He doesn’t want to be arrested, of course; his delicate ego will suffer terribly. But like all good hucksters, his survival instincts have kicked in. If he’s going to be hauled up in court, he might as well play the victim, milk the situation for what it’s worth, and fire up his raucous voter-base of anti-government protesters and conspiracy theorists. Riots on the streets of New York might give him a little fillip.
As early as last summer, if not before, in Trump’s mind the fear of losing another presidential election had been displaced by the belief only another stint in the White House will save him from the prosecutors who are painstakingly constructing the evidence against him in six criminal cases.
In July, Rolling Stone magazine was told by an associate of Trump that “he says when [not if] he is president again, a new Republican administration will put a stop to the [Justice Department] investigation that he views as the Biden administration working to hit him with criminal charges — or even put him and his people in prison.”
Egotistical politicians who’ve tasted power will do virtually anything to avoid prison – and that definitely includes rewriting the penal code. Look at Silvio Berlusconi.
The first of the cases that might go to court – imminently, according to feverish media reports – centres on claims of Trump’s insalubrious “hush payment”, made via his then lawyer, and subsequent state’s witness, Michael Cohen, to Ms Daniels.
Firing up his supporters over this case might prove doubly effective because, as many legal experts have noted, the strength of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against Trump is questionable.
David French, writing The New York Times, has said that a prosecution would rely on novel legal arguments and “would therefore make for a risky legal case against any defendant”.
If the indictment is made, the Maga mob will be furious. And if, as some legal pundits suspect, the case falls apart, just imagine Trump’s bragging rights.
Already, key Republicans in Congress have come to his defence and attacked the prosecutor.
House Judiciary Chairman, Jim Jordan, said: “It’s obvious that this is a sham…”
House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, who initially criticised Trump’s role in the 6 January, 2021 insurrection, before detecting which way the wind was blowing in the GOP, and then prostrated himself before the party’s Maga wing to win the speakership, said of Bragg’s case: “It’s a political play.”
On the surface, this might seem to strengthen Trump’s position in his party. But equally, it might not.
Ron DeSantis, the man seen as Trump’s strongest rival for the Republican presidential candidacy, has indicated this week that he intends to take on Trump, and that he will use the tycoon’s mounting legal woes against him.
In an interview to be aired Thursday evening on Fox Nation’s Piers Morgan Uncensored, the Florida governor will make his most outspoken criticism yet of the ex-president, in particular, casting doubts about Trump’s character and fitness for office.
“At the end of the day, as a leader, you really want to look to people like our Founding Fathers,” DeSantis says in the interview. “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?… I think the person is more about how you handle your public duties and the kind of character you bring to that endeavour.”
Highlighting his good “Christian values” compared with those of his libertine rival, DeSantis (dubbed Ron DeSanctimonious by Trump) noted at the weekend: “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some kind of alleged affair.”
Trump might get a bounce from the hush-payments indictment – especially if the case falls apart. But you could argue, he doesn’t need to “fire up” his numbskull base. They’d probably vote for him, no matter what.
And there are five other – more serious – legal battles shaping up against Trump. First up will probably be the charge that he tried to nobble the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. The question marks over Trump’s character will only grow. Vital floating voters and moderate Republicans will be repelled by the thought of four more years of chaos. The GOP may wake up to this, and select DeSantis for the 2024 candidacy. Or they could do the mad thing, and let Trump run again.
Either way, Trump loses.