When Donald Trump flew from New Jersey to Florida on Monday to face the federal justice system, he vowed political revenge for his historic indictment of mishandling classified documents.
In a torrid social media post, Trump said that if he were elected to the White House again in 2024, he would appoint his own “real special prosecutor” to “go after Joe Biden and his “crime family.”
The remarks marked a rhetorical escalation against the incumbent US president and America’s democratic standards and brought clarity to Trump’s political strategy in light of the charges he will face in a Miami court on Tuesday.
Rather than focusing on his legal defense, Trump seems determined to win over jurors and the public — especially Republican primary voters — by posing himself as a wrongfully persecuted martyr, even as it threatens to reignite the political heat. arouse in a way that could fuel violence.
“When attacked or investigated, he ramps up his attacks on the investigator, discrediting the issue and spreading disinformation, inciting anger and rage within his base,” said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton. University. “He is too defiant, but that is how he has continued to respond to key moments of political danger.”
The increasingly tense atmosphere that led to Trump’s arraignment in Florida has already sparked concerns in Miami about protests and violence around the courthouse on Tuesday. A series of police personnel and sniffer dogs searched the area around Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr.’s federal courthouse on Monday, even as authorities said no credible threats had been identified.
Miami police chief Manuel Morales said his force was prepared for 5,000 to 50,000 protesters. “Make no mistake – we take this event extremely seriously. We know there is a possibility that things will get worse.”
At his first public rally since his federal indictment was unsealed, Trump declared on Saturday that “our people are angry” and that a “last battle” was underway to save the country — echoing some of the warmongering phrases he used before January 6. Attack on the Capitol in 2021.
“In the end, they don’t come after it me, they come after it you — and I’m just in their way,” he told supporters in Columbus, Georgia.
At the same event, Kari Lake, the defeated Republican candidate for governor of Arizona in 2022 and one of Trump’s closest allies, ominously noted that many of his supporters are gun owners.
“If you want to get to President Trump, you have to go through me, and you’re going to have to go through 75 million Americans like me,” she said. “And I’m going to tell you that most of us are members of the NRA (National Rifle Association). That is not a threat, that is a public service announcement.”
Comments like these have fueled concerns all summer about wider unrest outside of Miami as the former president’s legal troubles continue to loom. In addition to the federal case in Florida, Trump is indicted in Manhattan for falsifying business records related to hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. of the 2020 elections.
“He’s almost calling for a revolution,” said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington. “He wants people to demonstrate at the courthouse, he sees himself as a petty dictator and he’s getting worse and worse.”
The former president’s aides and allies insist his position is not only justified, but will help him politically. Trump easily tops the national polls for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, with the first ballots set to be cast early next year. Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor and closest rival, is behind by double digits.
“(Trump) is able to play the narrative that he is the victim of a deep state and of Joe Biden employing Putin tactics by jailing the opposition,” said Bryan Lanza, a Republican strategist and former Trump communications officer who is now at Mercury, a Washington-based consulting firm.
Lanza added that Trump could benefit from the perception among American voters that Democrats have “gone too far” in supporting lawsuits against Trump. “The American public absolutely cannot demand that the former president serve 400 years[in prison],” Lanza said, referring to the total prison sentence Trump faces if convicted on all counts, though all sentences would in all likelihood be increase. simultaneously.
Meanwhile, a Republican operative close to Trump, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said his team would “try anything to slow down the process,” which would give the former president even more room to deliver his political messages before any verdict is passed. .
Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist in Florida, said, “(The federal indictment) weighs on him in a general election. It doesn’t weigh on him in a Republican primary.”
But others aren’t so sure. “As democracy develops, we will see the dark hysteria of Trump and his movement, but we will also see other Republicans try to displace him,” Kamarck said. “They’re going to tiptoe, but they’re going to show they’re a better alternative.”
After landing at Miami airport, Trump headed to his Doral golf club in the city, where he was greeted by supporters waving signs and flags. After appearing in court on Tuesday, he is expected to fly back to Bedminster, New Jersey, the residence he often uses during the summer, to make a statement about day-to-day operations and a fundraiser. to hold.
Still, many worry about what Trump’s impeachment and his response to it will mean for American democracy more broadly. “Having a former president go on such a constant rant against the justice system is dangerous and could have long-term consequences,” Zelizer said. “These battles will resonate long after he’s gone, and it won’t be easy to build trust in an already problematic and fragile system.”