Donald Trump’s Potential Criminality Won’t Matter in 2024 – In another bout of the media’s “the walls are closing in!” around former US President Donald J. Trump, many in the press are expecting one of the three criminal probes into the forty-fifth president to yield a criminal indictment.
Notably, the ongoing probe into Trump’s purported election malfeasance in the state of Georgia during the contested 2020 presidential election. There are two other criminal probes, one in New York, looking into hush-money payments that Trump is accused of having made to former adult film star, Stormy Daniels, and the other in Washington, D.C., investigating whether Trump was illegally harboring classified documents in his Mar-a-Lago compound after he had left the presidency.
The Georgia case is the one that should most concern the former president. There is an audio recording of him hounding then-Governor Jack Kemp about “finding” more than 11,000 votes which would have conceivably put Trump over the top in the Georgia election, giving him the state rather than Joe Biden (which could have helped to keep Trump in office). There have also been subpoenas sent to multiple individuals who were key players in Trump’s orbit, indicating that the investigation has reached its nadir and could yield criminal indictments.
Although, the country has been down this particular path before.
Donald Trump: The Most Investigated (and Acquitted) President in History
Throughout the Trump presidency, all Americans were subjected to the extreme—often inaccurate—claims of partisans in the press that Donald Trump was about to be kneecapped. First, it was over Trump’s tax returns. Then, it was about the laughably false accusations that Donald Trump was a Russian agent of influence. After that, it was the “perfect” phone call in 2019 between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Following the disastrous 2020 election, everyone was saying that the January Sixth Committee was going to get Trump.
None of these accusations stuck and Trump was made stronger each time he was acquitted in public.
Trump consistently lived up to the nickname the New York tabloids gave him from his real estate days of, “Teflon Don.” Nothing could touch him in the eyes of his voters. In fact, this imperviousness to legal investigations elicited a caustic response from Donald Trump while on the campaign trail in 2016. At that time, he was enduring endless accusations of impropriety both from his political opponents and the press (often one-in-the-same). In response to the mostly unfounded accusations back then, Trump told an audience of supporters that he could “shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and [he] wouldn’t lose voters.”
The Trump voter has been an enigma to professional politicos since they first emerged in 2016. These voters cut across regions and socioeconomic backgrounds. The Donald Trump voter is rural, white, and traditionally Union-supporting Democrats. Yet, there are also notable city-dwelling intellectuals, such as those of the Claremont Institute, who helped craft Trump’s appeal to many reticent, doctrinaire conservative voters during Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns.
All from a man who has been thrice married is known for his braggadocio, and, in the words of noted Right-wing pundit, Ann Coulter, is generally a “vulgarian.”
Despite all these things about Trump, he maintains a popular base that would make any politician from either party envious. What’s more, there’s little he can do to lose the support of these voters.
Take, for example, his controversial trade war over agricultural goods with China during his presidency. The trade war most harmed American farmers—the backbone of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) movement—and, yet these voters overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in 2020.
This gets us back to possible criminal charges that Trump may be facing from one of these three (or all) investigations into his actions from the last few years. Trump’s base clearly won’t leave his side. And, as you’ve seen, Trump won’t be cowed by the same things that most normal politicians would be cowed for (this was the candidate who went against the grain and successfully survived the “p***ygate” imbroglio during the 2016 campaign). It gives Trump some of his cachets in the eyes of many people. Of course, these picadilloes also cause negative reactions from other voters. Trump is undoubtedly the most divisive candidate for president this country has produced in decades.
Donald Trump Will Run, Indicted or Not
Let’s take the worst-case-scenario from Trump’s perspective: that he is found guilty of criminality in one of the three (or maybe all?) investigations. Contrary to what many people think, if Trump were indicted; if he even were to be imprisoned, according to multiple legal experts, he could still become president. The Framers of the Constitution never once envisioned that an indicted person may run for the highest office in the land, so there is a gaping hole in the Constitution that a disruptor, like Donald Trump, would happily plow through to achieve his ambition of winning a second term as president.
What’s more, President Joe Biden (D) has not been a paragon of success since assuming office in January 2021. The economy, despite what the official numbers show, is lurching toward a crisis. Life for average Americans has only gotten harder since Biden took power. Supply chain woes are becoming systemic, despite the fact that the COVID-19 shutdowns ended over a year ago. Beyond these problems, Biden appears to many voters to be giddily taking the country into World War III—possibly with nuclear weapons—with Russia over Ukraine. China is also banging the war drums.
As everything collapses, Trump pops out from his redoubt in Mar-a-Lago to periodically ding Biden with well-timed, recorded messages reminding voters of how good the economy generally was under his presidency and how we had peace for the first time in decades. Throw in other crises, such as despicable East Palestine, Ohio toxic spill that has been referred to by some critics as “America’s Chernobyl”, and the Biden Administration’s lackluster (almost dismissive) response to that crisis, and suddenly Trump becomes more electable than he was before the Biden Administration.
Trump Thrives on Grievance
Plus, any potential criminal indictment would only prompt Mr. Trump to double-down on his quest to become president for the second time. After all, as president, Trump could pardon himself and those around him of any wrongdoing they may be convicted of in any of these three ongoing legal cases.
Trump’s opponents—of which there are countless—in both political parties understand this about Trump. The threat of criminal indictment has the opposite intended effect on the forty-fifth president as much as the “pussygate” video did: rather than deter Trump from pursuing his political ambitions, it will only spur him on. Trump’s opponents likely hope that criminal indictments can induce the American voters (beyond Trump’s hardcore “MAGA” types) to ignore the obvious failures of President Biden and be turned off by the prospect of possibly elevating a criminal to the White House.
Former President Trump has made a career of being underestimated; of bucking the popular trend and coming out ahead because of that contrarianism. Americans should not assume that criminal indictments, either real or merely threatened, would prevent Trump from returning to power. The only way that Trump can be defeated is at the ballot box, as he was in 2020. And, given the disaster that has been the Biden Administration, it is likely that the only way Trump can be defeated at the ballot box is if the Republicans form their usual circular firing squad and destroy each other.
Looking at the impending 2024 Republican Party Presidential Primary, in which everyone from Trump to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to Mike Pompeo to Vivek Ramaswamy to Nikki Haley (and others) are either planning to run or have announced their run, one can assume that Trump will have a fight on his hands.
Should DeSantis get a clean shot at Trump, he just might be the politician to end Trump’s return. But do not expect indictments to do that particular trick. And if DeSantis doesn’t kneecap Trump, then the American Left’s worst nightmares will likely come to fruition with “American Carnage 2.0,” in which Trump exacts his terrible revenge on all those who wronged him during his first term. At the very least, 2024 is going to be wildly entertaining for those of us watching.
Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who recently became a writer for 19FortyFive.com. Weichert is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as a contributing editor at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (March 28), and Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (May 16). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.