Trump’s Legal Troubles and the 2024 Election: Indictments, Polls, and the GOP’s Dilemma

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According to a just-released Marist Poll about Trump’s four indictments and the 2024 election, 52 percent of Americans think Trump should drop out of the presidential contest and 46 percent believe that he should still run. Broken down by party, 90 percent of Democrats think he should drop out while 78 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of Independents say he should remain. 

In a head-to-head matchup, the current president and the former president are competitive. Head-to-head Trump leads his closest rival DeSantis by more than two to one. Trump leads all other GOP primary candidates combined by 57 percent to 43 percent. 

The bottom line is that most Americans already believe that Trump acted illegally and should be prosecuted. These numbers will only continue to grow between now and the 2024 election as Trump will repeatedly be found liable in his civil trials and guilty in his criminal trials.  

In the past, Trump’s two impeachments, failed coup d’état, investigations into his lawlessness, as well as his court appearances have been very good for the former president’s fundraising efforts. However, Trump’s legal expenses are now exceeding $10 million a month and the Trump PAC has already spent some $40 million on legal costs for himself and others, depleting from the monies available for campaigning.

According to POLITICO’s analysis, “roughly one-quarter of Trump’s total WinRed fundraising this calendar year — $11.3 million – came in between March 30 and April 5.”

New data filed with the Federal Election Commission by WinRed, “the premier GOP donation processor used by Trump and most other Republican candidates, shows that trend may be ebbing” as Trump’s second indictment boost was not as big as his first one. 

The day Trump pleaded not guilty to charges of falsification of business records related to payouts to porn star Stormy Daniels in a Manhattan court on April 4, he had his best fundraising day of the year. He raised nearly $4 million from close to 80,000 distinct donors as contrasted to when he pleaded not guilty on June 13 to his second indictment on charges related to stealing classified documents and stashing them in his home at Mar-a-Lago where he raised only $1.3 million from just over 35,000 donors. 

I suspect that the money raised from the January 6 and Georgia indictments will continue its downward trend in fundraising.  

As Trump is expected to be booked in Atlanta, Georgia later this week for orchestrating a criminal enterprise that spanned seven battleground states and involved potentially as many as 50 indictable people, his polling numbers have started to plummet with the general electorate since the indictments have begun. Meanwhile, the GOP will be holding its first presidential debate on Wednesday night in Milwaukee where Trump will be a no-show. 

I had been imagining that Trump would somehow find a way to steal the stage from his so-called competitors, sucking in media attention as he desperately tries to sustain what has been the dominant narrative of the Big Lie, witch hunts, persecutions, and weaponization. Turns out I was correct as Trump has scheduled an online live interview with Tucker Carlson to coincide with the debate.

This week should be pivotal for the 2024 general elections and whether or not the Republicans remain stuck with Trump as their candidate by fear rather than by choice. Up to now, the GOP leadership and Republicans more generally have been trapped by their endorsing of the Big Lie, shielding of Trump from the indefensible, and kowtowing to the MAGA base. The GOP’s saturation problem is one where they have been overly invested in Trump’s lawlessness and corruption.

Come Wednesday night those wannabe GOP candidates must collectively take on the absent elephant in the room and break free from the Racketeer-in-Chief by calling him out for all the dangers that he poses to our federal republic. And if they cannot tell the truth and explain why he should not be the nominee of the party, then the Republican party could find itself imploding after, if not, before the 2024 election.  

The Trumpian dilemma of Republicans having aligned themselves with a serial criminal coupled with this mobster’s autocratic and anti-democratic agenda will certainly be a losing formula as only 12 percent of Americans believe that democracy and the rule of law are not on the ballot in 2024.

In other words, this will be a replay of the 2022 midterm elections when the Republican party underperformed. Only the 2024 results will be so much worse up and down the ballots. Think of those landslide elections like when Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona lost to President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, or in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter lost to the former Governor of California Ronald Reagan. 

Keep in mind that commencing in October 2023 with his business fraud civil trial in New York and not stopping until well past the 2024 election, Trump will be immersed in a series of trials that he will consistently lose. These include two civil trials as in the E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit and a less-known pyramid marketing scheme lawsuit. Both of these are scheduled for January. There is also the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels set to begin in March and the stolen classified documents trial set for May 20.

As for the January 6 criminal federal trial, Jack Smith has requested a January 2, 2024, trial date and Trump’s defense team has requested an April 2026 trial date. On the 28 of this month Judge Tanya Chutkan will set the date and I doubt that she is about split the difference. 

