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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)

Trump's Primary Opponents Are Still Scared to Death of Dumping on Him

Such is the hold that Donald Trump has on his supporters that nearly all of his primary rivals are scared silly of even suggesting that he might be guilty of anything. Nearly all of them think that if they dare say that we should wait to see what the evidence is and what the jury says, the angel of political death will call an Uber and arrive in half an hour.

Ron DeSantis, who has the most to gain from Trump being convicted, said: "The DeSantis administration will bring accountability to the DoJ, excise political bias, and end weaponization once and for all." Mike Pence was slightly more cautious. He said: "We're going to clean house all across the top floors, whether it's the Justice Department or whether it's the FBI. I just think we need a whole new team." Nikki Haley accused the government of abusing its powers.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is not up again until 2028, and has more guts than any of the others. She said: "The unlawful retention and obstruction of justice related to classified documents are also criminal matters. Anyone found guilty—whether an analyst, a former president, or another elected or appointed official—should face the same set of consequences." She and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) are the only Republican senators to say the law applies to everyone. Asa Hutchinson said that if Trump is guilty, then he should drop out. Chris Christie initially said he would read the indictment and then comment. After he did, he called the indictment "devastating," but he didn't call for Trump to drop out.

One Republican politician (who is not running for president), Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH), attacked the Republican field for being cowards. He thinks they need to go after Trump or leave. He said: "Either you want to run for president and beat the guy or you don't."

Long-time political operatives expect Trump to get a boost from his second indictment, just as he did from his first one. However, there could well be a difference between how Republican primary voters see it and how independents—who get to vote in the general election—see it. Also, an indictment is one thing. A trial, with lots of evidence presented, potentially followed by a conviction, is something quite different. (V)

Trump's New Indictment Could Further Complicate Kevin McCarthy's Life

It is not just the Republican presidential candidates who are stymied about what to do about Donald Trump's second indictment. It is causing Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) problems as well. As soon as the indictment was released, hard-line House Republicans demanded that McCarthy take action against the DoJ. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) called for dismantling the DoJ. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) said: "Congress must act to restore norms." Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) wants congressional hearings to investigate Special Counsel Jack Smith. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) claimed that the DoJ did not follow protocols related to the search. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) said of the Democrats: "This is the ultimate abuse of power, and they will be held accountable." We seem to recall these same people decreeing that there is zero chance that the law enforcement establishment has systemic issues, and that "defund the police" is a dangerous, commie idea. Hmm, wonder what changed.

What is McCarthy going to do with this? Introduce a bill to abolish the FBI or the DoJ? How will that play with independent voters in 2024? Tell the above members to go jump into the Reflecting Pool? There goes his much-desired speakership. It is hanging by a thread and he doesn't dare offend the hardliners, but he also can't aggravate the 18 moderates in districts Biden won.

There is nothing the Speaker can do to please everyone. The best he can do is make noises about how the DoJ is abusing its power, but actually do nothing to interfere. At most he could tell Jordan to hold hearings if he wants to, but otherwise ignore him. Basically, let all the hardliners grandstand and blow off steam but not take any concrete steps to actually do anything. Will the hardliners accept that? Unless they have 218 votes for a new speaker, they may have to just bloviate and leave it at that.

In contrast, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is keeping quiet and not facing a rebellion. He would greatly prefer that Trump just vanish from the scene, but hasn't said anything about the indictment. The difference between the House and Senate is in gerrymandering. Most House Republicans are from deep red districts so all they do is feed their constituents red meat all day. Most senators come from states with a substantial number of independents, so they are more careful about saying things that might upset them. Consequently, so far, no senator has openly called for the DoJ or FBI to be abolished and few are even defending Trump. Except for Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, most are just watching things closely but not saying much. (V)

The Republican Donor Class Is Looking for Alternatives to Trump

While Republican presidential candidates are wetting their pants or hiding under the table and Republican senators are nearly all silent, there is one key group of Republicans that is worried about the Trump indictment: the big Republican donors. Many of them worry that Donald Trump is toxic and Ron DeSantis is too polarizing to win a general election. They are actively looking for someone else. Big donor Bobbie Kilberg said that dozens of fundraisers had reached out to her asking what to do. Some are eager to help Chris Christie, but there are plenty of other contenders. If the big donors end up splitting and keeping half a dozen candidates alive, it will be "welcome to 2016" or "déjà vu all over again." Of course, if they could all agree on one candidate and pour tens of millions into his or her campaign, that could power the chosen one to become a real contender. So far there is no suggestion that they will all agree, though.

The problem is that even if plenty of big spenders have made it clear that they hate Trump, they don't agree on the alternative. The Club for Growth strongly opposes Trump, but hasn't said who it supports. Charles Koch also hates Trump but also hasn't said who he supports. A few big donors are on board with someone. Larry Ellison, who is worth $130 billion, has supported Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) in the past and is likely to do so again in 2024. Art Pope is backing Mike Pence, but wants to see if the former VP can get small donors behind him.

