Donald Trump indictment: What to watch if former president is arrested

Donald J. Trump
Former President Donald J. Trump watches the NCAA Wrestling Championships, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Donald Trump indictment: What to watch if former president is arrested

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A Manhattan grand jury is meeting Wednesday and is expected to vote on whether to indict former President Donald Trump in its investigation into hush-money payments his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, made to Stormy Daniels in 2016 — which could mark the first time a former U.S. president has been delivered criminal charges in the nation’s history.

Trump began decrying the grand jury’s decision on whether to indict him over the weekend, posting on Truth Social that he was anticipating his arrest on Tuesday. He has called for people to “protest” and “take our nation back,” prompting law enforcement officials in New York and Washington, D.C., among other cities, to prepare for possible unrest or violence similar to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol.

TRUMP SAYS GETTING SHOT DURING ARREST WOULD WIN HIM THE PRESIDENCY IN 2024: REPORT

Here is what the public should pay attention to, should an indictment be handed down.

How will Manhattan’s DA handle the charges?

Trump’s indictment could come as early as Wednesday, following testimony from Cohen and Cohen’s onetime lawyer, Robert Costello.

If the former president is indicted, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his prosecutors are likely to work with Trump’s legal counsel to make the affair as smooth as possible to avoid any excessive exposure or publicity stunts that have already stemmed from speculation.

Trump would be arraigned in New York, and he has reportedly told both his advisers and Secret Service detail that he wants to do it in person, not over video in a remote location, for fear of appearing weak. However, he is unlikely to be held in Manhattan while the legal case continues, allowing him to continue racking in support for his 2024 presidential campaign.

How will Trump react to an indictment?

As the former president already drew massive amounts of attention to the fact that he possibly could be arrested, citing “illegal leaks” and “highly political” vendettas from prosecutors, an indictment is likely to create additional fireworks.

Some reports indicate Trump wants to be handcuffed while making his initial in-person court appearance, reasoning that if he is going to be fingerprinted and sitting for a mug shot, he might as well turn the event into a show to gain support and notoriety ahead of the election.

He also said he did not care if someone shot at him because it would make him “a martyr” and would likely secure his win of the presidency.

Trump has already weaponized the looming charges for political gain, showing that he is a target of a politically motivated judicial system that he would reconstruct if he became president in 2024.

How will GOP lawmakers react?

Several Republican lawmakers, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), have blasted the investigation and looming indictment as a political vendetta against Trump and a methodical distraction from other problems.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has vocally supported efforts to condemn the actions against Trump and vowed to open an investigation into Bragg and his office, calling his case an “outrageous abuse of power.” However, McCarthy broke from Trump in calling for protests, saying he didn’t think people “should protest this,” and he didn’t believe Trump actually meant for people to protest in the same manner as he did for the Jan. 6 insurrection.

GOP lawmakers in the House have requested testimony from Bragg, saying that his case is committing “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority: the indictment of a former President of the United States and current declared candidate for that office,” per a letter Jordan and other House Republicans wrote to Bragg. They are also seeking documentation and communications relating to the case.

Bragg has said he will not be “intimidated” by GOP politicians attempting to “undermine the judicial process, nor will we let baseless accusations deter us from fairly applying the law.”

How will this affect the 2024 race?

Trump’s support among Republican voters has grown significantly since the announcement of a possible indictment.

A Morning Consult poll shows Trump leading Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) 54% to 26%, a 28-percentage-point advantage. Polls have gone back and forth, showing DeSantis leading over Trump or vice versa, but the news of an indictment of the former president has boosted support for Trump.

However, an indictment could also swing in favor of other GOP contenders in the long term. GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence have continued to push for someone other than Trump moving forward, and DeSantis said on Monday that he has never used hush money to cover up an affair — a sign that GOP primary candidates may use this as a way to edge Trump out of the primary.

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While an indictment may boost Trump’s support among his own supporters, Republicans are worried that it could drive more moderate Republican and independent voters toward the Democrats, as they may not be able to look past all the baggage and scandal surrounding the former president.

“An indictment is not like Democrats going after him in the Oval Office,” a strategist who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign told the Hill. “This is of his own making.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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