Trump Uses Four Indictments as His Foremost 2024 Campaign Tool

Donald Trump is turning his mounting legal woes into a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, betting that the polling boost from his recent indictments will translate into votes next year.

(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump is turning his mounting legal woes into a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, betting that the polling boost from his recent indictments will translate into votes next year.

The former president was hit with his fourth round of criminal charges on Monday, this time for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia. Yet, where presidential candidates once dropped out for comparatively minor infractions such as plagiarism, Trump has seized on the charges to strengthen his pitch to GOP loyalists, who share his sense of grievance and embraces his unsupported claims that the prosecutions are politically motivated.

“Indictments have become the new rallies,” said Republican strategist Bryan Lanza, who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign. “The conversation with respect to the indictments early on became a partisan battle.”

In his successful 2016 White House run, Trump relied on his televised rallies to gain attention and boost his support. In 2020, he commandeered the White House briefing room, ostensibly to talk about the coronavirus pandemic — and gain more electoral support. Heading into 2024, it’s railing against the criminal charges against him.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said she’ll seek a trial date within six months, an ambitious timeline that would put the former president and 18 co-defendants in court early next year just as Republican primary voting gets under way.

Trump is also facing charges in state court in New York as well as two federal indictments in Washington DC and Florida — all of which could see trial dates between the first primary contest in January and the nominating convention in July.

On Monday evening, as cable networks showed images from the Atlanta courthouse of the indictment unfolding, Trump sent a 570-word campaign fundraising email with the subject line “MY STATEMENT ON THE NEW INDICTMENT,” attacking Willis and President Joe Biden. He also again suggested that his criminal charges somehow will affect his supporters’ personal well-being.

“Even after 4 sham indictments and a threat of HUNDREDS OF YEARS IN PRISON, I will never abandon our mission, because the fate of our nation hangs in the balance in the 2024 election. It’s not just my freedom on the line, but yours as well – and I will NEVER let them take it from you,” Trump said in the email. 

“Americans see another political indictment or target letter and they know this is just the weaponized Biden Justice Department going after President Trump,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said. “So much of the legal messaging is political messaging and so much of political messaging is legal messaging. President Trump keeps dominating every single poll, from the primary to the general, from statewide to nationally.”

Trump leads the Republican primary presidential field at 54.3%, according to the average of polls compiled by RealClear Politics. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is his closest competitor at 14.8%. Trump’s lead has widened since his first indictment. 

Trump’s campaign said that it raised $15.4 million in the days after his March 30 Manhattan indictment over alleged payments to an adult film star. After federal prosecutors charged him with mishandling classified documents and obstructing efforts to retrieve them, Trump said raised $6.6 million “in just a few short days,” less than half the amount raised after the first indictment. 

The money raised after his first two indictments accounted for 42% of Trump’s $53.9 million haul in the first half of the year. His campaign has not boasted of any fundraising totals that came after Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith charged him over his nationwide efforts to overturn the 2020 election. 

His past court appearances included wall-to-wall footage of his motorcade traveling from his private plane to the courthouse and back. In June, immediately after he was arraigned in Miami over his alleged handling of classified documents, Trump made a stop at a Cuban cafe to campaign. 

That evening, flanked by American flags and speaking from behind a podium with his campaign slogan and the number to sign up for his campaign distribution list, Trump delivered remarks at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club.

He’s scheduled a news conference to address the Georgia indictment in Bedminster on Aug. 21, he said Tuesday on his Truth Social platform. 

“It’s not like he has a choice of dealing with it or not. He has to. He’s simply just trying to put it into the best light possible,” said David Winston, a Republican strategist. “Getting indicted is never a good thing, but the way this has been rolled out by various prosecutors you have many Republicans taking the point of view that they’re just trying to go after Trump.”

Lisa Camooso Miller, a Republican strategist, sees the accumulation of legal woes ultimately having a “corrosive” effect on Trump’s 2024 comeback bid. Voters are increasingly concerned about issues like the economy, she said.

“People tend to say this guy is so distracted how can he help me?” Camooso Miller said.

–With assistance from Bill Allison and Gregory Korte.

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