It is worth noting that candidates almost never drop out because they see they can't win. Their egos are all too big for that. They drop out because the money has dried up and to run a campaign you need money to pay staff, run ads, fly hither and yon, and operate offices. Most of the candidates can't self fund, but if some big donor keeps them afloat, they will just continue and the anti-Trump vote will be split. And as we have mentioned many times before, most Republican primaries are winner-take-all. If Trump can get 30% of the vote in each one, he can easily win the nomination against a crowded field. (V)

New Poll of GOP Primary Voters Has Trump at 61% and DeSantis at 23%

CBS had YouGov do a poll of likely Republican primary voters. It was in the field June 7-10, but after Donald Trump's federal indictment was unsealed, YouGov recontacted about 75% of the respondents, so most of the people polled knew about the new indictment. Here are some of the key results:

  • Desired GOP nominee: Donald Trump 61%, Ron DeSantis 23%, Tim Scott 4%, Mike Pence 4%, Nikki Haley 3%
  • Was the indictment politically motivated?: 76% yes
  • Were the documents a national security threat? 12% yes
  • How will the indictment change your view of Trump? 14% for the better, 7% for the worse, 61% no change
  • If convicted, should Trump be allowed to be president? 80% yes, 20% no
  • Top issues: Inflation (90%), lower taxes (78%), ban abortion nationwide (29%), limit transgender rights (26%)
  • If Trump can't be the nominee what do you want? 74% someone similar to Trump, 26% different from Trump
  • What should Trump talk about? His platform (96%), investigations against him (39%), 2020 election (32%)
  • Should the Democrats run Joe Biden? 14% yes, 86% no

Again, these are the results for Republicans, not the electorate at large. It appears that they are solidly behind Trump and want no substitutes, even if he is convicted of felonies.

While we don't know if things will change if he is convicted, the fact that 80% of the respondents say he should be president anyway, even if convicted, suggests that one or more convictions won't change many Republican minds. What YouGov didn't do is ask independents if they think Trump should be allowed to be president if he is convicted. That is an interesting and important question as registered Republicans make up only 35-40% of the electorate.

On a couple of questions, YouGov separated out MAGA Republicans from other Republicans. One question was how they wanted to govern. Here are the results:

Respondents Work with Dems Ignore Dems Punish Dems
MAGA Republicans 56% 9% 35%
non-MAGA Republicans 80% 10% 10%

Another question was about campaign strategy:

Respondents Appeal to moderates Motivate conservatives
MAGA Republicans 41% 59%
non-MAGA Republicans 55% 45%

It is clear here that the MAGA Republicans are much more right-wing and aggressive than the non-MAGA Republicans. This could give Joe Biden an opening by trying to appeal to the non-MAGA Republicans by saying they are decent people, unlike the deplorables—oh, no, wait, that was someone else's pitch. But worded carefully, it could peel off some of the moderate Republicans who really dislike Trump, Jim Jordan, and the rest.

ABC/Ipsos also released a poll yesterday. It showed that 48% of Americans think Trump should have been charged and 35% think he should not have been charged. Among Democrats, 91% think the charges are serious, among independents it is 63%, and among Republicans it is 38%. (V)

New York Democrats Are Making Progress on Redistricting

As we discussed last week, New York Democrats are potentially interested in regerrymandering their House map in the hope that the new New York Court of Appeals will buy it. And this is more than a hope. They have already gone to court to start the process.

Here is the story. A constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 2014 created an independent commission to draw the maps but gave the legislature the power to reject the first map. In that case, the commission is required to draw a second map. If the legislature rejects that one, too, then it can draw the map. After the 2020 census, the commission drew a map, the legislature rejected it, but the commission never drew the second map. Meanwhile, the courts intervened and drew their own map.

In a lawsuit, state Democrats are now claiming that the court-drawn map was an emergency measure applicable only to 2022 and now the whole process should start all over. In other words, the commission should draw a map, the legislature will reject it, then the commission should draw a second map, and the legislature will reject it, too. Then it can get to work drawing a new gerrymandered map that might pass muster with the new Court of Appeals.

A mid-level appeals court held oral arguments on this case last Thursday. The five judges on it indicated that the Court of Appeals didn't give them much guidance, so it doesn't know what to do. It also doesn't matter what it decides. The case will instantly be appealed to the new Court of Appeals. Democrats are hoping that it will rule that the 2022 emergency map does not apply to 2024 and the whole process should start all over again.

The map that David Wasserman drew and we showed last week could be a prototype for a new map if the courts allow it. It is not as egregious as the original map, but still gives the Democrats a decent shot at picking up five seats, especially in a blue wave. A key issue, of course, is how fast everyone moves on all the moving parts. If the new map is not in place well before the New York State primary, House candidates won't know where the district lines are. Of course, the state legislature could move the primary to mid-October if it wants to. (V)

Governors Matter

The Republican-controlled Arizona state legislature, like so many other Republican-controlled legislatures, just passed a "bathroom bill" that would restrict students to using the bathroom corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificate, require them to stay in the sleeping quarters for children of their birth sex on overnight school trips, etc. Nothing new here. The only difference with the other states is that Arizona governor Katie Hobbs is a Democrat and she promptly vetoed the bill and announced that she would veto any more bills that target LGBTQ youth.

