Former President Donald Trump and his countless legal problems are pushing the GOP presidential race into unprecedented and uncharted waters.
Trump has hitherto been able to shrug off the legal arrows thrown his way, evidenced by the 42-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average of polls over his next closest rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Polling shows Trump as being unexpectedly competitive against Joe Biden, the man who beat him in 2020.
A Harvard CAPS/Harris poll taken on May 18 put Trump up seven points over Joe Biden, with Trump leading him 47 percent to 40 percent.
Donald Trump already lost a civil judgment in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case, and Carroll has threatened to sue him again for comments he made at this month’s CNN Town Hall following the trial.
The court awarded Carroll $5 million for sexual abuse at Trump’s hands. Trump denied it, describing her as mentally unstable and as a liar during the CNN Town Hall.
No major presidential candidate has ever sought office with as many legal hurdles.
Hush Money Case Judge Gags Donald Trump, Sets Trial in Primary Season
Donald Trump appeared in a Manhattan courtroom via video on Tuesday.
Judge Juan Merchan imposed a protective order barring Trump, his lawyers, or anyone in his entourage from sharing evidence related to the Stormy Daniels hush money case on social media to the public.
The judge set Trump’s trial date for Mar. 25, 2024, in the middle of primary season, which likely will keep him bogged down during the campaign.
“Violation of a court order or a court mandate could result in sanctions. There are a wide range of sanctions, but it could include up to a finding of contempt, and that is punishable,” Merchan said on Tuesday.
Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, told Merchan that his client felt his rights were being violated by the order. Blanche told the judge that he had informed the former president of his obligations and that he would comply.
“It’s certainly not a gag order and it’s not my intention to impede Mr. Trump to campaign for president,” Merchan said. “He’s free to do just about anything that does not violate the terms of this protective order.”
The (New York) Daily News reported that Donald Trump appeared perturbed at times during the hearing. Prosecutors demanded the order because of Trump’s “longstanding and perhaps singular history” of using social media to inflame people against the targets of his ire.
Merchan’s May 8 order barred the sharing of any information for the trial from identifying court officers, expert witnesses for the prosecution, or law enforcement to the public “by disseminating to posting the Covered Materials to any news or social media platforms, including, but not limited, to Truth Social, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Snapchat, or YouTube, without prior approval from the Court.”
The order, however, does not prevent Trump from speaking about the prosecution. He pleaded not guilty last month to 34 counts of business fraud charges linked to the payoff.
Donald Trump took to TruthSocial Tuesday to protest the order.
“Just had New York County Supreme Court hearing where I believe my First Amendment Rights, ‘Freedom of Speech,’ have been violated, and they forced upon us a trial date of March 25th, right in the middle of Primary season. Very unfair, but this is exactly what the Radical Left Democrats wanted. It’s called ELECTION INTERFERENCE, and nothing like this has ever happened in our Country before!!!” Trump wrote on his TruthSocial platform.
Trump’s Other Legal Problems
Trump also faces a possible indictment in federal court in connection with the classified documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago. Former Attorney General Bill Barr warned on CBS News last week that it could become a major concern for him.
“If there was a case out there that I would be concerned about if I was … the former president is the Mar-a-Lago document case,” Barr said.
“It doesn’t go a lot on intent or anything like that; it is very clear that he had no business having those documents. He was given a long time to send them back, and they were subpoenaed. If there were any games going on there, and he is very exposed.”
Former Trump attorney Ty Cobb speculated an indictment could come by the end of the year.
Further legal trouble could also come from Georgia where a grand jury is considering whether to indict him for interference in the 2020 election.
All of these litigations could offer DeSantis and his Republican rivals political ammunition to ask voters if they want another four years of litigations and impeachments with Donald Trump as president.
John Rossomando was a senior analyst for Defense Policy and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.