In a historic move, former President Donald Trump has become the first U.S. president to face criminal charges.
The indictment comes from a grand jury in New York, which voted to indict Trump on charges related to hush money payments made to allegedly cover up affairs he had.
Multiple sources close to Trump confirmed the indictment to NPR on Thursday.
Following the announcement, the Trump GOP machine went into action, rolling out a political playbook aimed at shoring up support for the former president among his base. And it appears to have worked.
Trump’s strength with Republicans has grown, even as his brand has become increasingly toxic with much of the rest of the country.
In response to the indictment, Trump issued a statement on Thursday night, calling the charges “political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history.” He went on to attack the New York district attorney, Alvin Bragg, a Democrat who brought the charges, calling the indictment an “act of blatant election interference” that would ultimately “backfire” on Democrats.
As the legal proceedings against Trump move forward, it remains to be seen how the former president’s supporters will react to the charges. But for now, the GOP appears to be rallying around Trump, even as his vulnerabilities are becoming increasingly apparent.
Following the indictment of former President Donald Trump on charges related to hush money payments, several prominent Republicans have come forward with statements expressing their dismay at the news.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, for instance, called the indictment an “unprecedented abuse of power.” Meanwhile, House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan issued a one-word statement that simply said, “Outrageous.”
While some Republicans are expressing their opposition to the indictment, it’s worth noting that it’s not the result of any unilateral action by a prosecutor or judge.
Rather, a grand jury heard evidence from a prosecutor and then decided that there was enough there to file charges against the former president.
In addition to the grand jury, a jury of Trump’s peers will likely be convened to hear the case and decide whether or not he is guilty of the charges against him.
This process ensures that all aspects of the case are thoroughly examined and that justice is done in a fair and impartial manner.
As the legal proceedings continue to unfold, it will be interesting to see how other prominent Republicans react to the news of the indictment. It’s clear, however, that the charges are being taken seriously and that the wheels of justice are turning to hold those responsible for criminal behavior accountable.
The difference between an indictment and a conviction is significant in political terms, and there are doubts about the strength of the case brought by Bragg.
These factors all feed into the narrative of victimization that Trump, a billionaire from New York, has created to bolster his political career.
He has successfully convinced his base of supporters that the left is out to get him and that the system is rigged against him. Trump claims that the New York indictment and investigation are politically motivated attempts to derail his presidential aspirations.
In a statement issued on Thursday evening, Trump once again used this rhetoric, stating,
“Since the day I rode down the escalator at Trump Tower and even before I was sworn in as President of the United States, the Radical Left Democrats – the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this country – have been conducting a Witch-Hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement.”
Former President Donald Trump’s legal troubles continue to mount, as he faces not only charges related to hush money payments, but also three other criminal investigations stemming from his conduct after the 2020 presidential election that he lost and his role in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
These charges are not new for Trump, as they echo some of the allegations that have been levied against him in the past. During the 2016 campaign, the Mueller Russia investigation looked into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Trump was also impeached twice, first on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and then on charges of incitement of insurrection in relation to the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol.
Furthermore, the FBI recently conducted a search of Trump’s Florida home, during which they recovered boxes of classified documents. It’s unclear at this time how this relates to the ongoing investigations or if it will result in any additional charges.
Trump’s strategy to unify GOP and maintain a favorable base amid his indictment appears to have some success. While a recent NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist poll shows that 57% of respondents believe the criminal investigations against him are fair, eight in ten Republicans view them as a “witch hunt” and continue to have a favorable opinion of the former president.
According to a Quinnipiac poll, two-thirds of all respondents believe that the charges in the New York case are not serious, and six in ten think the investigation is politically motivated.
The New York case may not pose as much risk as the other three criminal investigations against Trump, two of which are federal, and one out of Georgia.
However, the stakes are still incredibly high for Trump, both personally and politically. If he is convicted, it will be challenging for him to claim that the charges were frivolous and politically motivated.
But, if acquitted, he will undoubtedly claim vindication, as he did following the Mueller investigation and his second impeachment trial.
The potential impact of the New York case is significant, as it is the first criminal case brought against a former U.S. president.
It remains to be seen how other prominent Republicans will react to the news of the indictment and how it will impact Trump’s chances of winning another GOP nomination. Regardless, the legal proceedings will ensure that justice is done in a fair and impartial manner.
Comparison between the audience of primary and general elections
Republicans have experienced electoral setbacks due to their strong association with the party’s brand in the last three consecutive election cycles.
When Donald Trump assumed office, the Republican Party held a monopoly on power in Washington, with control of the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. However, this arrangement began to unravel shortly afterward.
In the 2018 midterm elections, the GOP suffered significant losses in the House, allowing the Democrats to take control of the chamber.
Then, in the 2020 presidential election, Trump was defeated, losing the popular vote by a margin of 7 million, and the Democrats gained control of the Senate as well.
In the beginning, when Trump became President, the GOP had control over both the House and Senate in Washington. However, their power began to slip away as Democrats won the majority in the House in 2018, and in 2020, Trump lost his re-election bid and Democrats took over the Senate.
During the 2022 midterms, Trump-style candidates lost crucial races in swing states and districts, resulting in significant losses for the GOP.
Although they managed to regain control of the House, their majority was narrower than expected. Republicans have now lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections, marking the worst streak for either party in their histories.
Despite Trump’s claims of conspiracies and “witch hunts” to unite the Republican Party, the broader American public has consistently shown disapproval towards him and the GOP.
In the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 6 in 10 respondents said they don’t want Trump to be president again, including two-thirds of independents.
However, three-quarters of Republicans still want him to be president again, which is crucial for a presidential primary.
Republican strategists believe that the only way this could change is if other Republican candidates focus on Trump’s political weaknesses, such as his legal issues, and paint them as representative of the turmoil and drama that surrounds him, while making this clear to the GOP base.
However, throughout the Trump era, no potential Republican rivals have been willing to consistently home in on Trump’s political vulnerabilities. Instead, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is viewed as a top contender for the Republican nomination, criticized the prosecutor in New York and tweeted that Florida would not assist in an extradition request.
However, there is little indication that such a request is even feasible, as Trump’s lawyers and the New York DA’s office will likely simply agree on a date for arraignment, either virtually or in person.
DeSantis’ tweet demonstrates the strong grip that Trump has on the Republican base. While DeSantis aims to position himself as a viable alternative to Trump, he must be careful not to offend the fiercely pro-Trump GOP base.
Meanwhile, Trump continues to attack DeSantis’ record and personal characteristics on a daily basis.
Attempting to defeat the reigning champion while simultaneously expressing admiration for them is a difficult strategy for winning a presidential nomination.