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ELECTIONS 2024
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Opinion articles written in the style of their author. These texts are to be based on verified facts and must be respectful towards people, even though their actions may be criticized. All opinion articles written by individuals from outside the staff of EL PAÍS shall feature, along with the author’s name (regardless of their greater or lesser renown), a footer stating their office, academic title, political affiliation (if any) and main occupation, or the occupation related to the topic being assessed

To jail with Trump!

With just six months to go before the presidential election, it would seem that the Republican presumptive nominee is seeking to be imprisoned for contempt of court

Donald Trump
Former president Donald Trump in court in Manhattan.JUSTIN LANE (via REUTERS)
Lluís Bassets

If until now he has campaigned in the courts, depending on how things go, he may have to keep campaigning behind bars. The Republican slogan of the 2016 presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton, his electoral rival at the time, may apply to him. Donald Trump has been repeatedly warned and even fined by Judge Juan Merchan, who prohibited him from uttering insults and threats against witnesses and jurors, and whom Trump has not been shy about insulting with accusations that he is corrupt and under the orders of Joe Biden.

Merchan is the third judge who has fined Trump, and the first one who has also reminded him that he could send him to jail for contempt of court, an unusual circumstance for a former president and a presumptive presidential nominee in the middle of an election year. Trump seems to be asking for it, just when there are six months to go before the polls open. Although a certain inability to refrain from expletives cannot be excluded, there is no doubt about his calculated strategy to present himself as a victim of a conspiracy by the Democratic establishment in order to prevent, or at least hinder, his return to the White House.

So far he has obtained some benefit from each judicial step at the various stages of his four criminal proceedings for 88 crimes, which he has turned into opportunities to raise funds. And perhaps now he hopes to achieve some more gains if he has to spend the night behind bars and the day before Judge Merchan. It is not certain that spending time inside a cell, in the company of his secret service security detail, will suit the tycoon, even if it places him at the center of all the news and social media attention. Right now even the courtroom doesn’t suit him; he seems nervous and out of sorts, takes long naps and looks chilly like an old man.

There are surveys forecasting a drop in voting intention if he is found guilty and goes to prison. And in terms of campaign financing, Biden beats him in fundraising, although he is still behind in the polls. If a stint in the courts is not a bed of roses for Trump, the forecasts continue to favor him. There will only be a court ruling before the election in the case being tried in Manhattan for illegal payments to silence a porn actress during the 2016 presidential campaign. The other cases, including the assault on the Capitol, will not be heard before the election date. And even if he received a prison sentence, he would not be disqualified.

His lawyers have obtained all the postponements they needed from the courts, starting with the Supreme Court. These delay tactics have compromised the evidence of his involvement in the attempted coup presented before a grand jury by Special Counsel Jack Smith and before the special congressional committee chaired by Liz Cheney, the former Republican congresswoman who refused to join Trumpism. Once president, he could grant himself an amnesty and show, for the first time in history, that the president is above the Constitution.

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