When Donald Trump appears before a judge next week to appear in a New York court, it wouldn’t be the first time a former US president has faced criminal charges. It will also represent a reckoning for a man long nicknamed “Teflon Don” who has so far managed to avoid serious legal risks despite 40 years of legal scrutiny.
Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is expected to turn himself in on Tuesday. He faces charges that include at least one felony offense relating to payments to women during his 2016 campaign. Like everyone else facing trial, he will be booked, fingerprinted and photographed before being given the chance to apply.
The spectacle that is sure to unfold will mark an unprecedented moment in American history that will once again show how Trump – already distinguished as the first president to be impeached twice – has upended democratic norms. But on a more personal level, the indictment pierces a mantle of indomitability that seemed to follow Trump throughout his decades in business and politics, as he faced allegations of fraud, collusion and sexual misconduct.
Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio said of the indictment: “Boy, after all this time, we’re a bit shocked.” “You know I always thought of him as a gingerbread man, yelling, ‘You can’t catch me! ‘” “And he’s running away.”
“Given his track record, I found it difficult to imagine that he would ever be held accountable,” he said.
Michael Cohen, a longtime Trump aide and key witness in the case who served prison time for the payments, told CNN.
Of course, some of Trump’s critics’ celebration may be premature. The former president could seek to have the judge quickly dismiss the case. And even if you apply, there is no guarantee of conviction. Intensifying investigations in Atlanta and Washington are seen as potentially more serious legal threats.
Still, Trump and his team were surprised when the indictment was written in New York on Thursday night, following news reports that the grand jury hearing the case had been slated for weeks. As deliberations continued, some in Trump’s orbit became convinced that the case was off and that charges might never be brought. That included Trump attorney Joe Tacopina, who said Friday morning he had hoped the “rule of law” would prevail.
He said on “Today” that Trump was “shocked at first” by the news of the accusations, but quickly switched to his usual book.
He said, “After he got over that, Trump put a notch in his belt and decided we had to fight now. And he took a typical Donald Trump stance where he’s willing to fight over something he thinks is an injustice… I think he’s now in a position to fight this.”
Meanwhile, Trump and his team have tried to use the news to his advantage, hoping to energize his loyal base by painting the investigation as part of a larger plot to derail his candidacy.
Already, the counts have been his boon in a struggling fundraising effort. And the campaign announced Friday evening that it had raised more than $4 million within 24 hours after the indictment was made public, largely breaking the previous record after the FBI searched for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.
More than 25% of donations, according to the campaign, have come from first-time donors. Average contribution: $34.
His campaign has also continued to explode statements of support from dozens of prominent Republicans who have rallied behind Trump, including many of his declared and potential rivals, underscoring his continued grip on the party. Trump has been in touch by phone with key allies in Congress, including members of the House leadership and the upper committees, according to people familiar with the conversations, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the response.
Trump ally Jim Banks, R-Ind., who formally endorsed the former president on Friday, said Trump “didn’t back down” and would “fight back,” saying on a local radio show that it was “another chapter where Donald Trump will finally be back on top.”
The media swirl has returned the former president to the spotlight he craves, at least temporarily dampening the attention paid to his rivals, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely expected to challenge Trump for the nomination and has been holding events around the world. boycott to promote his book.
Trump aides discussed other ideas for maximizing the situation, including the possibility of holding a press event either before or after the subpoena. Trump is expected to fly from Florida to New York on Monday and spend the night at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan before heading to the courtroom early Tuesday. He will return to Florida after the trial.
Trump has long denied having a sexual encounter with the porn actor known as Stormy Daniels and has criticized Manhattan Attorney General Alvin Bragg for pursuing the case years ago.
Trump also faces ongoing investigations in Georgia, over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and in Washington, where a special counsel is investigating the events of January 6, 2021, as well as Trump’s handling of classified documents in March. -a-Lago, a possible obstruction to the investigation.
But Sam Nunberg, a former longtime aide who broke with Trump years ago, said that while he no longer supports Trump, he believes the Manhattan case is a “waste of time,” given the allegations, which remain classified. He said he doubts it will matter in the end.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” he said of the indictment. “What surprises me is that he actually ended up behind bars in prison and I don’t see that happening.”
D’Antonio said the feeling — and the lingering belief that Trump will somehow prevail and dodge the accusations — persists among many of the people who have reached out to him in the past 24 hours, despite the accusations.
“They’re like, ‘He’ll get away with it,'” he said. “Somehow, he’ll get rid of it.”