Each indictment against Donald Trump is less surprising than the last, something which could mark trouble for his opponents.
While innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law, Trump is facing more than 500 years in prison. He’s charged on 40 counts in relation to storing classified documents, while his involvement in the Capitol riots – during which one person died along with several others in the aftermath – is an offense for which he could, at least legally, be executed.
Yet, support for the most indicted former president and presidential candidate in U.S. history is not faltering, only growing, and a fourth indictment in relation to the 2020 Georgia vote could exasperate his supporters even further.
The Chaos of Charges for Donald Trump
Historically in American politics, an indictment would mark the end of a presidential campaign for any candidate. If they’d decided they were still fit to run for office, voters would show their disagreement at the polling stations.
That was, of course, before the emergence of Donald Trump. Having been indicted three times this year and facing the possibility of a fourth, Trump’s support has remained above 50% among Republicans, a lead of more than 30 percentage points over nearest rival Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The order of each indictment has proved important in bolstering the former president’s support. His first one, in relation to hush money payments to adult star Stormy Daniels, was brought upon him by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Mr. Bragg – a Democrat – has made no secret of his pride in investigating Trump, although the relatively weak charges against the 77-year-old have helped the “witch hunt” claim used at rallies across the country.
A weak first indictment partially nullifies more major, subsequent charges of storing classified documents and inciting a fatal riot. It can be (and has been) used to accuse opponents of pressing politically-motivated charges – something Trump has repeatedly claimed to boost his support among Republicans.
Are There Any Downsides?
Of course, Trump is still technically innocent, a fact that is likely to remain until after the primaries have concluded next Spring. The first trial in New York is expected to begin in March, by which point Trump could be the de facto nominee based on his current levels of support.
Appointing a nominee who is facing criminal charges comes with risk; for a start, Trump will be required in court throughout his hearings in the lead-up to the election, something which limits the number of stops across the country that the Trump Train can make.
Moreover, support among party voters is one thing, but convincing the rest of the country that the indictments are a witch hunt is another, particularly if he is found guilty prior to the November 5, 2024 vote.
Nevertheless, Donald Trump is using his indictments in his favor, and there’s no reason to suggest that will change any time soon.
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.