Donald Trump faces an extraordinary moment in American history as he becomes the first ex-president to face federal charges.
The 37-count federal felony indictment, including charges related to mishandling classified information and obstruction of justice, has not deterred him from continuing his 2024 presidential campaign.
In an interview with Politico aboard his plane between campaign events, the ex-President vowed that he would not back down, asserting, “I’ll never leave.” Despite facing legal repercussions, he adamantly rejects the possibility of pardoning himself, maintaining his innocence and stating, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” US law does not prevent a presidential candidate from running while under indictment or even if convicted.
Trump has already started capitalizing on the charges to garner support from Republicans, positioning himself as a victim of political persecution. During a speech at the Georgia Republican party’s convention, he labeled the indictment as “ridiculous and baseless” and accused the Biden administration’s Justice Department of abusing its power. Surprisingly, Trump’s defiance seems to resonate with his base, leading the polls in the Republican presidential field by a significant margin.
Despite Trump’s legal troubles, his unwavering support among his loyal base presents a challenge for other 2024 candidates seeking the Republican nomination. According to a recent Fox Business survey, former President Donald Trump maintains a significant lead in the GOP field, with 46 percent of potential Iowa Republican caucus-goers expressing support for him.
Republican rivals are scrambling to respond to Trump’s indictment without alienating his dedicated followers. Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice-president, expressed concern about the serious allegations but also hinted at potential political motivations behind the charges. Nikki Haley, a former UN ambassador and fellow candidate, tried to balance criticism of Trump’s recklessness with support for his base.
The broad and steadfast support Trump enjoys highlights the political divide in the US. A large portion of Republicans identifies as “Always Trump” loyalists, accounting for about 30% of the party. Trump’s popularity remains high, with polls showing him leading the GOP nomination race by a significant margin. Moreover, his campaign fundraising has surged since the indictment was unsealed, indicating ongoing financial backing.
As Trump’s legal battles unfold, legal experts predict a high likelihood of convictions, particularly in the charges related to mishandling classified information and obstructing justice. However, Trump’s lawyers are expected to file motions to delay and dismiss the case, while the former president himself claims he had the authority to retain the classified documents under the Presidential Records Act.
Apart from the Florida indictment, Trump is also under investigation in New York over hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and faces additional charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. Nonetheless, Trump remains resolute in his presidential aspirations, insisting he will never drop out of the race, regardless of the legal implications.
In the face of mounting legal challenges, Trump’s determination continues to perplex political pundits. Have they not been paying enough attention to his consistently stubborn yet devil-may-care approach to both business and politics throughout the years?
Trump’s ability to rally supporters and maintain a strong foothold in the Republican party poses a significant obstacle for other contenders seeking the nomination. Trump’s legal woes will be at the forefront of the nation’s attention, but unless he winds up behind bars for the foreseeable, yet more allegations are unlikely to abate either his or his supporter’s appetite for a second chance at power.
Georgia Gilholy is a journalist based in the United Kingdom who has been published in Newsweek, The Times of Israel, and the Spectator. Gilholy writes about international politics, culture, and education.