If you’re one of those people who often pops up in my social media replies wondering why I can’t come to the conclusion that Donald Trump’s four criminal indictments will actually help him return to the Oval Office at the beginning of 2025, I’d strongly encourage you to watch this clip:
BREAKING – YOUR REACTION: Delighted @HillaryClinton was "special guest" on @MSNBC to celebrate indictment of @realDonaldTrump, says prison will be great accountability, mocks Republicans, says they should stop being part of a cult or follow a demagogue and a fraudster. WATCH pic.twitter.com/5H4DixdiZw
— Simon Ateba (@simonateba) August 15, 2023
Clinton does a passable job there of pretending that she’s more sad than delighted, but her face tells its own story. Those who say that the prosecution of Trump has a political element to it are, of course, and indisputably, correct: The delight amongst Americans of a left-leaning disposition is palpable, and why wouldn’t it be?
That delight might be less palpable, frankly, if Trump was not also the runaway leader, at present, for the Republican nomination. If sending him to prison was simply punishment for past crimes, there’s no doubt there’d be pleasure taken in his plight. But in this case, the prosecution serves a dual punishment: You can at once punish Trump for winning in 2016, and make it a vanishing impossibility that he can win in 2024. A two-fer, if you will.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that more than eight out of every ten dollars that the Trump campaign raises from small donors are now going to pay his legal bills. Those legal bills will continue to mount, as the trial dates for his various cases get closer. And every penny spent on a lawyer is a penny that cannot be spent on a television advert, or a get out the vote effort, in a crucial swing state. Meanwhile, without the bother of a competitive primary, Joe Biden is raking in tens of millions of dollars to spend on his re-election. The one thing that the indictments have guaranteed is that in financial terms, the 2024 election – if Trump is the nominee – will be a financial mismatch.
It does not stop there, because the polling on the indictments is truly extraordinary. Consider this number:
New Data for Progress polling finds that a majority of likely voters (55%), including 53% of Independents, approve of the grand jury’s decision to indict Trump for his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. However, 75% of Republicans disapprove of the grand jury’s decision.
A majority of voters (53%) say that the charges are appropriate to hold Trump accountable, while 39% say the charges are politically driven to attack Trump.
From the point of view of Trump’s Democratic opponents, these numbers literally couldn’t be any better. They show two things: First, that Trump’s various criminal indictments are making him toxic amongst the kind of voters (independents and moderates) that you need to win a general election. Second they show that the indictments are making him even more popular amongst the minority of voters you need to win a Republican primary. In other words, the indictments are successfully convincing Republican voters to nominate a candidate who the general electorate wants nothing to do with.
No wonder Mrs. Clinton looks and sounds so pleased. If she gets really lucky, Joe Biden’s age might catch up with him, and the Democrats at short notice might be forced to turn elsewhere. To where, one wonders, might their lonely eyes look?
The other issue for Trump is that while the charges might indeed have an element of political motivation to them, they are no less serious for that: In Georgia, in the most recent indictment, he stands accused of a conspiracy to over-turn the election in 2020. It is a lot easier to prove a conspiracy to overturn the election when the defendant has all but admitted to it, as Trump has, on multiple occasions. In the documents case, Trump basically admits his own guilt as well, on tape recordings made public. And in the case about the events of January 6th, his own Vice President seems set to testify against him.
This is the problem: Trump appears to be mounting a political defence to a legal problem. “These charges are politically motivated” might well work in a Republican Primary, amongst those most predisposed to think well of him. They are less likely to work in a courtroom, full of lawyers and where fact, not opinion, is the order of the day.
You can like that, or lump it, but both the public polling and the evidence is stacked against him.
No wonder Mrs. Clinton and the Democrats are delighted. If there was a plan here to help Biden in the 2024 election, it really couldn’t be going any better. You’d have to take your hats off to them.