Which will happen first — a Trump indictment or 2024 presidential announcement?
A convergence of forces threatens to crack the Constitution’s solid foundation upon which our nation has thrived. Pressure emanating from this powerful convergence could cause tectonic plate shifts impacting and destabilizing equal justice, the rule of law and government authority. At risk is our traditionally respected electoral system, along with the peaceful transfer of power that helped make this oldest continuous democracy the envy of the world.
Intensifying the pressure is a partisan media in which truth is pliable based on the audience’s political leaning, reflecting our hyper-polarized electorate, where facts and “alternative facts” are equally valid.
That is the national backdrop for two Earth-shaking decisions expected after the midterm elections. In one corner, former president Trump declares his decision to launch a 2024 presidential campaign. In the other, Attorney General Merrick Garland announces whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) will pursue an indictment of citizen Trump. Which decisive event occurs first could be consequential to advancing a successful message-branding narrative while forcing the other into a defensive posture.
Either way, Americans should brace themselves for turmoil mirroring pre-Civil War levels of hatred and mayhem with the potential for violence. Note that unrelated to this topic, a major survey associated with Yale University found that among American adults, “Half (50.1%) agreed that ‘in the next few years, there will be civil war in the United States.’” That begs the question: Could a DOJ indictment of Trump be a spark? Keep reading.
But first, let’s explore circumstances and responses concerning two announcements, starting with:
Donald Trump declares he is running for president
Political history is made when the twice-impeached former president (who twice lost the popular vote) declares his intention to run for a second term.
According to recent poll averages, Trump’s chances are 50-50 against his assumed opponent, President Biden. Many believe Trump would run to avenge his 2020 loss, which he still insists he won. Equally plausible, he could run to boost his now damaged but once respected Trump brand while he is embroiled in numerous, complex legal challenges.
By declaring his candidacy ahead of possible DOJ indictments, Trump could hope to accomplish the following:
– Rally his base and juice the rightwing media machine with messages that Trump is unbeatable against “Slow Biden.”
– Assume Trump can and will intimidate potential primary opponents into dropping out before they officially declare.
– Strategically hover over the crowd of 2024 GOP hopefuls but not join them. For example, Trump declined an invitation to the annual Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas on Nov. 18-19. All the prospective GOP candidates will be at this major-donor cattle call except “King Trump,” who expects to be crowned without a primary fight. (Note to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: Bring Trump’s “crown,” make a joke and generate some headlines.)
– By announcing before Thanksgiving, the former president likely believes he will ward off a DOJ indictment, showing what a huge political mistake it would be since he is the overwhelming favorite to win the GOP nomination.
– Intimidation has long been a Trump calling card. In mid-September, The Hill reported Hugh Hewitt’s controversial interview with Trump, when the former president hinted at “problems” among the American people should he be indicted.
Trump would have a distinct advantage should he declare his candidacy before a potential DOJ indictment. This week, The Hill reported that influential Republicans expect AG Garland will indict Trump “60 to 90 days after Election Day.”
Garland could also announce that DOJ will not pursue an indictment against the leading presidential candidate from the opposing political party vying to defeat his boss. Indeed, there will be much talk about “shredding the Constitution” if Trump is not brought to justice with headlines screaming, “Politics Trumps Law.”
DOJ indicts Trump before he declares his 2024 candidacy
At an August news conference shortly after the Mar-a-Lago raid, Garland said, “Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor.” Therefore, if DOJ indicts Trump, expect lofty platitudes such as “we are a nation built on laws” and “even a former president or leading presidential candidate is not above the law,” along with “mountains of evidence” and a “solid case.”
Trump already heralded his response to a DOJ indictment in the previously mentioned Hugh Hewitt interview when he said, “‘There is no reason that they can [indict], other than if they’re just sick and deranged, which is always possible, because I did absolutely … nothing wrong.’”
Then, assume Trump would personalize the indictment, messaging something like, “Indicting me is indicting you.” And repeating what he said after the Mar-a-lago raid: “It is prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponization of the justice system and an attack by radical left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for president in 2024.”
My bet is Trump announces his presidential intentions well before DOJ makes any move. Perhaps DOJ thinks it will be prudent to wait until the initial Trump fervor dies down — putting space between pursuing justice and presidential politics. DOJ could also spice up its indictment press conference with a surprise announcement on Jan. 6, 2023.
More surprises are in store if the GOP wins control of the House
Trump vs. DOJ could get messy if the GOP wins control of the House and, as expected, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) chairs the House Judiciary Committee. Jordan, a long-time Trump sycophant, has sent smoke signals about potentially impeaching AG Garland and President Biden.
With friends like Jordan, Trump’s Revenge Campaign will prosper, and, per usual, Trump wins even when he loses, is impeached or indicted.
Myra Adams writes about politics and religion for numerous publications. She is a RealClearPolitics contributor and served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. Follow her on Twitter @MyraKAdams.