Democrats expect that Joe Biden’s poor poll numbers against Trump will improve with a victory in courtrooms around the country.
There are four criminal charges against Trump that are scheduled for trial: one in March (about January 6), one in April (regarding hush money paid to Stormy Daniels), one in May (regarding secret materials).
Given that we’ve never seen a former president go to trial for a crime, even a single trial would be unprecedented. The number four is virtually incomprehensible and was unimaginable even a few short years ago.
To make up for Biden’s flaws, Democrats believe that all it takes is one or two convictions to put Trump out of office. This isn’t an unrealistic expectation, but they shouldn’t count on it.
Trump’s legal woes aren’t as politically neutral as Democrats would have you think. A sizeable portion of the population is already treating the indictments with scepticism. However, it is unclear whether the legal proceedings will be more important to voters than the economy and foreign policy, which have traditionally been major platforms for presidents.
Even if Trump were to face legal trouble in the form of a felony conviction, he might still be elected president in 2020.
Take the highly publicised civil fraud case that has been unfolding in Manhattan recently. Trump has made angry press remarks, been sanctioned by the judge, stormed out of the courtroom, and taken the witness stand to slam the proceedings in long, rambling responses, all of which have received extensive media coverage.
He will undoubtedly be found guilty and sentenced to the maximum penalty, thus he is doomed to lose. Trump, however, is battling on a different plane. His unorthodox courtroom behaviour is designed to stress that this is not a conventional legal hearing, which, fact, it isn’t.
It’s unusual for a prosecutor to threaten to go after a political opponent while campaigning, but that’s exactly what New York State Attorney Letitia James did, calling Trump everything from a “con man” to a “illegitimate president.” This is not consistent with a just and equitable system.
It’s unusual for a judge to issue a guilty verdict at the outset of a trial, as Arthur Engoron did.
When Trump took the witness stand, the judge — who had been seriously agitated, to be true — made the unusual declaration that he was not there to hear the testimony of the major witness.
After his testimony, Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba utilised this evidence to attack at the legitimacy of the trial as such.
Is it possible that Trump inflated his wealth? He did, of course. Who else, if anyone, do you think would have faced consequences for these actions? Most likely not, that’s for sure.
After a thorough investigation, federal prosecutors and Manhattan’s district attorney, Alvin Bragg, decided not to pursue criminal charges. After that, James took it on as a civil case, which requires much less proof than a criminal one.
She has also relied on a provision of New York law with astonishingly wide scope, 63(12). The statute can be used without having to prove that someone was duped or that there was any fraudulent intent. My colleague and former prosecutor Andy McCarthy reminds out that although this law has been around since 1956, it had never been utilised in a situation like this previously, when inflated valuations were involved without any actual harm coming to the claimed victims.
After more than fifty years, Trump is the guinea pig. The fact that he and his followers don’t see this as a completely objective demonstration of justice is understandable.
Since Trump’s guilt had already been established by Engoron, the only issue at trial is the severity of the punishment. James is seeking a disgorgement of $250 million from Trump’s business on the grounds that the president defrauded banks into giving him preferential borrowing rates. However, Trump did not miss payments on those loans, and the lending institutions in question undoubtedly conducted their own due diligence. None of them suspected that George Bailey was involved.
The adage “show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime” couldn’t be more appropriate here. Once again, Trump believes he can say or do anything and get away with it, while his opponents are eager to throw their own cherished standards to the wind in an effort to bring him down.
Since Trump’s freedom is at issue, the dynamic has been constant throughout his presidency.
How will this play next year if Trump is the Republican nominee?
ABC’s poll indicated that while 46% of people believe the charges from January 6 are politically motivated, 51% feel they are “very serious” (and another 14% say they are somewhat serious). Similarly, after the Georgia allegations, 50% of respondents felt Trump should withdraw from the race, while 49% said the charges were politically motivated.
This slew of bad news isn’t exactly a disaster for Trump. However, the polls indicates that a felony conviction would be disastrous for him. A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in August indicated that 68% of respondents agreed that a person with a felony conviction should not be eligible for the presidency. If he were convicted of a criminal by a jury, 46% of Republicans said they wouldn’t vote for him, according to a Reuters/Ipsos survey.
It’s unclear if this feeling will persist following a conviction. A conviction, like so many other political occurrences, may shock in the immediate aftermath but be forgotten in the never-ending news cycle. A rerun of “Access Hollywood,” if you will.
A conviction may be overturned for various reasons. According to a survey published in The New York Times, a majority of respondents (17%) believe that Trump has improved their lives, while a majority (18%) believe that Biden has made their lives worse. Will voters, if public opinion remains so polarised, after the 2020 election care that much that Special Counsel Jack Smith successfully prosecuted Trump on a sophisticated legal theory that he cheated the United States with his conduct?
The number of instances may level out rather than increase dramatically in the coming year. There have been numerous motorcades to courthouses. Two of them have been found guilty already. The case slated for January 6 may garner greater attention, but if Trump is found guilty, the trial and any appeals may blend together.
In political terms, Trump doesn’t have to win the debate over his alleged criminal offences so much as fight it to a draw. One can easily picture a debate scenario in which Joe Biden continually refers to Donald Trump as a “convicted felon,” to which Trump replies, “Yeah, at the hands of your own Justice Department.” Is it necessary to pick a side in that debate?
Biden’s got his own problems, too. He won’t even face criminal charges in the influence-peddling scandal that has rocked his family. The Democrats aren’t exactly pitting a saint against a potential criminal by nominating someone who has never done anything wrong. In addition to his other flaws, it is obvious that Biden’s family took millions of money from unscrupulous foreign actors in exchange for influence.
Having said that, the Republican Party would do well to nominate a safer candidate. It’s possible that the Democrats may be taken aback by the fact that Trump’s many court appearances in the coming year won’t have the electoral impact they were anticipating.