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What Happens to the GOP if Donald Trump Gets Indicted?

Donald Trump
Former President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the "Rally to Protect Our Elections" hosted by Turning Point Action at Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona.

Former President (and current presidential candidate) Donald Trump says that he will continue to run for president even if he is indicted on criminal charges.

What might that look like?

Donald Trump is currently being investigated

Trump could feasibly face criminal indictments. If Donald Trump were indicted, he would become the first former president in US history ever indicted on criminal charges (Richard Nixon was pardoned for his involvement in the Watergate Scandal).

Right now, the Department of Justice is investigating Trump for his involvement in the January 6th riots and for efforts relating to the overthrow of the 2020 election.

Simultaneously, the DOJ is investigating Trump for prospective mishandling of classified documents (resulting from the FBI’s recovery of documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last August).

Trump is also being investigated in Georgia, where a state investigation is considering Trump efforts “to find 11,780 votes” after Georgia went to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

Although, the Georgia investigation grew somewhat complicated when a special grand jury forewoman went on a media tour last month in which she was interviewed about her experience with the grand jury.

Lastly, the Trump Organization is being investigated in New York state for misrepresenting the companies’ finances in order to secure more favorable loan rates.

All the above investigations are pending, with the potential to result in criminal charges being brought against Donald Trump.

What would an indictment mean for Trump’s campaign?

If Trump is indicted, he has promised to continue his campaign for president.

Personally, I believe him. While an indictment is far from guaranteed, my sense is that Trump would forge ahead with his campaign even if he were indicted. Multiple narratives about Trump have long since been entrenched; an indictment could serve to reinforce any narrative about Trump, really.

For Trump’s most hardcore supporters, MAGA-Nation, an indictment would reinforce the idea that Trump is the victim of liberal witch hunts, that Trump has been unfairly targeted and pursued with vigor.

For mainstream Republicans, who seem eager to move past Trump because they have concerns about his electability, an indictment would reinforce the idea that Trump is a political liability. For liberals, who have long decided that Trump is a criminal, an indictment would reinforce the idea that Trump is a criminal.

People are going to see what they want to see in a Trump indictment.

Trump, however, will lean into the indictment as proof that he is the victim of a witch-hunt. He won’t shy away from the fact that he was indicted – or attempt to sweep the indictment under the rug (as if such a thing were possible). Instead, Trump would lean heavily into the indictment as a validating moment for the persecution theory he’s been promoting for eight years. MAGA would of course accept the indictment as validation. The entire idea would entirely repulse liberals, of course.

What would be interesting is to see how mainstream Republicans react to the indictment and to the Trump marketing of an indictment. Would the GOP finally cut ties with their long-time standard bearer? Or would the GOP lean into Trump’s narrative of liberal witch-hunting?

Another entity to keep an eye on in the case of a Trump indictment is Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, including Fox News and The New York Post. Which way would Murdoch’s empire lean? So far in the 2024 campaign, Murdoch appears to be leaning away from Donald Trump and towards Ron DeSantis. Would a Trump indictment exacerbate that trend? Or would Murdoch sense a ratings boost in promoting a Trump witch-hunt coming to fruition.

We know how Trump will react to an indictment. The big questions are how the GOP mainstream and conservative media react to a Trump indictment.

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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.