Former United States President Donald Trump has used a possible indictment in New York as evidence of a “witch hunt” against him, declaring in an email to supporters that Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg is “a tyrant awake.” who has politicized the justice system”. .
Analysts say Monday’s latest capitalized messages underscore the former president’s unique political moment. While running for a second term, Trump faces possible criminal charges related to hush money paid to an adult film actress.
On Saturday, Trump claimed he would be arrested on Tuesday and called on his supporters to “take our nation back.” However, there is no official confirmation on an arrest or its timing.
However, an indictment will “essentially prove Donald Trump’s theory since 2015,” Republican strategist Lenny McCallister said, referring to the ex-president’s belief that the government establishment has been turned against him.
McCallister added that a pending indictment would likely boost support among Trump’s most loyal followers.
“He has said he is there to drain the swamp. The swamp is threatened by him. And it’s been war with the swamp ever since,” McAllister told Al Jazeera. “And people who believe that story will see this indictment as further evidence of that.”
Geoffrey Kabaservice, vice president of political studies at the Niskanen Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C., added that the charges dovetail with Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him.
In Trump’s words, “The deep state, which unfairly deprived him of the 2020 re-election victory he deserved, is now doing its best to get him out of the 2024 election,” Kabaservice said.
“I think he actually needs this indictment in a way. It will increase its visibility. It will force would-be competitors like Ron DeSantis to say this is unfair, Trump is being mistreated,” he explained. “And it will give him that kind of aura of martyrdom that he craves.”
Indeed, DeSantis used language similar to Trump’s on Monday when he accused Bragg, a Democrat, of “pursuing a political agenda and arming the office.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence also criticized the investigation, despite publicly distancing himself from Trump since the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Here we go again – an outrageous abuse of power by a radical prosecutor who lets violent criminals go free while pursuing political revenge against President Trump.
I am directing relevant committees to immediately investigate whether federal funds are being used to undermine our democracy by…
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) March 18, 2023
Pence told the conservative Breitbart news network that the case “reeked” of “political persecution,” comparing any possible indictment to the first impeachment trial Trump faced while in office.
At the time, Trump was accused of trying to coerce Ukraine by offering weapons in exchange for politically damaging information about his rival, Democrat Joe Biden.
Over the weekend, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy also threw his weight behind Trump, tweeting that he was “directing relevant committees to immediately investigate” whether federal funds were going to “politically motivated prosecutions” that could change the outcome of the 2024 election.
Help or pain?
According to Rina Shah, a former political adviser and Republican strategist, the increased attention will give Trump “a bit of a push and sympathetic support” in the near term.
But with the first Republican primaries only nine months away, any lawsuit could still have unexpected consequences.
“Once clear evidence is presented by Alvin Bragg and his team, I think what will happen is a criminal Donald Trump will be presented and thrust into the national spotlight,” she said.
That could alienate the so-called “maybe Trump” bloc from the troublesome Republican party. That segment of the electorate — seen as sloppy in their support of the ex-president — proved particularly influential during the November midterm elections, when Trump-backed candidates saw lackluster results.
“If there really is a significant legal threat, I think the tide could easily turn against President Trump as not a viable candidate for the general election,” she said.
Conversely, if charges against Trump are dropped or if he is found innocent, his 2024 presidential campaign could be bolstered, experts told Al Jazeera. Trump is currently leading in early polls against likely Republican challengers.
According to the Niskanen Center’s Kabaservice, Trump likely hopes the indictment will “inoculate him” against the other criminal investigations he currently faces.
In Georgia, prosecutors are currently investigating alleged attempts to overturn the state’s election results, and the US Justice Department is also investigating whether the ex-president interfered in the transfer of presidential power.
Compared to those investigations, Kabaservice believes that there is less at stake in the hush money case. “I think in a sense it’s also the least damaging (of all criminal investigations) as it deals with sex and personal issues and not abuses of the government and the constitution,” he said.
Still, the fact that a potential indictment isn’t seen as a political death knell shows how uniquely the former president has transformed American politics, Kabservice noted.
“There would have been a time when Donald Trump’s impeachment would have been a big deal, like, this will definitely be the end of Trump’s political career,” he said. “Now I think it will at least have a stimulative effect on Trump. And I don’t think it will lead to negative consequences.”