The Republicans have a 16-13 majority in the Arizona state Senate, with one (Democratic-leaning) vacancy. They also have a 31-28 majority in the state House with one (Democratic-leaning) vacancy. Consequently, overriding Hobbs' veto is impossible. The close balance of both chambers means that in 2024, if the Democrats were to pay attention to state races (which they traditionally don't), they would realize they actually have a shot at flipping both the state Senate and the state House. If they win the vacant seats, then they need to flip only two seats in each chamber to take control. Given that Arizona is a swing state now, a Democratic trifecta could repeal all the voter suppression laws passed in the past and pass new election laws—for example, going to an all-mail election, like nearby Utah and Colorado. (V)

Ivanka Has Vanished

With all the fuss about Donald Trump's second indictment, one person seems to be missing in action: Ivanka Trump. She has disappeared from Miami and according to a report, will stay as far from Daddy as she can. The last time her father was indicted, Ivanka said: "I love my father and I love my country. Today, I am pained for both. I appreciate the voices across the political spectrum expressing support and concern." Who expressed concern? Probably Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). That's her speciality. In any event, Ivanka is going to steer clear of all this, lest the Saudis withdraw the $2 billion they gave genius investor Jared Kushner to manage.

In contrast, Melania Trump is said to be standing by her man. That makes sense. Her main concern is her son, Barron Trump, now 17. She wants Donald to pay for his college. By sticking with him for four more years, Barron will be a college graduate and she will no longer be so beholden to her husband. She lived separately from him for years, in Potomac, MD, with Barron and her parents, but when he moved to Florida, she joined him.

Once Barron has graduated from college, Melania could divorce her husband and ghost-write the mother of all tell-all books, but not yet. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun11 Sunday Mailbag
Jun10 I'm So Indicted
Jun10 Saturday Q&A
Jun09 Re-Indicted
Jun09 Paxton Associate Arrested
Jun09 Anti-McCarthy Rebellion Continues
Jun09 SCOTUS Strikes Down Racial Gerrymander in Alabama
Jun09 Pat Robertson Is Dead
Jun09 This Week in Schadenfreude: And It Feels So Good
Jun09 This Week in Freudenfreude: The Sultan of Slowjamastan
Jun08 Some Bad News and Some Good News for Trump Yesterday
Jun08 The Decapitator Speaks
Jun08 Pence Calls for New Leadership--for Example, His
Jun08 Doug Who? Is In
Jun08 Chris Licht Is Out at CNN
Jun08 Is DeSantis Making a Faustian Bargain with the Electorate?
Jun08 Candidates Use T-shirts to Qualify for Debate
Jun08 What Are the Easiest Paths for the Republicans to Win the Presidency in 2024?
Jun08 The Democrats House Plan Has Leaked Out
Jun08 What Might a New York Gerrymander Look Like?
Jun07 More Legal Trouble for Trump
Jun07 The Freedom Caucus Strikes Back
Jun07 LIV Golf, PGA Tour Merge
Jun07 What Mike Pence's Presidential "Lane" Looks Like
Jun07 "George Santos" Ordered to Reveal Bond Co-Signers
Jun07 Approval Ratings Are a Mystery, Worldwide (Part III)
Jun07 Maybe This Explains Biden's Approval Rating
Jun07 Tracking Poll, June 2023, Senate Edition
Jun06 The Presidential Field Looks to Be (Almost) Set
Jun06 DeSantis May Cede One of His Biggest Advantages over Trump...
Jun06 ...And DeSantis Has Another Big Problem in Comparison to Trump
Jun06 Anti-Drag Law Struck Down
Jun06 Churchgoers Are Losing Their Grip on the Republican Party
Jun06 Talking about Abortion, Part IX: P.S.' Story
Jun06 Tracking Poll, June 2023, Presidential Edition
Jun05 Biden Clinches the Deal
Jun05 Political Winners and Losers from the Debt Deal
Jun05 It's Cattle Call Time
Jun05 DeSantis' Fundraising Is from Rich Donors
Jun05 Trump and DeSantis Are Already Getting Nasty with Each Other
Jun05 Jack Smith's Grand Jury Will Meet Again This Week
Jun05 Willis Is Now Looking Beyond Georgia for Trump's Crimes
Jun05 RNC Issues Criteria for Making the Debate Stage
Jun05 Iowa Will Require Caucusgoers to Be Present in Person
Jun05 The Economy Is Roaring
Jun05 Both Parties Hope to Rebound in 2024
Jun05 How Can Biden Handle It If His Son Is Indicted?
Jun04 Sunday Mailbag
Jun03 Saturday Q&A
Jun02 Our Long National Nightmare Is (Almost) Over