Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Trump Won't Drop Out Even If He Is Convicted

On Saturday, Donald Trump spoke at state GOP conventions in Georgia and North Carolina and told the adoring delegates that he would not drop out of the presidential race even if he is convicted. He wouldn't have to, even after a conviction and imprisonment. Nothing in the Constitution prevents imprisoned felons from running for president. Eugene Debs did it in 1920 and Lyndon LaRouche did it in 1992.

Trump was given a hero's welcome at both conventions. He said the charges against him were baseless and ridiculous, and that this is a witch hunt. Trump riled up the attendees by saying: "In the end, they're not coming after me. They're coming after you." After all, many of his supporters also have dozens of boxes of classified defense documents in their bathrooms, right? Trump did leave open the possibility of a plea deal—provided the government paid him enough money for inconveniencing him. Trump sees his indictments as a business opportunity and a way to raise money. He always turns bad news into a fundraising pitch and it has always worked in the past, so why not now? It's always about the money.

Trump also poked Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). He said: "Never change your name in the middle of a campaign." The Florida governor has used both "Deh-Santis" and "Dee-Santis" recently. At least he has been consistent about the "Santis" part. "DeSanta" wouldn't be plausible because reindeer can't live in a semitropical climate.

Trump also brought up that old chestnut, Hillary's e-mail server, the most famous e-mail server in the world—even more famous than Google's, although Google's is much bigger. One point that Trump never mentions, however, and which is critical, is that Trump wasn't indicted for merely having the documents. He was indicted for knowing that he had classified documents and refusing to give them back when specifically asked to and even taking active measures to hide them and then lying to the FBI about it. Hillary was sloppy and shouldn't have used her private e-mail server for work e-mail, but she never actively tried to hide classified documents and never refused a request to return them.

Many of Trump's supporters are not taking the indictments well. Pretend governor of Arizona Kari Lake, who is campaigning for vice president now (although she could later switch to a Senate run), was present at the Georgia state convention even though she is not a Georgia voter. She said: "I have a message tonight for Merrick Garland and Jack Smith and Joe Biden—and the guys back there in the fake news media, you should listen up as well, this one is for you. If you want to get to President Trump, you are going to have go through me, and you are going to have to go through 75 million Americans just like me. And I'm going to tell you, most of us are card-carrying members of the N.R.A." However, she wanted to be clear, so she added: "That's not a threat, that's a public service announcement." The crowd cheered. No doubt Trump took notice. After all, the job of the vice presidential nominee is to be an attack dog, and practice makes perfect.

Experts on political violence say that aggressive language by high-profile people creates a harmful atmosphere, even if it doesn't lead to immediate violence because it tells other people that violence is acceptable in service of "the cause." Lake's remarks weren't even the most aggressive response to the indictment. On his talk show, Pete Santilli said that if he were the commandant of the Marine Corps, he would order "every single Marine to grab President Biden, throw him in freakin' zip ties in the back of a freakin' pickup truck and get him out of the White House." Santilli's guest Lance Migliaccio said that if it were legal and he had the chance, he would shoot Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Trump has attacked Milley repeatedly in the past. These remarks are far from being the only ones threatening violence on account of the indictment. We don't dare imagine what will happen if Trump is convicted.

While it is very early for wild speculation, how about one paragraph of it? Jack Smith has said he wants a speedy trial. Suppose he gets it and Trump has been convicted prior to the Republican National Convention July 15-18, 2024 in Milwaukee but won't drop out. Also suppose that Trump's base sticks with him but independents flee and multiple polls show Biden crushing Trump 55%-45% or worse. Would the RNC change the rules to unbind the bound delegates and hope they pick a different nominee who could win and not drag the whole ticket down? This scenario is probably giving RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel nightmares already. Even worse for her: what if the conviction or rejected final appeal comes after the convention? (V)

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