Former President Donald Trump is already declaring himself the 45th and 47th president of the United States, but this occurrence during a golf game in Florida — caught on shaky cellphone video and showing he has another presidential run in mind — contrasts with the growing challenges it faces.
The former president faces a cascade of increasingly intense investigations that represent the most serious legal threat he has ever been subjected to.RELATED
In addition, new polls indicate that his tight grip on the Republican Party may be weakening.
Yet those around Trump describe him as a man emboldened by a sense of invincibility that has allowed him to bounce back from devastating turns.
A series of complex legal investigations are looming over Trump, his family and many associates.
The investigations, which are unfolding across multiple jurisdictions and touching on everything from possible election fraud and interference to his role in the Jan. 6 storming of Capitol Hill, represent the most serious legal threat Trump has faced in decades. of an often contentious public life.
The investigations are intensifying as Trump’s iron grip on the Republican Party may be beginning to loosen, a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has revealed.
His popularity with Republicans is slipping a bit. 71% who say they have a favorable view of Trump compared to 78% in a September 2020 AP-NORC/USAFacts poll. But the new poll shows only a narrow majority of Republicans (56%) want Trump to join him. run for president in 2024.
The poll found that 44% of Republicans do not want Trump to run.
Despite legal and political headwinds, those around Trump describe him as calm and emboldened. It has bounced back before from devastating twists, like two impeachments, that would have ended the careers of other politicians.
Trump continues to advance and continues to warn that he intends to compete for the White House again.
“He’s in high spirits,” said Darrell Scott, an Ohio pastor and Trump ally who recently met with the former president.
Trump met with his top advisers in Florida this week as he outlines a strategy that could serve as a springboard for future efforts. On Saturday, he was set to headline another campaign-style rally in Texas ahead of the March 1 statewide election that formally kicks off the midterm primary season.
Representatives for Trump did not respond to requests for comment on the investigations or polls. In interviews and appearances, mostly in right-wing media outlets, Trump often brags about his endorsement record, promising to reward candidates who assure him loyalty to his party vision and parrot his election lies.
However, his attempts to immobilize the ranks of Republicans running for the 2024 nomination have been uneven. Some, including former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have so far refused to object, making speeches and traveling to key states, signaling they are seriously considering campaigning.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is also seen as another contender for the Republican presidential nomination, drawing attention recently when he said that one of his biggest regrets as governor was not talking back when Trump urged Americans to stay home in the early days of the COVID pandemic to stop the spread of the virus.
As Trump tries to move forward, so do the legal cases against him.
Last Monday, Georgia judges approved a special jury request filed by the Fulton County prosecutor, who has been investigating whether Trump and others broke the law by trying to pressure state officials to dismiss the president’s victory. Joe Biden in the 2020 elections.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said her office received information “indicating a reasonable probability” that the election had been “subject to potential criminal disruption.”
In New York, state Attorney General Letitia James said in a court filing last week that her office uncovered evidence that a Trump company used “fraudulent or misleading” appraisals of his golf clubs, skyscrapers and other properties to in order to obtain loans and tax benefits.
Although his attorneys said they had not decided to file a lawsuit over the allegations, they admitted the company overstated the value of land donations made in New York and California in documents filed with the Treasury Department’s Internal Revenue Service. for its acronym in English) and that it misreported the size of Trump’s penthouse in Manhattan, among other misleading valuations.
The District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan has also been working with James’ office on a parallel criminal investigation, which resulted in charges last summer against Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the commission investigating the violent Jan. 6 insurrection has interviewed hundreds of witnesses, issued dozens of subpoenas and obtained tens of thousands of pages of records, including text messages, emails and phone records from people close to them. to Trump, as well as thousands of pages of White House records that Trump fought to hide from public view.
Among them: a draft executive order that proposed using Defense Department assets to seize voting machines, said committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson.
A top Justice Department official said days ago that prosecutors are investigating fake certificates sent to the National Archives containing fabricated lists of voters who wrongly declared Trump the winner in seven states he actually lost, as part of a desperate campaign to subvert the will of the voters.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has said the Justice Department remains committed to “holding all perpetrators of January 6, at any level, accountable under the law, whether they were present on that day or otherwise criminally responsible.” of the assault on our democracy.
As president, Trump was largely shielded from legal consequences, but not since leaving the White House.
David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in Miami, said Trump’s legal troubles so far have been largely relegated to “money stuff,” with several lawsuits seeking payouts. But he added that what Trump is facing now, particularly in Georgia and Washington, is something he described as “more significant, because that carries potential exposure to criminal punishment.”
“If they can prove intent, knowledge, involvement in an ongoing plot,” he said, “that’s potential criminal exposure, something I’ve never faced before.”
Yet those who have worked with Trump said he and those around him are likely to continue to dismiss the investigations as nothing more than politically motivated “witch hunts” aimed at damaging their future political prospects.
After spending so many years jumping from one crisis to the next—from investigating Russia’s meddling in the election to inquiries into everything from his Washington hotel lease to bribes from a former porn star— , being under investigation in the Trump sphere is the norm.
For many in his circle, “being quoted is a badge of honor,” said Stephanie Grisham, the former White House press secretary who resigned on Jan. 6 and has since written a book against Trump.
“It’s easy to say ‘It’s just another witch hunt’ because that’s what we mostly said,” he said. ”People are doubling their bet. That’s what we do in Trump’s world, we double the stakes. And you just have to say that it is a witch hunt, say that it is a political theater. And that’s how you get your fans to keep donating money and keep believing they’re on the side of the good guys.”