Former U.S. president Donald Trump’s indictment on charges tied to hush money payments to porn stars has dominated media coverage for the past two weeks … culminating with Trump’s appearance in New York City on Tuesday afternoon to answer to the allegations.
It was a historic moment – the first time a sitting or former president had ever been indicted.
“(Trump) repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal crimes that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election,” Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement accompanying the 34-count felony indictment. “Manhattan is home to the country’s most significant business market. We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to cover up criminal conduct.”
Trump was indignant as he made his way to the Manhattan criminal courts building.
“Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse,” he wrote on his TruthSocial platform prior to his appearance. “Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”
After the hearing, Trump proclaimed his innocence.
“Virtually every legal pundit has said that there is no case here,” he wrote. “There was nothing done illegally!”
Trump has no shortage of legal drama on his plate. In addition to the Manhattan probe over his alleged role in the hush money payments, he is facing an investigation in Georgia over alleged interference in the 2020 election. Then there is the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) inquiry into the January 6, 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol.
Trump has argued all of these probes amount to “political persecution,” and veteran Democratic strategist David Axelrod recently acknowledged this argument could wind up resonating with voters.
“Of all the offenses for which Trump is under investigation, the Stormy Daniels hush money is probably the least meaningful,” Axelrod tweeted last month. “If he’s going to be indicted in any of these probes, this the one he probably would want first to try and color all of them as politically-motivated.”
The immediate political question is how Trump’s indictment will impact his standing amongst the Republican electorate – which will determine over the coming months whether he is to be the GOP nominee for a third consecutive election.
On that score, the early returns seem very promising for the former president.
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Three weeks ago – prior to the indictment drama sweeping the nation – Trump was polling at 43 percent among GOP primary voters nationwide, according to the latest aggregate polling data from RealClearPolitics. As of yesterday, Trump had climbed to 50.8 percent. Meanwhile, his top Republican rival – Florida governor Ron DeSantis – saw his backing fall from 30.1 percent to 24.6 percent.
In other words, what was a thirteen percentage point lead for Trump in mid-March has essentially doubled.
And he could still have room to climb …
Lesser challengers also saw their stocks slide, with former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley dipping from 6.3 percent to 4.5 percent and former vice president Mike Pence sliding from 6.8 percent to 5 percent.
Obviously, the mob is fickle. Especially the GOP mob. And the fact this article is being published between Palm Sunday and Good Friday should remind everyone of that. Also, while Trump is clearly riding a wave post-indictment support – one which may have yet to crest – his backing from GOP voters remains below what it was prior to the 2022 elections.
Many felt Trump held the party back in the previous election cycle, contributing to the lack of an expected “red wave.”
Still, the former president was full of chutzpah as he basked in the glow of his renewed Republican support.
“The Democrats have weaponized our system of laws like the USA has never seen before,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “The people, however, see what is going on and they will not allow it to continue. Tremendous spirit, right now, in the Republican Party!”
New York supreme court judge Juan Merchan set Trump’s next court date for December 4, 2023 – two months before the 2024 Iowa GOP caucus.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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