How Will the Indictments Affect the Donald Trump Campaign?
In a political and legal shot heard around the world, Donald Trump has been indicted for seven counts of allegedly mishandling classified documents.
Trump claims this is another example of the government persecuting him in an effort to interfere in the 2024 presidential campaign in which he is leading the field of Republicans for the presidential nomination.
The GOP thinks this is evidence that the White House, the Department of Justice, and the FBI are weaponized against him in a two tiered justice system that unfairly targets the former president.
Trump thinks Biden is guilty of the same offenses regarding the retention of secret papers.
What happens next?
The GOP Has Circled the Wagons Around Trump
How will this affect Trump’s election chances? Republicans are coming out in support. U.S. House lawmakers led by Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy are seething at the indictment saying that it is unfair and wrongly targets Trump. Senator Josh Hawley said a commander-on-chief can rightfully declassify documents and keep them.
Presidential candidate Ron DeSantis believes the indictment shows unequal application of justice. The Florida Governor wondered why the DOJ and FBI have not quickly pursued alleged illegalities that Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden committed. White House hopeful Tim Scott spoke of weaponization of the DOJ against Trump and the need to end the politicization of the agency. Vivek Ramaswamy said he would pardon Trump should the biotech entrepreneur be elected president.
More of the Same Persecution
Trump already sent out a fund raising letter after the indictment news broke. He will continually claim he is the victim of the “boxes hoax” and witch hunt. The phrase “God Bless Donald Trump” was trending on Twitter June 8 with many MAGA-supporters saluting Trump in his fight for justice.
Support from Independents Will Be the Real Test
A significant number of Republicans are rallying to his support. That is to be expected.
The problems for Trump will be Independents. A Yahoo-YouGov poll taken in late May found that over half of Americans thought the various investigations into Trump’s alleged activity were “serious.” Forty-nine percent of Independents in that survey said the charges of falsifying business records in a hush-money scheme to an adult film start amounted to a “serious crime.”
But 37 percent of moderates said it was not a serious illegal act.
Polling on Classified Documents Saga Will Be Key
On the classified documents situation, 62 percent of Independents believed that “taking highly classified documents from the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve them” is a serious crime.
One could argue that the secret papers indictment is easier to understand for voters and more cut and dried than the hush money charges.
Classified documents belong to the National Archives, Trump took them illegally, refused to give them back after a subpoena, and may have lied or obstructed justice during the investigation, this thinking goes.
If the results of the poll referenced above make Independents blanch at the indictments, centrists could vote against Trump in the general election should he be the nominee. In that Yahoo-YouGov poll, 62 percent of those surveyed did not think Trump should serve as president if he is convicted of a “serious crime.” Meanwhile, Democrats are going to be under the impression that “No one is above the law.” This spells trouble for Trump.
However, it depends on how the trials are adjudicated. Trump will be required in court for the hush money case in March of 2024. He could be exonerated. The classified document charges have not been detailed and he could escape conviction on those indictments too. The criminal trial could be in Florida and Trump may have a more friendly jury pool than in Washington, DC.
Biden is in his own scandal with Republicans on the House Oversight Committee claiming they have seen an FBI document that refers to the president accepting a $5 million bribe from a Ukrainian natural gas company when he was vice president.
Some Americans could determine that both presidents are corrupt and stay home. Lack of voter turnout would likely hurt Trump more than Biden. On the other hand, Trump could lose the Republican nomination and be completely out of luck – no chance at beating Biden and facing jail time. This would be unthinkable for many Republicans and further divide the country on partisan lines with a significant number of voters believing the justice system is unfair to candidates it does not like.
Author Expertise and Experience:
Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.