Sunday, March 19, 2023
Donald Trump was the Republican nominee for president in the 2016 and 2020 election cycles, winning once and losing once. Now he’s declared a run for 2024, but he faces a mountain of legal and political troubles that threaten to derail his train. Or does he? Let’s “brunch” on that this week.
“The Eye of the ‘Stormy’” – Former porn star Stormy Daniels met with prosecutors in New York City this past week. The impetus was hush money paid to Daniels by Donald Trump’s organization. Towards the end of Trump’s successful presidential run in 2016, Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen said he paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump in 2006. Trump denies it ever happened, but paid Daniels for what he called “extortion.”
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“The Plot Thickens” – While Daniels was talking with prosecutors this week, Cohen was testifying before a federal grand jury about the very same matter. Coincidence? I wonder? As many people do these days, Daniels went to Twitter to plead her case tweeting a thank you to her lawyers for, “helping me in our continuing fight for truth and justice.” Cohen has already pleaded guilty to paying Daniels for her silence and also paying former Playboy bunny Karen McDougal $150,000 with campaign funds to keep quiet about an affair she claimed with Trump, which he also denies. It makes no difference whether there was any sex, consensual, or otherwise. The big no-no was that Cohen used campaign funds for the payoffs.
“So, Where Does Trump Fit In?” — Well, with Cohen already pleading guilty to the illegal payments, the big question is whether he can prove Donald Trump ordered him to make such payments, essentially making Trump an accomplice to federal campaign finance law violations. Some of the funds were also claimed by the Trump organization as “legal expenses.” Falsifying business payments can also get you in hot water with the IRS. So, Trump has a potentially double-edged legal problem.
“Why the Added Security?” – Late Friday, the Associated Press reported that four sources told it that law enforcement in Manhattan was drawing up security plans should the grand jury recommend an indictment of Trump. We’ve never had a current or former president charged with a crime. This is uncharted territory. According to the AP, the four law enforcement sources, “described the conversations as preliminary and are considering security, planning and the practicalities of a potential court appearance by a former president.” Then on Saturday, Trump himself went on social media to say he, “will be arrested on Tuesday of next week.”
“What Say the People?” – A Quinnipiac University Poll released this past Thursday shows no apparent ill-will towards Trump, not just yet anyway. In a straight-up two-candidate match-up, Trump leads Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Florida, 51 to 40 percent. When you toss in other declared or potential candidates, Trump shines even more. In a more crowded field, Trump takes 46 percent of the vote, to 32 percent for DeSantis. Former Gov. Nikki Haley (R) South Carolina comes in at five percent, and former Vice President Mike Pence is at three percent. Sen. Tim Scott (R) South Carolina and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are considering a run but polled in the weeds.
“So Does Anyone Care?” – The sex question is easy. Most people just don’t care if Bill Clinton had affairs, or if Donald Trump had affairs. Look, the rumors were out there well before they landed in the Oval Office, but they still won. Just remember, their impeachments and legal troubles were for other reasons. Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury, for lying under oath to a federal judge about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. It wasn’t for the affair. And Trump’s legal troubles will be surrounded by whether he spent federally regulated campaign funds to cover up two affairs. I get that titillating sexual details grab the headlines, but it’s the related financial and legal liability questions that drive any potential prosecution or impeachment.
“Florida Versus Florida” – 2024 is fascinating because it potentially pits two top politicians from the very same state. 2016 was interesting because Trump and Hillary Clinton both were the nominees from the State of New York, something that has rarely happened. Now, Trump has changed his legal residence to Florida and is competing against another Floridian in DeSantis. They are both taking shots at each other. DeSantis said in his State of the State Address his leadership turned Florida into a powerhouse. “We defied the experts. We bucked the elites. We ignored the chatter. We did it our way, the Florida way,” DeSantis told lawmakers in Tallahassee. “And the result is that we are the number one destination for our fellow Americans who are looking for a better life.”
“So, Who Else Gets In?” – Keep in mind, Gov. DeSantis has yet to declare his bid but is widely expected to do so. Then there are those who envision a Trump-DeSantis “dream team” which may give DeSantis a better glide path in 2028 when Trump is termed out. Certainly, Mike Pence will not be the Trump running mate in 2024. Trump and Nikki Haley have been sniping at each other but could “kiss and make up” (sorry for the visual), and be a force in 2024. I’ve always thought that if the party was severely fractured, that former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) Florida and former Gov. John Kasich (R) Ohio, could be called in from the bullpen for a ninth-inning save. Remember both states are “must wins” for the GOP to get the keys to the White House. But keep in mind that at the age of 44, DeSantis may be viable for the next five election cycles.
“The Wild Card Round” – I’ve said it here before, and I will say it again. I think neither Trump nor Biden will be their party’s standard bearer in 2024. Nor do I think either of their VPs – Pence or Harris – will be the presidential nominee. There is just too much weird karma out in the land. Do you think an old-school Clinton (Hillary) v. Bush (Jeb) is in the offing? I’d put it front and center on the table. Remember the old saying, “Politics is the art of the possible!”
Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the seven Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states and the entire Washington, DC media market. He is also a MINDSETTER™ contributing political writer and analyst for www.GoLocalProv.com and its affiliates.
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