his political imagination too depleted and his instinct for self-absorption too overwhelming for him to marshal a broad, lasting backlash. His determination to look inward and backward has been a problem for his campaign even without the indictment. It will be a bigger one if and when he’s indicted.
It is hard for a candidate to tell voters “I’m with you” when he is mainly consumed with narrow, personal complaints and crackpot conspiracy theories. Plenty of Americans can see themselves in an older white man scorned by liberals and the media for his crude manner and bigoted ideas. Fewer are likely to see themselves in a wealthy husband paying hush money to conceal his debauched sex life and whining about the unfairness of his circumstances in every public outing.
Unlike the Trump of 2016, who shattered the policy orthodoxy of the GOP establishment and reshaped the party’s ideology in his own image, the Trump of today contributes nothing new to the Republican agenda.
None of this is to say that Trump cannot win the Republican nomination, or even the presidency. Elections are unpredictable. But it is past time to give up the idea that stoking the anger of Trump’s diehard fans is a victory unto itself.
If each scandal or blunder binds 99 percent of his base closer to him and unsettles 1 percent, that is still a losing formula for a politician whose base is an electoral minority. Trump cannot shed fractional support with every controversy but make it up on volume.
The question before Republicans is whether they need another lesson from the electorate in the perils of running on a version of Trumpism that is all about Trump. A campaign about Jan. 6 and Stormy Daniels is not one that is likely to end well for Republicans.
And remember that this is not the only possible indictment that Trump faces. This one seems to be about the hush money that Trump paid to Stormy Daniels and is considered by some legal experts to be the weakest of the possible prosecutions. We also have the investigation by the New York attorney general into possible fraud by Trump and his family members, the department of justice investigation into his possession of classified documents and his role in the January 6th riot, and the investigation in Georgia about his attempts to coerce state officials to overturn the election results.
Even if you believe that an indictment in the Daniels case will aid Trump’s fortunes, it is hard to see how anything good can come from a cascade of indictments.
My guess is that Trump just made up a story that was all about himself. I think we have plenty of examples of that already.
As soon as Donny T said he would be indicted on Tuesday, one thing we knew with certainty is that he would not be indicted on Tuesday. He’s actually a very reliable guide to truth if you remember to invert everything he says.
DJT to base “The witch hunt is getting worse. Send money to top up my defense fund!”.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump heard two things:
1. The grand jury meets Monday and Wednesday
2. The grand jury is about to wrap up it’s deliberations
And from those two facts leaped to the conclusion that the grand jury would wrap up their deliberations on Monday and there would be an indictment issued on Tuesday.
Beau of the Fifth Column made an interesting observation about the various looming indictments. While he doesn’t believe there is any collaboration among the various judicial entities, starting with the least damaging indictment first may be a good way to prevent pro-Trump mobs from forming. If the MAGhats get used to the idea that Trump was guilty of smaller crimes it may be easier to show them that Trump is also guilty of greater crimes. The case will have to be very convincing, and they may need to be shown something other than Fox News, but any desertions from the Trump cult would be welcome.
Oggie: Mathom says
Conversely, the centrist media, for the past 30 or so years (probably longer than that) have presented everything as ‘bad for the Democrats’. Congress passes, and Biden signs, an economic recovery bill? That gives the GOP a target and is thus bad for the Democrats. Price of gas goes up? Bad for Biden. Price of gas goes down? Bad for Biden because he is playing politics with oil supply. Hell, even Clinton’s budgetary surplus, and his plan to pay of the US debt was presented as bad for the Democrats as it showed just how overtaxed we all are in the US. Hurricane? Floods? Forest fires? Mass shootings? Shootings in schools? The centrist media can present every one of these as bad for the Democrats, bad for a Democratic President, bad for a Democratic house or senate. Every victory the Democratic Party achieves can, and is, bent into a pretzel of good for the GOP, bad for the Democrats.
Not to worry. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN will all point out the myriad of ways that Trump’s legal troubles will help him — fundraising, especially.
Am I being cynical enough?
Blah blah, this is bad, blah blah, he can’t possibly win, blah blah it’s disastrous…
Hilarious. Either this is the absolute disaster this article is entirely predicated on, or it’s not. And the author at least has the self-awareness to admit that, yeah, it’s more than possible that it’s not. Which somewhat undermines their point, I think.
Equally, any campaign that tries to ignore Trump is one that will DEFINITELY not end well for the Republicans.
I thought this post would mention that Trump actively demands that when he goes to testify, he goes in handcuffs. Against all sensible advice, of course (all sensible advice is for him to not turn up at all…). He wants a circus. The people prosecuting him are trying to avoid one. Let’s see how that turns out.
Nearly a century ago Germany’s National Socialist party attempted to overthrow that nation’s government. A key leader, among others, in the “Beer Hall Putsch” was arrested, tried and convicted and jailed. Less than a year later the leader was released.
We all know what came next.
Pierce R. Butler says
Potential Trump indictment delayed at least another day as grand jury told to stay home:
It really doesn’t take an essay to know the claim, being arrested is good for him, is bullshit.
John Morales says
I can’t see how the crying wolf over his professed arrest is good for him, either.
Riling up his (ever-diminishing) base and then letting them down must be getting (ahem) tiring for them.
Here’s a challenge:
Instead of crowing about this can’t be good for him, how it’s a disaster, how his base is ebbing away and so on -- instead of all that -- make a firm prediction, right now, of two things:
1. whether Trump will gain the Republican nomination
2. whether the number of people who vote Trump in 2024 will be more than 70 million.
I’ll stick my neck out now and say “yes” to both. Is anyone prepared to go on record now as saying either of those things won’t happen? Be interesting to look back in 18 months or so…
John Morales says
sonofrojblake, I think that’s a stupid and pointless challenge.
It depends. Contingencies and events are yet to come.
But I will prognosticate this much: he won’t be president again.
(Also, who cares how many vote for him?
We all know the popular vote is irrelevant to the actual result, it’s what the electors do that actually matters)
Of course it is. It’s just a bit of fun. I get it though -- you don’t want to play. If it’s because you’re afraid of being wrong, and hence looking a bit stupid, I fear that ship has sailed.
Good for you for stating as much as you did, though, safe bet though that may appear this far out. Then again, “Trump won’t win” would have seemed a safe bet in 2015 too.
It’s glib to say “we all know the popular vote is irrelevant” -- you cannot have failed to notice the hordes of bleating crybabies who won’t let go of the fact the Clinton won the popular vote in 2016.
And the popular vote IS relevant to my point: whether Trump wins the presidency or not, whether he does so by winning or losing the popular vote, what’s at issue here is whether his support has satisfyingly collapsed, as the people writing the articles want us to believe, or whether the truth is that it hasn’t actually collapsed at all but has just got quieter.
I’ve long held that the greatest danger is complacency. It’s what handed Trump the White House in 2016, and I’d really, REALLY hate it if self-congratulatory articles like the one referenced above meant there was a repeat in 2024 -- “I don’t need to bother to vote, his base is gone, there’s no way he can win”.
FUCKING VOTE. Do not trust the bastard to lose. MAKE SURE OF IT.
Marcus Ranum says
It’s like unending episodes of Fawlty Towers except not funny.