Criminal charges galvanise Trump’s base but Stormy Daniels case is not end of his problems
For Donald Trump’s most entrenched supporters, this indictment is simply another cause to rally around.
They gather on one side of the bridge that links the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate with Palm Beach, eagerly awaiting the passing of his motorcade on the way to the airport.
Some wave Trump 2024 flags, others hold signs saying “Impeach Joe Biden” and one lady has “Trump” written in diamante stickers on her bottom.
If anything, these charges have galvanised Trump‘s base, which believes this is a politically-motivated pursuit.
They call the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, who has secured this indictment, an “evil traitor,” following the lead of Trump himself, who refers to him as a “degenerate psychopath”.
Bob Kunst, from Miami Beach, has brought his deck chair and waves at passing cars beeping in support. He says he is a registered Democrat voter but believes Trump is being persecuted.
“It’s like a new revolution is taking place,” he tells me.
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“The problem here is the public at large, whether they like Trump or not, realises what the Democrats are doing. They’re weaponising the justice system, which could hurt everybody. It’s going to backfire big time.”
Polling suggests views like Mr Kunst’s are mirrored across the Republican voting spectrum, where Trump’s advantage over other potential candidates is widening.
‘Charges rally his cause’
Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist who worked with Mitt Romney for 10 years, says these criminal charges help Trump politically.
“Charges facing Donald Trump do not dissuade Republican primary voters at all,” he says, “they rally his cause.”
“There’s a very small sliver of the Republican Party that see Trump as problematic or is troubled by these charges.
“But they already weren’t supporting Donald Trump anyways, so it’s really irrelevant. It doesn’t affect his standing with Republicans and actually it helps him.”
One of Trump’s supporters on the bridge has a badge on her baseball cap which says “Mar-a-Lago raid, remember in November”.
It is, indeed, a handy reminder that the Stormy Daniels controversy is not the end of Trump’s problems.
This is not even the most serious of the potential criminal charges he is staring down.
Legal jeopardy abounds for the former US president, not least an FBI investigation ongoing into top secret documents which were found at his Mar-a-Lago residence.
A probe is ongoing, too, into whether Trump interfered with the counting of votes in Georgia for the 2020 election.
Perhaps most grave of all is the allegation that he incited violence, leading to the 6 January storming of the Capitol.
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“I’d say he’s in a heap of trouble,” says Michael McAuliffe, a former federal prosecutor based in West Palm Beach, who believes this indictment could prompt charges in other cases.
“He’s now got the label of a criminal defendant in an ongoing prosecution,” says McAuliffe, “it may not be the crime of the century, but it does go to the heart and essence of what many think – [that] he is a fraudster.”
He adds: “And so, once you get charged the first time, I think it’s probably easier on the system itself to get charged again.”
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