NY investigation offers Trump 'a chance to really play the victim' - analyst
Donald Trump will try to turn any indictment to his advantage by stoking anger among core supporters over what they see as the weaponization of the justice system, though it may also push more Republicans tired of the drama around him to look for another presidential candidate.
A Manhattan grand jury could bring charges as soon as this week against the former Republican president for alleged hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.
"Something interesting was really happening earlier this year, and that was Donald Trump was losing a lot of support and a lot of Republicans were saying that they were just tired of all of the problems he was in and all of the cases against him and the fact that he wasn't really delivering for the party. But then the documents at Mar-a-Lago happened, and that allowed Trump to become front and centre again. And right there in the media spotlight, he used it for fundraising. And right after that, he announced his presidential candidacy. This former president knows how to spin things his way and how to turn something that's straw into gold," said Todd Belt, a professor of political management at George Washington University. "The question is, how many more of these things will his supporters and will people in the Republican Party be willing to handle? If it's one case after another and another and another, at what point do they say, 'enough's enough? We've got to get a new person.'"
While the prosecution of a former president is unprecedented in US history and places Trump in legal peril, it will likely be viewed by his most loyal supporters as politically motivated and only harden their determination to back him in the 2024 Republican primary.
Indeed, according to Belt, we are all at Trump's whim as we await the next steps.
"We know the timing only according to Donald Trump because he likes to tell us everything and it gives him a chance to really play the victim."
But to win the party's nomination, Trump will likely have to broaden his support beyond the 25%-30% of the Republican electorate generally thought to be in his corner no matter what, especially if the field of Republican candidates narrows in the coming months. An indictment could make it difficult for him to broaden his appeal.
But according to Belt, he can count on a quick jolt.
"Whenever we see him in the news for" whatever it is, "whether it was the documents at Mar-a-Lago or this particular case, they tend to rally behind him, at least in the short run. And so that's a short-term benefit for the former president."
Trump's campaign has accused the Manhattan District Attorney's office, as well as prosecutors pursuing separate cases against him in Georgia and at the federal level, of doing the bidding of Democrats out to stop his re-election campaign.
People close to Trump said his campaign would seek to frame the indictment as proof that all prosecutions - including his two impeachments in Congress - are unjustified attempts by the "Deep State" to undermine him and his supporters.
But as Belt emphasizes, this isn't Trump's first rodeo.
"The police are better prepared and better informed this time around. They sort of got the heads up from Donald Trump on this one, which is helpful. And secondly, a lot of the January 6 people have faced some pretty stiff penalties for what they did. And some people will be thinking twice about whether or not they want to go out on a limb for the former president."