We still don't know if Donald Trump will be arrested tomorrow, as he claims. We think that is unlikely because his television lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, has said that if Trump is indicted, he will surrender without resistance, and there isn't much time for that to happen by Tuesday. Still, the fact that the police are making plans for dealing with a potential riot suggests that an indictment is likely this week. In fact, Bragg sent a memo to his staff Saturday assuring them that their safety was his top priority. In any event, the spin has already begun.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) bravely announced that he would direct relevant committees to investigate if any federal funding is being used to "subvert our democracy." Note to Kevin if you are reading this: Bragg is the New York County D.A. He works for the State of New York. He is not funded by the federal government. You are better off holding your fire until special prosecutor Jack Smith reports back. He is a supported by federal funding. (Though, so what?)
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the #3 Republican in the House, said that the "Radical Left" will have Trump arrested because they know they cannot defeat him in an election." She also said this is un-American and reaching a dangerous new low of Third World countries.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) sensed a chance to be in the news, so she tweeted: "If the Manhattan DA indicts President Trump, he will ultimately win even bigger than he is already going to win. And those Republicans that stand by and cheer for his persecution or do nothing to stop it will be exposed to the people and will be remembered, scorned, and punished by the base. President Trump did nothing wrong and has always fought for the American people, and we all know it, which is why we love him."
Sen. J.D. Vance was asked if he would withdraw his endorsement of Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination if he were indicted. He said: "The answer is: 'hell, no.'"
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said: "They're making stuff up that they never used against anybody because they hate Trump." A few other of the Trumpier Republicans also piped up. The real party heavyweights, by contrast, were conspiculously silent, although in fairness, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is recovering at home from a concussion. However, Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) could have said something and he hasn't.
Not every Republican defended Trump though. Chris Christie went on ABC's The Week yesterday and said: "But the vision of a former president of the United States being processed, fingerprinted, mugshot-ed—you know, what else do we expect Trump to say than to say it helps his campaign? But being indicted, I don't think it ever helps anybody."
It will be interesting (and crucial) to see what the actual charges are. If Trump is indicted for failing to report an election expense (the payment to Stormy Daniels), it is indeed a weak case. Trump's lawyers will argue that he made the payment, but to avoid personal embarrassment and/or to keep Melania from finding out. Convincing a jury beyond a reasonable doubt could be tough, even in Manhattan.
But Bragg might indict Trump for falsifying business records and tax evasion. That could be a stronger case. Trump apparently did deduct the $420,000 reimbursement to former fixer Michael Cohen from his company's income as a business deduction for legal fees. Then the case would hinge on whether Cohen did $420,000 worth of legal work for that money. If Cohen was an actual paid employee of the Trump Organization, he wouldn't be submitting bills for legal work. Doing legal work was his job. If he wasn't an actual employee, then Trump will be asked to show Cohen's invoice for services rendered worth $420,000. How much work that represents depends on Cohen's hourly rate. Bragg could have other Manhattan lawyers testify about how much a lawyer with Cohen's skills and abilities could charge. He's not David Boies. And he's certainly not Gloria Allred. Suppose he charges $400/hour (just a guess), but probably on the high side for a fairly mediocre lawyer like Cohen. The $420,000 would represent 1050 hours of work. That's 131 days' or 4 months' work. Can Trump explain what legal work Cohen did for him full time for 4 months? Was there any work product delivered or report he wrote giving his findings? When a lawyer works for 4 months full time, the report can't just be an oral statement: "Yes, what you want is legal" or "No, what you want is illegal." A few footnotes are needed. The New York Times has a story on the possible charges Trump might face.
Although we don't know how the coming indictment(s) will play out politically, some people have started to speculate. In the short run, they could work in Trump's favor. He is great at playing the victim and the people in his base see themselves as victims, in complete contrast to the historical view that Americans are winners and can achieve anything. He is very lucky that the New York case is the weakest and hardest to understand of all the pending cases, but unlucky in that the probable second one (threatening an election official in Georgia) is very easy to understand). Trump will likely get small-dollar donors to pony up and he will raise a lot of money. Having lots of peaceful protests will probably help him, but if they turn violent, it will remind everyone of Jan. 6 and that won't help at all with independents and Democrats.
For the Republican Party as a whole, indictments will cause trouble. Every candidate for every office from president to deputy assistant dogcatcher is going to be asked if Trump is guilty. This forces them to take positions that might help in the primaries but probably won't help in the general election. Or positions that will be deadly in the primaries, and... well, forget about the general, RINO. Also, some people are going to be thinking: "What if Trump wins the election but is sentenced to prison in Georgia?" The Republicans among them might think that someone else would make a better nominee. Mike Madrid, one of the founders of the Lincoln Project, summed up the situation by saying: "The intensity of a shrinking base is not the sign of a growing movement. It's the sign of a dwarf star imploding." (V)