The looming potential indictment of former President Donald Trump by the Manhattan district attorney has dominated news coverage this week. So why are so many folks in Trumpworld determined to make Ron DeSantis’ reaction the main story?
The looming potential indictment of former President Donald Trump by the Manhattan district attorney has dominated news coverage this week. A Trump indictment would shake up the 2024 campaign and put Trump in legal jeopardy. So why are so many folks in Trumpworld determined to make Ron DeSantis’ reaction the main story?
- Trump could be indicted by a Manhattan grand jury as soon as this week. Trump could be charged with falsifying business records by using an “untested legal theory.” The charges are in connection to “hush money” payments made during the final weeks of the 2016 campaign to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels, a porn star who alleged she and Trump had an affair in 2006.
- Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen made a $130,000 payment to Daniels in 2016 before being reimbursed by Trump through the Trump Organization, which categorized the “hush money” payments as “legal expenses.” Also in 2016, Cohen made a $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who also allegedly had an affair with Trump. Cohen pled guilty for his role in the scheme.
- Alvin Bragg, the left-wing Manhattan district attorney backed by progressive megadonor George Soros, convened a new grand jury this year after previous efforts by federal, state, and local prosecutors to charge Trump over the 7-year-old “hush money” payments fell flat. The investigation has started and stopped so frequently it’s known as a “zombie case,” per Reuters.
- Bragg, who has lowered penalties for many felonies and faced criticism for his “soft on crime” policies, apparently has finally found a crime worth prosecuting. Bragg plans to employ a “novel legal theory” to prosecute what would typically be a misdemeanor as a felony, despite concerns about the statue of limitations and widespread criticism that the prosecution is inherently political.
- Absent from this sordid story of partisan prosecutors, “hush money” payments to porn stars, adultery and “novel legal theories” is the Governor of Florida. Yet, many voices on the Trump-aligned right are seemingly determined to make DeSantis’ response to Trump’s alleged coverup of an extramarital affair the real story, not Trump’s conduct or Bragg’s overreach.
- DeSantis attacked “Soros DA” Bragg as a “menace to society” when he addressed the potential indictment at a Monday press conference. DeSantis did reference the underlying actions behind the indictment, saying, “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair… I’ve got real issues I’ve got to deal with here in the state of Florida.”
- Rather than attack the prosecutor, Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., and other Trump-aligned figures focused their outrage on the Governor of Florida. In all likelihood, “no matter what DeSantis said, he would have gotten hit by Trump and his supporters because he appears poised to enter the presidential race in the next few months.”
- DeSantis dismissed the flurry of attacks from Trump as “just background noise” in a Tuesday interview with Piers Morgan. DeSantis dinged Trump on his “underlying conduct” – had Trump not allegedly cheated on his wife, this entire controversy wouldn’t be happening – in the interview.
- “At the end of the day as a leader, you really want to look to people like our Founding Fathers, like what type of character, it’s not saying that you don’t ever make a mistake in your personal life, but I think what type of character are you bringing?” asked DeSantis. “I think the person is more about how you handle your public duties and the kind of character you bring to that endeavor.”
- DeSantis promised his likely 2024 campaign would be squarely focused on defeating President Joe Biden, and not on Donald Trump’s “daily drama.” On the holier-than-thou “outrage” from Trump figures who’ve been attacking DeSantis for months and are now appalled that he’s fired back at his critics, DeSantis just had this to say: “”It’s not important for me to be fighting with people on social media. It’s not accomplishing anything for the people I represent.”
- In response to Trump’s nicknames like “RonDeSanctimonious,” DeSantis simply pointed at the scoreboard: “I mean you can call me whatever you want, just as long as you also call me a winner because that’s what we’ve been able to do in Florida, is put a lot of points on the board and really take this State to the next level.”
- The Washington Post reported on how the Trump 2024 campaign is preparing for their “new normal”: campaigning while under indictment. The campaign has taken the unusual tack of demanding their primary foes show loyalty to their main competitor on two issues – personal conduct and legal troubles – that are natural attack lines for any primary rivals. Good luck with that.
- Reporting from Mar-a-Lago, New York Times journalists Maggie Haberman and Michael C. Bender write that Trump has told associates he is “ready for his perp walk.” The former president appears to be more concerned with appearing “defiant” and “projecting strength” rather than addressing the actual legal case he’s facing.
- CNN broke down the political and legal implications of a Trump indictment. An indictment would challenge Trump’s dominance over the Republican Party, and even if it does not hurt his chances at winning the primaries, it would likely weigh on the former President in the general election – considering he was defeated in 2020 without the albatross of an indictment around his neck. An indictment could further harden partisan divides and Trump’s calls to protests have been likened in the media to his inflammatory statements leading up to the Jan. 6 riots.
- Fox News reported few Trump supporters have heeded his call to “PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST” his potential indictment. Anti-Trump demonstrators far outnumbered pro-Trump activists outside of the Manhattan DA’s office on Tuesday.
- Commentary’s Abe Greenwald wrote Bragg has enabled a “Trump resurrection.” After Bragg “extended a lifeline” to the former President, “Trump occupies center stage once again, all his lurid depravities ready to distort American politics anew. And it’s going to make everything much worse.” Bragg’s “alchemical legal process,” which depends on the testimony of the “uniquely dishonest” Michael Cohen, has created a case that “no matter the outcome, it will be very bad for the country.”
- In National Review, Noah Rothman argued that DeSantis’ response has exposed “Trump World’s glass jaw.” Despite Trump’s “5-part plan” to destroy DeSantis, at the first punch-back from the Florida Governor Trump and his allies “melted down like a graphite-moderated reactor.” Rothman continued, “The fragility DeSantis’s artful needling exposed puts the lie to the notion that Trump and the delicate egos with whom he is surrounded can take the kind of heat that they routinely dish out…If this is how Trump and his acolytes respond to a glancing blow, just imagine how they’ll respond when the Florida governor starts throwing real punches.”
© Dominic Moore, 2023