Although District Attorney Fani Willis has asked for her RICO case to begin on March 4, I am thinking the January 6 case will start by February and should last six to eight weeks. Moreover, I did not see the Georgia trial starting until after the Republican convention probably in late July for several reasons. 

Most importantly, there are 19 defendants and probably as many defense attorneys who will be questioning potential jurors during the voir dire. And between selecting this jury and prosecuting all the crimes involved, the trial should last between take six and nine months. 

At the same time, I am beginning to think at least tongue in cheek that Trump could be secretly working on his “insanity defense” and committed to a mental institution before these criminal trials begin. Should that scenario turn out to be the case, no doubt this would be the greatest insanity defense of all time. 

Seriously though, the former president may indeed be a sociopath. But Trump is not delusional and believe it or not he does know the difference between right and wrong. And yet here is what the leading GOP candidate posted on Truth Social this past Friday in the early morning hours:

“Why should I have to defend myself from bogus indictments and numerous other lawsuits all of which have been brought and coordinated by the person that I’m running against, and leading in the polls, Crooked Joe Biden. This is an unprecedented situation that cannot be addressed individually, but only as a whole. These seven cases are all about ELECTION INTERFERENCE – A very unfair situation that should be addressed by the United States Supreme Court, or other Presidents will do the same thing!!!”  

I am still looking forward to these criminal trials should they materialize especially because they are “slam dunks” for the prosecution and would not have been brought to court had they been otherwise. This does not mean that there will be uniform guilty convictions for all of the charges adjudicated. Though with much certainty Donald J. Trump will likely after 50 years of lawlessness and defrauding the American people finally receive his just deserts. 

Regardless of the nonsense that Trump or his attorneys and supporters have been spreading for almost three years, there are simply no legal defenses for Trump’s criminal behavior other than trying to dissolve his lawsuits by denying that they were crimes in the first place, or by making mostly frivolous motions to delay these inevitable trials for as long as possible in the second place. 

With respect to the election fraud and conspiracy cases in the federal and state courts, neither one of these has anything to do with freed speech or the weaponization of the administration of justice. 

While these talking points may continue to thrive in the Trumpian universe, over time the power of these falsehoods have already started to lose their persuasion and will only continue to so as they confront the factual and legal realities on the ground. This will especially be the case in Georgia with its very powerful RICO indictments. Until recently, the political rhetoric and lies of Trump and his allies have had a premium value in the court of public opinion. but they will have no value in this or any of the other criminal trials involving Trump. 

I am particularly looking forward to the Georgia trial and to Trump’s debut reality series on live court television. Not only because these proceedings may be the only televised criminal trial of Trump’s myriad of criminalities, but also because the star defendant will be conspicuously silent throughout the months of a very long trial. Trump’s sycophants may be disappointed when their anti-hero does not take the stand in his own defense to explain how his “perfect” phone calls were only inspirational and not intentional crimes to overturn the 2020 presidential election. 

Trump’s organized crime trial should be the most illuminating and entertaining of all his criminal trials. It will captivate viewers and audiences across the United States and around the world because it will provide the broadest and most complete picture of what a criminal enterprise looks like — and in this instance we are talking about the real conspiracy deal to steal an election after and not before all the votes were counted.

In fact, this RICO case includes charges of multiple conspiracies to make false statements, commit forgeries, and impersonate public officers. In succession, the prosecutors of this case will methodologically detail the spreading of lies, the attacks on election officials, the breaching of voting systems, and the inciting of an insurrection as they take us through 161 acts that furthered Trump’s conspiracies and criminal enterprise to overturn a presidential election.  

Lastly, I am especially pleased that these criminal convictions of Trump and his co-conspirators are subject to Georgia law where they currently cannot be pardoned by anyone including the Governor. For the pardoning power there rests solely with those members of the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles and any pardons that are granted can only come into play after five years. 

This means that post-conviction Trump will have to spend at least some time wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. I guess that is probably better than a straitjacket.

Gregg Barak is an emeritus professor of criminology and criminal justice at Eastern Michigan University, co-founder of the Journal of White Collar and Corporate Crime, and the author of Criminology on Trump (2022) who is gearing up to publish a sequel in early 2024 called Indicting the 45th President: Boss Trump, the Republican Party, and the Threat to American Democracy.

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