Possible Trump trial plunges 2024 race into uncharted territory - GulfToday

Possible Trump trial plunges 2024 race into uncharted territory


Donald Trump arrives to speak at his Mar-a-Lago estate hours after being arraigned in New York City on Tuesday, in Palm Beach. AP

US voters woke on Wednesday to a uniquely volatile 2024 presidential election landscape, where Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate, now faces trial and the incumbent, Joe Biden, has not even confirmed he's running.

Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to 34 felony charges linked to alleged attempts to silence damaging personal information during his triumphant 2016 race for the White House.

The man who went from 1980s playboy real estate magnate, to TV reality show star in the 2000s, then right-wing populist president, made history as the first serving or former commander in chief to face a criminal trial.

But while he had to go through the humiliating process of arrest in a New York courtroom, polls show Trump remains by far the strongest Republican candidate. In fact, his numbers have only improved as his legal scandals grow, making it hard for his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to gain traction.

Far from cowed, Trump is doubling down on extreme rhetoric, painting himself in a speech after his release Tuesday as victim of a "Trump-hating judge" and "massive election interference."

On Wednesday, he called on his Truth Social app for Republicans in Congress to "DEFUND THE DOJ AND FBI" in response to what he claimed is the "ABUSE OF POWER" by the Department of Justice and chief federal law enforcement body. Trump attorney Todd Blanche said his client is "upset."

But "I'll tell you what: he's motivated and it's not going to stop him and it's not going to slow him down."

Troubles pile up

For all the bravado, 76-year-old Trump is in serious trouble. During his decades in the public eye, he has shown astonishing ability to escape legal peril, whether during his many business disputes or even as president when Republicans acquitted him in an unprecedented two impeachment trials.

But Trump is now in the hands of the New York state court system, where Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is mounting an aggressive prosecution.

He also risks the wrath of Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing his case in New York and cautioned against "comments that have potential to incite violence, create civil unrest or jeopardize the state or well-being of any individuals."

Even if some analysts have questioned the strength of the New York case, Trump's real problems may lie elsewhere.

Reports indicate that a high-level probe into his hoarding of top secret White House documents at his private Florida Mar-a-Lago residence is gathering pace. Another criminal probe is underway in Georgia over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, which he lost to Biden but refused to concede.

Next year, the legal calendars will likely collide with the political calendar, sparking new levels of unpredictability.

The Manhattan court is set to reconvene December 4, with a trial expected sometime early in 2024. Trump, meanwhile, would in theory be campaigning hard for Republican presidential nomination -- with the first contests scheduled February 5 and 13 in Iowa and New Hampshire.

'Not a focus'

At the White House, Biden appears content to sit back and watch the fall of a man he has branded a "toxic presence."

Asked if Biden, like millions across the country, was watching live coverage of Trump's court appearance, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted he was busy working.

He might "catch part of the news when he has a moment," she said, but "this is not something that's a focus for him."

Biden and his party got another piece of good news overnight on Tuesday with victory for the Democratic candidate in an especially fierce battle for a vacant Wisconsin Supreme Court seat.

This creates a liberal majority on the court, which will play a key role refereeing electoral disputes in 2024 in one of the tightest swing states in the country. But Biden is also injecting uncertainty into 2024. His age is a constant source of concern, even to allies. Now 80, he would be 86 by the time he left office after a second term.

And he has yet to confirm he is running, despite strongly hinting on several occasions that he will. After repeated delays to the expected announcement, Axios has reported that it may now only land in July or even later.

Agence France-Presse


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