Democrats have a reputation for hand-wringing, but party strategists say a possible indictment of former President Donald Trump is not the time to do so.
Democrats are concerned a New York state grand jury indicting Trump for covering up hush money payments his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, made to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 in exchange for her silence about their alleged affair will overshadow or jeopardize other investigations being conducted by Georgia state prosecutors and federal authorities, specifically the inquiries into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. There are also worries Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will overcomplicate the case by alleging a $130,000 six-year-old felony was committed and by relying on convicted liar Cohen after his federal counterparts declined to prosecute.
Some Democrats, including strategist Garry South, are candid about their disappointment Trump is not likely to “be indicted first on a more serious charge involving his attempts to carry out a coup and destroy our democracy.”
“But I believe anyone who argues that an indictment for the hush money payments actually strengthens Trump is misreading the potential impact,” South told the Washington Examiner. “It no doubt will enhance his standing among the ‘MAGA’ fanatics who see a conspiracy around every corner, but he actually lost the  election because that base wasn’t enough to carry him to a second term.”
“Among the reasonable Republicans and independent voters who cost him his reelection, especially suburban and college-educated women, this particular indictment will likely just affirm what an amoral sleazeball Trump actually is,” the California Democrat said.
Another Democratic strategist underscored how “weak cases based on weak evidence” against Trump “aren’t helpful,” though he was cognizant pundits, such as himself, are speculating about the politics of a possible indictment without being privy to the evidence the grand jury has heard.
“Strong cases based on strong evidence could further damage Trump,” he said. “Whatever cases are filed, whenever they are filed, should be strong cases based on strong evidence.”
A separate strategist discouraged Democratic conjecture about the politics of the Trump investigations since that “very Washington argument” exacerbates the perception the inquiries are political and not legal. She emphasized, too, that “it doesn’t matter what order these cases go in,” “what matters is they [are] done by the book, by the law, thoroughly, fairly, correctly.”
“People are concerned that justice delayed is justice denied, that he may never be held to account,” the strategist said. “Some people think they get one swing, and that’s not how to look at it. In a democracy, everyone is treated the same. Donald Trump is a former elected official. He is now a private citizen.”
“The stakes are really high, and you can tell they are by the way he’s acting,” she added. “It was the frantic all-caps maniac messaging on all of it that it was inescapable. You can tell he’s threatened.”
Another Democratic strategist agreed the party should not “waste time worrying about the timing of indictments,” among other considerations, because they are out of its control.
“What those of us who care about the rule of law can do is be sure to tell a complete story of the wrongdoing of the previous president and stress that no person is above the law,” she said. “It does not matter if it’s for using campaign funds illegally to pay off a mistress or election interference and intimidation. It’s all wrong, and if the evidence supports an indictment, then he should be indicted.”
To that end, Third Way think tank co-founder and Clinton administration alumnus Matt Bennett criticized Republicans for amplifying Trump’s claims the New York prosecutors are politically motivated or for keeping quiet after the ex-president encouraged protests.
“That is dangerous in the short term, raising the real risk of violence, and it’s damaging to our constitutional system in the long term,” he said. “No one is above the law, except, apparently, for their favorite strongman. That is profoundly un-American.”
Former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, for example, described a New York indictment as being “more about revenge than it is about justice.”
“From everything I have seen from this New York district attorney is that this would be something he’d be doing for political points,” the 2024 Republican presidential candidate told Fox News. “The country would be better off talking about things that the American public is, cares about than to sit there and have to deal with some revenge by some political people in New York.”
Meanwhile, former Chuck Schumer aide and Aggressive Progressive podcast host Christopher Hahn is adamant he has no concerns about any New York indictment.
“This will be the first of many indictments for Trump, and someone had to be first,” he said. “To quote John Adams, ‘we are a nation of laws, not men.’ No one is above the law, and karma comes for us all.”