How an indictment could actually be good for Donald Trump: For most politicians, a federal indictment is one of the worst things that can possibly happen. But Donald Trump, facing many investigations, might find a way to turn criminal charges to his advantage.
The majority of the time, that politician is worried that they’ll have to resign, lose their freedom, and possibly face massive legal bills.
Donald Trump, as we’ve learned by now, is not like most politicians.
Donald Trump Isn’t Afraid?
The former president is facing at least four criminal investigations, several of which have already reached grand juries. He’s being investigated in New York over the Stormy Daniels payments, in Georgia over his attempts to overturn that state’s 2020 result, while a special counsel is looking into both the Mar-a-Lago documents case and Trump’s role in January 6.
It’s unclear how close charging decisions are in those cases, but it remains possible that one or more of those probes will lead to criminal indictments, just as Trump is running for president again.
So that means bad news for Trump’s presidential hopes, right?
Maybe not, according to an op-ed published this week in The Hill by Juan Williams.
“It pains me to say it, but even if former President Trump is soon indicted, it might have zero effect on his campaign for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination,” Williams, a longtime Fox News commentator, wrote in the op-ed.
“In fact, an indictment might help him with many Republicans. He can start every rally by claiming to be the victim of a political ‘witch hunt.’”
Indeed, Trump is already claiming a witch hunt even before any indictments and has reacted that way to the Mueller probe, both impeachments, and every other investigation since his entrance into politics.
Williams made a further argument as to how an indictment might be received in the Republican primaries.
“Most Republican voters continue to ignore his blatant lies about a stolen election in 2020,” Williams writes. “Even the GOP candidates who smell blood, as they position themselves to enter the 2024 Republican primaries, are hesitant to call attention to Trump’s legal problems; they fear angering GOP voters who are more loyal to Trump than to the party.”
With a large number of candidates likely to run, it’s possible that one or more of them would likely make an issue of a Trump indictment, possibly by mentioning it in a presidential debate or even in TV commercials. More likely, opponents of Trump would take a half-measure position, arguing something along the lines of “I’ll pursue the successful policies in the tradition of the Trump Administration, but unlike Trump, I won’t do things that will get me indicted.”
The DeSantis Threat
Williams pointed out that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is likely to launch a presidential run later this spring, had not responded to attacks from Trump this far, including his implication that DeSantis acted inappropriately with female students when he was a private school teacher in the early 2000s.
But DeSantis’ strategy so far has been to not respond to any attacks from Trump, something that will likely change once DeSantis is officially in the race and on a debate stage opposite the former president.
And an indictment would also raise the possibility that a trial, and even conviction, could prevent Trump from focusing on the presidential race.
“There is a chance that an official indictment of Trump in any of four pending investigations might force Republicans to consider the wisdom of nominating Trump for a third time,” Williams wrote.
“Under indictment, Trump could not pretend he is anything but a candidate who lost the presidency in 2020 and now faces the risk of prison time before Inauguration Day 2025.”
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.