A new month these days brings with it a new indictment for Donald Trump.
The former president has been indicted three times so far this year regarding payments to a adult star, storing classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home, and inciting an attack on the Capitol – three very different indictments on three very different allegations.
Such varying charges are seen by his supporters as a witch hunt against a man whose anti-establishment presidency rocked political norms; for his opponents, it’s just another day in the life of Donald Trump, the only president to have been impeached twice.
Trump has used his indictments to convince loyalists that he is the subject of a politically-motivated criminal investigation; it’s a tactic that’s worked so far, with the 77-year-old ahead in the Republican primary polls by a seemingly insurmountable advantage.
But Trump is currently an innocent man in the eyes of the law, and a guilty verdict could swing public opinion against him.
The “Witch Hunt”
The former president has certainly not hidden from acknowledging the charges against him; far from it, in fact, as they’ve been a regular feature at his campaign rallies.
In all honesty, he doesn’t have a choice. Indictments against former presidents dominate headlines, and the image of one walking into a courthouse – seemingly inconceivable before 2016 – is now a regular occurrence rather than a wild imagination.
Were all the other declared candidates to drop out and rally behind DeSantis, Trump would still be the Republican nominee in 2024, such is the size of his support.
Among supporters, his rhetoric of a “witch hunt” becomes only more agreeable when used in the same sentence as “the Biden crime family.”
For Trump’s loyalists, many question what they perceive to be double standards with politics, and further indictments only add fuel to the fire.
Donald Trump: Winning the Battle, Losing the War
In a two-party democracy, securing the Republican nomination is only the halfway mark in a presidential campaign.
For sure, continuing discontent against the 80-year-old President Joe Biden may swing disgruntled Democrats towards third-party candidates – a scenario that helped Trump secure the White House in 2016.
However, even eventual GOP unity behind Trump may not be enough to win the election.
Swing voters are less likely to fall for the “witch hunt” rhetoric, particularly when court proceedings take place in the middle of a campaign.
Trump’s presence is required in court when the trials begin next March. The mandated confines of a courtroom make it harder to spread your message around the country, even with a private jet on hand.
Legally, a guilty verdict makes no difference as to whether Trump can be president, particularly when he can pardon himself anyway.
But despite growing evidence against Biden in the case of his son’s foreign business dealings, the reality is he remains an innocent man until a Congress which his party control decides otherwise.
If Donald Trump is found guilty, he is a criminal. And if you’re a swing voter with no preference for either party – instead only wanting what’s best for your country – it’s unlikely the criminal candidate will take your vote away from the innocent one.
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.