US conservatives see former US President Donald Trump’s possible arrest as further reinvigorating his base ahead of the 2024 election.
On March 18, Donald Trump signaled that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday in connection with an ongoing investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg concerning Trump’s alleged 2016 payment of $130,000 in hush money to adult movie star Stormy Daniels via his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
The DA’s inquiry into the “hush money case” was earlier condemned by the former president as a partisan “witch hunt.” Having warned about his possible arrest, Trump called on his supporters on Saturday to “protest, take our nation back!”
US conservatives believe Trump’s arrest may further energize his supporters.
“If this happens, Trump will be re-elected in a landslide victory,” Tesla CEO and Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted on Saturday.
“If the Manhattan DA indicts President Trump, he will ultimately win even bigger than he is already going to win,” echoed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in a lengthy statement.
House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik also stated that the potential development is likely to bolster the America First movement.
“What these corrupt Leftist prosecutors like Alvin Bragg and their Socialist allies fail to understand is that America First Patriots have never been so energized to exercise their constitutional rights to peacefully organize and vote at the ballot box to save our great republic,” she highlighted, adding that the apparent intent to arrest Trump is a “continuation of the disgraceful and unconstitutional pattern going back to the illegal Russian collusion hoax.”
GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy immediately reacted to Trump’s statement by announcing that he has directed House committees to probe whether federal funds are being used for “politically motivated prosecutions”:
“Here we go again — an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance against President Trump,” McCarthy tweeted.
Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy called the probe into Trump “persecution, not prosecution” and urged Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis to join him in a condemnation of this action. Nikki Haley earlier officially tossed her hat into the ring of the 2024 election, while DeSantis has not announced his plans yet.
“A Trump indictment would be a national disaster. It is un-American for the ruling party to use police power to arrest its political rivals,” Ramaswamy tweeted.
What Does the US Constitution Say About Indicted & Convicted Presidential Candidates?
Trump can’t be barred from running for re-election even if he is indicted and marched into prison, unless he strikes a plea deal that includes foreswearing public office, according to the US mainstream press. The crux of the matter is that the US Constitution does not list the absence of a criminal record as a qualification for the presidency.
As per constitutional experts, the US Supreme Court earlier ruled that Congress cannot add qualifications to the office of the president. What’s more, a state cannot ban an indicted or convicted individual from running for federal office. This means that neither the US Congress nor New York state authorities can prevent Trump from proceeding with his 2024 bid over the “hush money case” or other cases.
Previously, Trump condemned all probes underway against him and vowed that criminal charges wouldn’t stop him.
“Oh, absolutely, I won’t even think about leaving,” Trump told reporters earlier this month. “Probably, it’ll enhance my numbers.”
The US mainstream press admitted that an indictment or even conviction of the former president wouldn’t dishearten his base. Quite the contrary, it could give him additional political points. The media has drawn attention to the fact that Trump benefited from both of his congressional impeachments among MAGA Republicans. However, the ongoing legal scandal might not go over well with US swing voters, and may become a source of additional strength for DeSantis (should he run), the media presumes.
Trump’s ‘Hush Money Case’ is Deeply Flawed
Meanwhile, legal experts argue that Trump’s case is based on shaky legal and ethical ground.
While the exact charges in the “hush money case” have not been announced so far, legal scholars allege that the Manhattan DA’s indictment would cite falsifying business records under New York Section 175 in relation to payments to his former attorney, Michael Cohen. Cohen served jail time after pleading guilty to using campaign finances in relation to Daniels. The DA’s potential charge could be based on Trump’s labeling his reimbursement of Cohen as a “legal expense,” as prosecutors argue that it actually was not.
11 days prior to the 2016 presidential election, Cohen, approached Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) and asked her to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) about an alleged affair with Trump between 2006 and 2007. He paid her $130,000. Supposedly, Cohen was later reimbursed. Trump has repeatedly denied having had an affair with the adult movie star.
“The payments were made to a lawyer, not to Stormy Daniels,” Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, argued last week, talking to a US broadcaster. “The payments were made to Donald Trump’s lawyer, which would be considered legal fees. Michael Cohen … was his lawyer at the time and advised him that this was the proper way to do this to protect himself and his family from embarrassment. It’s as simple as that.”
However, prosecutors could say that the money Trump paid to Cohen went to Stormy Daniels and was therefore not a legal fee. Thus, by qualifying it as a legal fee in its books, Trump’s organization could have falsified business records.
There are also speculations that the DA could convert the case, which is currently considered a misdemeanor, into a Class E felony, if he can prove that the former president’s alleged “intent to defraud involved further criminal intent to either hide the commission of another crime or to assist in the commission of that other crime.”
Jonathan Turley, a renowned criminal defense attorney, tweeted on March 18, that “this is a flawed case if it is based on a state charge effectively prosecuting the federal election violation. That federal case was rejected by the Justice Department. There are also statute of limitation questions that could come into play.” Turley also quoted “considerable challenges for a conviction.”
Previously, federal prosecutors reportedly did not consider charging Trump over the payments, as the Justice Department instructed them that a sitting president can’t be indicted, according to the US press. Federal prosecutors also looked into the case after Trump left the Oval Office, but decided not to seek an indictment considering the issue “trivial and outdated.”
Another US prominent lawyer, attorney and law professor Alan Dershowitz, stated on Saturday that Trump may be convicted in New York, “because the jury pool will be very much against Trump and the judges will be very much against Trump,” but that the former president will probably ultimately win on appeal. “There is no crime here,” Dershowitz told the US media in relation to Trump’s case.
Meanwhile, legal experts warn Trump against resorting to inflammatory rhetoric, citing his call for protests. These calls have already been used by Trump’s antagonists to draw parallels with the Capitol Riots.
“It’s eerily similar to the battle cry that he put out just prior to the January 6th insurrection, you know, especially including the call, you know, for protest,” ex-Trump lawyer Cohen, who later turned against his former client, said in an interview with the US media on Saturday. “And I agree … it would have been smart for Donald to write ‘peaceful protest,’ but he doesn’t want a peaceful protest.”