WASHINGTON – Donald Trump has indicated he believes the New York indictments are just the beginning – and that’s why he is bracing his supporters for the distinct possibility of more charges in more cases in the coming months.
In interviews, social media posts, and public comments, Trump suggests he will be charged in investigations involving 2020 election protests and classified documents, and responds by attacking the prosecutors and the criminal justice system itself.
“What they’re doing is weaponizing the system,” Trump said Tuesday on the FOX News Channel program Tucker Carlson Tonight.
When Carlson said “they’re trying to prevent you from making it to the general election by tying you up in lawsuits (and) charging you with crimes,” Trump agreed and called it “the old Soviet process.”
Trump also denied, again, that he would exit the presidential race, regardless of what charges come his way – even if he is convicted in the New York case.
“No, I’d never drop out,” Trump said. “That’s not my thing.”
In interviews, social media posts, and public comments, Trump is preparing supporters and voters for the prospect of future indictments in cases involving classified documents and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. His preferred approach: Attack the prosecutors, attack the Democrats, and attack the cases.
Trump’s case against the cases:Hours after arrest, Donald Trump attacks Manhattan district attorney in Mar-a-Lago speech
‘Control the narrative’
It’s a familiar tactic, said Trump watchers: Try to get out ahead of events and promote your spin on things, all in an effort to fire up supporters and make sure they aren’t caught by surprise when bad news comes down.
“It’s really consistent with his usual operating procedure,” said presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky, author of the book “Mourning the Presidents: Loss and Legacy in American Culture.”
“He works really hard to control the narrative,” she said.
This kind of thing happened just last month.
On the morning of Saturday, March 18, Trump used his Truth Social account to declare he would be arrested the following Tuesday – and to ask supporters to hit the streets in protest. In succeeding posts, Trump ramped up attacks on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
In reality, news of Trump’s indictment did not break until the late afternoon of March 30, by which time Trump’s condemnations of the case were second nature to his supporters. At one point, Trump suggested “death and destruction” might flow from the charges against him.
Trump’s troubles in Georgia
It may be happening again.
Since his April 4 arraignment in New York City – where he pleaded not guilty to charges of falsifying business records to cover up campaign finance violations – Trump has all but warned supporters that more charges are to come.
“In the wings, they’ve got a local racist Democrat district attorney in Atlanta who is doing everything in her power to indict me,” Trump said during his post-arraignment speech in Mar-a-Lago.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating Trump and allies over allegations that they conspired to basically steal Georgia’s electoral votes from the winner of the state, President Joe Biden.
The evidence includes a taped phone call in which Trump tells Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other state officials: “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.”
Trump tells crowds these days that phone call was “perfect.”
Trump’s boxes of classified documents
Willis and Bragg aren’t the only prosecutors Trump is going after in this campaign phase. There’s also Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is in charge of two Trump investigations.
One involves whether Trump obstructed justice by refusing to honor a subpoena for boxes of official presidential records that he kept even after leaving office on Jan. 20, 2021. The investigation also centers on whether Trump may have inappropriately handled classified documents.
Bracing followers for possible charges, Trump has taken to denouncing the case as a “boxes hoax” that is based on a civil law, the Presidential Records Act. “This fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election,” Trump told backers at Mar-a-Lago.
Trump said he was negotiating with the Archives when officials searched his home at Mar-a-Lago in August, an event that Trump has protested ever since. “They like to say that I’m obstructing, which I’m not,” he said at one point in his post-arraignment speech.
Smith – a Justice Department veteran – is also leading an investigation into the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021. Trump has derided him as a “lunatic special prosecutor.”
An upcoming event on the special counsel front: The likely testimony of former Vice President Mike Pence. Prosecutors want to know details of what Trump told Pence when he demanded that the vice president throw out the electoral votes that elected Biden.
The electoral vote count was the target when Trump protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol building.
Trump has not criticized Pence in recent weeks, but he has attacked prosecutors for seeking to turn former aides and allies into witnesses against him.
Trump’s political attacks on the investigations take many forms. On Wednesday, his office said the former president had filed a lawsuit against his former lawyer Michael Cohen, a key witness in the New York case.
Cohen attorney Lanny Davis responded to Trump’s lawsuit by saying “it appears he is terrified by his looming legal perils and is attempting to send a message to other potential witnesses who are cooperating with prosecutors against him.”
Trump base is ‘locked in’
In Trump World, all of these investigations are an effort by “the swamp” to block his 2024 presidential campaign, an argument designed to appeal to voters who are already suspicious of government. In social media posts and public remarks, Trump has called it “massive election interference.”
So far, it seems to be working – with Republicans. There are signs that independent voters, the kinds of people who decide general elections, are increasingly turned off by Trump’s legal troubles.
“The vast majority of the base is locked in with him,” said former U.S. Rep, Joe Walsh, an ex-Republican who left the party over Trump. “One indictment or 10 indictments? Doesn’t matter to them. It’s all part of the same ‘the deep state is after him’ narrative.”
How is Trump polling?
A recent ABC News/Ipsos poll said that half of Americans, 50%, believe that Trump should have been charged with a crime in the New York case. That number is very polarized; fully 85% of Democrats believe Trump should have been charged, the poll said. Only 14% of Republicans believe that.
At this still-early point, Trump remains in good shape in terms of the Republican race. There are questions about his prospects in a general election.
“I have a hard time seeing how multiple indictments are good for general election campaigns,” Chervinsky said.
The latest ABC News/Ipsos poll also said that nearly half the respondents, 48%, said Trump should suspend his campaign in light of the New York case, up from 43% the week before.
Don’t bet on Trump suspending his campaign – or stopping his preparation for future cases.