The idea that the best defense is a good offense is something that Donald Trump believes in so strongly it seems embedded in his DNA. On the eve of his arraignment on Tuesday over his alleged involvement in hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election, the former president posted a fiery diatribe against his perceived enemies — a message that offers a glimpse at what to expect from Trump during the trial and his campaign for the 2024 presidential election.
“I want to thank everybody for the tremendous support you have given me against this assault on our Nation. Our once beautiful USA is now a Nation in Decline,” Trump posted. “Radical Left Thugs & Insurrectionists have taken over our Country, & are rapidly destroying it,” Trump — the first U.S. president to ever be indicted — posted on his social media network Truth Social. “We are now living in a THIRD WORLD COUNTRY, but we will Come Back & MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Trump will leave his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida on Monday, fly to New York on his private jet and spend the night in his Trump Tower penthouse on Fifth Avenue. Trump is scheduled to be arraigned at 2:15 p.m. (ET) in a courtroom on the 15th floor on 100 Centre Street. Before appearing in court, the former president will be processed: his fingerprints and mugshot will be taken, but he will not be handcuffed when he is taken into the courtroom. Trump will be informed of his rights. The charges against him will be read in court, and he will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The former president plans to return to Mar-a-Lago that same afternoon and is scheduled to deliver remarks from Florida at 8:15 p.m.
Based on his latest social media posts, Trump is not likely to hold his tongue. On Friday, he was already attacking the judge presiding over the case, Juan Manuel Merchán, whom Trump accused of “hating” him.
Trump is “gearing up for a battle” said his lawyer Joe Tacopina in an interview on ABC’s This Week program. Tacopina described the former president as a “tough guy,” and said the case against him was weak. “We all know that had Donald Trump not been Donald Trump and was John Smith, this case never would have been brought.”
It’s still not known what charges will be brought against the real estate mogul, as the indictment remains under seal. Leaks to the U.S. media suggest that Trump — who was caught off guard by the grand jury’s decision to indict him Thursday — may be facing more than 30 charges, including at least one felony.
“All the Tuesday stuff is still very much up in the air, other than the fact that we will very loudly and proudly say, ‘Not guilty,’” Tacopina told CNN’s State of the Union program.
Trump appears to have decided that the case will bolster his chances of winning the 2024 election. Trump’s campaign said it raised $4 million in donations in the 24 hours after the indictment, and another $1 million since then.
The campaign is also pointing to poll numbers that place Trump as the clear favorite ahead of the Republican presidential primaries next year. According to the survey, Trump has the backing of 51% of Republican voters, while his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis — who has not even confirmed that he will be running — is on 21%, giving Trump a 30-point lead.
But there is a long race ahead. More often than not, the candidate who begins the campaign as the favorite usually ends up losing their lead as the primaries progress.
Trump has the advantage of having already been president, a more-than-recognizable name and the support of the Republican rank and file. But it’s not clear how Trump’s legal woes will affect his presidential run. In addition to the hush money case, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Trump is also being investigated in several other cases, such as his role in the January 6 insurrection, his handling of classified government documents after leaving the White House and his role in working with allies to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election.
While Trump may be an expert at unleashing chaos, he has no control over the outcome of these investigations. And while most Republicans have closed ranks around the former president, his legal woes are a source of concern for the most traditional wing of the party.
On Sunday, the former Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, announced he was running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, launching a challenge to Trump. “I have made a decision, and my decision is I’m going to run for president of the United States,” he told ABC’s This Week. “I’m convinced that people want leaders that appeal to the best of America, and not simply appeal to our worst instincts,”
In the interview, Hutchinson also said that he believed that Trump should drop out of the race now that he’s been indicted. “He should, but at the same time, we know he’s not [going to],” he said. “First of all, the office is more important than any individual person. And so for the sake of the office of the presidency, I do think that’s too much of a sideshow and distraction and he needs to be able to concentrate on his due process and there is a presumption of innocence.”
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