Will Trump run like a criminal? The big question of 2024 will be answered soon. – Top Stories (Trending Perfect)


The list of witnesses is about to expire. The final statements are expected to be issued early next week. Next, a jury will convene in Manhattan in the first criminal trial of a former president to determine whether Donald J. Trump will campaign this fall as a convicted felon.

The political impact of one of the most important jury deliberations in the nation's history is completely unpredictable.

“Who do you know?” said Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist who has been a longtime Trump critic. “The first casualty of today’s ‘I’m right, you’re bad’ politics is institutional credibility. We don’t have a policy of accepting neutral facts anymore.”

But whether the ruling becomes a political turning point or not, it will be a major moment in the race.

The case is the only one of Mr. Trump's four indictments that is expected to come to court and reach a conclusion before Election Day, even if charges of falsifying financial records related to secret payments to a porn star do not match the seriousness of the charge. Indictments accusing Mr. Trump of trying to subvert the peaceful transfer of power in 2020.

There is no doubt that Trump's base is unlikely to abandon him now. Less clear is how swing voters or some traditionally Democratic constituencies — younger, Black and Hispanic voters — who have expressed waning support for Mr. Biden recently, and even flirted with Mr. Trump, might handle a guilty verdict.

“We've looked at a lot of polls that suggest a significant swath of voters will turn away from Trump if he's convicted,” said Jim Margolis, a veteran Democratic strategist and ad maker. “I hope that's true. But if past is prologue, I don't think we can count on that happening.”

Mr. Trump's pre-ruling political playbook has become so worn out as to be predictable.

His experience in multiple investigations, civil trials and impeachments has provided a model for how to declare victory, in the event of an acquittal or a hung jury, over the deep state that tried but failed to get him. It is also a roadmap for how to try to undermine the legitimacy of the prosecution, if he is found guilty, as a partisan ploy designed to undermine his candidacy, a message he and his allies have sought to get across for months.

In short, Trump, based on his previous statements, would amount to a “full exoneration” if he is not guilty, and “election interference” if he is convicted.

In a statement, Trump spokesman Stephen Cheung said Trump's team “will fight and crush Biden's impeachment hoaxes across the country.”

The Biden campaign has largely stayed away from speaking directly about the trial, and has avoided providing any material to support GOP claims, made without evidence, that his administration was behind the New York case. But his political operation, which declined to comment, overlooked the trial last week, selling T-shirts after Mr. Biden proposed debates that read “free on Wednesdays,” the day the trial was paused.

The Trump campaign, with a penchant for drama — and a limited travel schedule because of the trial — has scheduled a rally in the Bronx for Thursday.

Mr. Trump has described some of those facing criminal charges after participating in the Jan. 6 attacks as “hostages” and opened some of the events by playing a recording of the defendants singing the national anthem from prison. Last week, the man who broke into former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's home and beat her husband with a hammer was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.

The ruling, whatever it is, will not change its advertising strategy, said Bradley Peacock, co-founder of the progressive group American Bridge, which last week kicked off what it promised a $140 million anti-Trump ad campaign.

“Democrats need to be careful not to take the bait that our job is just to tell voters how bad, evil, and terrible Donald Trump is,” he said. “It's all of those things but we have to focus on how it impacts their daily lives.”

Alex Castellanos, a veteran Republican strategist, outlined what he sees as a situation in which Trump wins and Biden loses as the trial concludes.

“An acquittal will exonerate him, a guilty verdict will see him — hey, that's how religions start,” he said of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Castellanos explained that Mr. Trump's Teflon-like status is rooted in his promise to upend institutional institutions and norms that many in the country feel have not served them well.

“He can charm women with a naughty word, and he can say to John McCain, ‘I like heroes who aren’t captured,’ and we all think that’s the end of him, that this is going to hurt him,” Castellanos said. He said. “What does history tell us? He can really shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Because it's not about him. It's about who is there to stop him. The reason he can ingest kryptonite is because he was elected to be the grenade under the institution's door.”

Presidential campaigning under a cloud of condemnation is unprecedented. One of the few high-profile cases in which a politician appeared on the ballot shortly after his conviction was former Sen. Ted Stevens, who narrowly lost re-election just days after being convicted on seven felony charges in 2008. The race was so close that it was not decided Select it so that absentee ballots are counted.

Yet even as this historic trial was underway, 36% of voters said they paid little or no attention, according to a New York Times-Siena College survey of hotly contested states. Important independent voters were less engaged, with 45% saying they paid little or no attention.

Mr. Margolis, the Democratic strategist, said the lack of television cameras in the courtroom was the missing element.

“There is no live TV, no video of Stormy’s testimony, no clips of Trump sleeping,” he said of the woman, Stormy Daniels, who had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, which Mr. Trump has denied, amid the silence. Money situation. “This is the main reason why the trial will not shake America.”

The Trump campaign has been asking voters in polls which news stories they follow most, and the trial fell short of 20%, according to a person familiar with the polls.

Perhaps as a result, a criminal conviction remains a shocking surprise. The Times/Siena poll showed that only 35% of voters in six battlegrounds saw a conviction as very or even somewhat likely.

Voters were split on whether Trump could get a fair trial in New York along predictable partisan lines, though roughly one in five Democrats thought he couldn't get a fair trial, while the same percentage of Republicans thought he could. A narrow majority of independents believed he could not get a fair trial.

One of the political costs of the trial has already been incurred by Mr. Trump: He has been detained in New York four days a week for a month, which is important when a candidate's time is often considered a campaign's most precious resource.

Mr. Murphy, the Republican strategist, said Trump's daily court remarks to cameras — even as fawning supporters rallied behind him — undermined the tough-guy image he seeks to project.

“His brand is power. What he likes to do is get cocky in front of a crowd of people,” Mr. Murphy said. Instead, he said, the comment made Mr. Trump look more like “an old mangy lion caught in a net.”

“The whole atmosphere of a defeated animal in a cage is bad for Trump,” he said.



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