A ‘Blustery’ Political Season Could Come – ‘The Political Sunday Brunch’

Sunday March 19, 2023

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Former President Donald Trump PHOTO: GoLocal

Donald Trump was the Republican presidential nominee in the 2016 and 2020 election cycles, winning once and losing once. Now he has announced a run for 2024, but he faces a mountain of legal and political problems that could derail his train. Or is it? Let’s have brunch on it this week.

“The Eye of the ‘Stormy'” – Former porn star Stormy Daniels met with prosecutors in New York City last week. The impetus was hush money paid to Daniels by Donald Trump’s organization. Towards the end of Trump’s successful presidential bid in 2016, Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen said he paid Daniels $130,000 to hush up about a sexual encounter she had with Trump in 2006. Trump denies it ever happened but paid Daniels for what he called “blackmail.”


“The Plot Thickens” – While Daniels was speaking to prosecutors this week, Cohen was testifying before a grand federal jury on the very same matter. Coincidence? I wonder? Like many people these days, Daniels took to Twitter to represent her case and tweeted a thank you to her attorneys for “helping me in our ongoing fight for truth and justice.” Cohen has already pleaded guilty to paying Daniels for her silence and also paying former Playboy bunny Karen McDougal $150,000 in campaign funds to keep quiet about an affair she alleges with Trump, which he also denies. It makes no difference if there was sex, consensual or otherwise. The big no-no was that Cohen used campaign funds for the payouts.

“So where does Trump fit in?” — Now that Cohen has already pleaded guilty to the illegal payments, the big question is whether he can prove that Donald Trump ordered him to make such payments, which Trump essentially does complicit in violations of federal campaign finance law. Some of the funds were also claimed by the Trump Organization as “legal expenses.” Forging business payments can also get you in hot water with the IRS. So Trump has a potentially double-edged legal problem.

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“Why the extra security?” – Late Friday, the Associated Press reported that four sources told it law enforcement in Manhattan was preparing security plans should the grand jury recommend an indictment against Trump. We have never had a current or former president charged with a crime. This is new territory. According to the AP, the four law enforcement sources “have described the talks as preliminary and are considering security, planning and the practicalities of a potential court appearance by a former president.” Then, on Saturday, Trump himself took to social media to say he “will be arrested Tuesday next week.”

“What are people saying?” — A Quinnipiac University poll released last Thursday shows no apparent malice towards Trump, at least not yet. In a head-to-head duel between two candidates, Trump is leading Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Florida 51-40 percent. When you throw in other declared or potential candidates, Trump shines even more. In a crowded field, Trump gets 46 percent of the vote, versus 32 percent for DeSantis. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) comes in at five percent and former Vice President Mike Pence at three percent. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (R) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are considering a run but have been quizzed in the weeds.

“So does anyone care?” – The sex question is simple. Most people just don’t care if Bill Clinton had affairs or if Donald Trump had affairs. Look, the rumors were out long before they landed in the Oval Office, but they still won. Remember, their impeachments and legal troubles were for other reasons. Bill Clinton was charged with perjury for lying under oath to a federal judge about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. It wasn’t for the affair. And Trump’s legal troubles will depend on whether he spent state-regulated campaign funds to cover up two affairs. I understand that sizzling sexual details make headlines, but it’s the financial and legal liability issues involved that are driving any possible prosecution or impeachment.

“Florida vs. Florida” – 2024 is fascinating because there may be two leaders from the same state. 2016 was interesting because both Trump and Hillary Clinton were nominated by New York State, which is rare. Now Trump has taken legal residence in Florida and is up against another Florida native in DeSantis. Both shoot at each other. DeSantis said in his State of the State Address his leadership has made Florida a powerhouse. “We defied the experts. We resisted the elites. We ignored the chatter. We did it our way, after Florida,” DeSantis told lawmakers in Tallahassee. “And the result is that we are the number one destination for our fellow Americans looking for a better life.”

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“So, who else is coming in?” — Keep in mind that Gov. DeSantis has yet to make his offer, but it’s widely expected. Then there are those who envision a Trump-DeSantis “Dream Team” that could give DeSantis a better glide path in 2028 if Trump is recalled. Certainly Mike Pence will not be Trump’s running mate in 2024. Trump and Nikki Haley have snapped at each other but could “kiss and make up” (sorry for the pic) and be a force in 2024. I’ve always thought that if the party was seriously fractured, then former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) could be called out of the bullpen for a ninth-inning save. Keep in mind that both states are “must wins” for the GOP to get the keys to the White House. However, keep in mind that at age 44, DeSantis may be eligible for the next five election cycles.

“The Wild Card Round” – I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again. I believe that neither Trump nor Biden will be their party’s standard-bearers in 2024. I also don’t think any of their vice presidents – Pence or Harris – will be the presidential nominee. There’s just too much weird karma in the country. Do you think an old-school Clinton (Hillary) vs. Bush (Jeb) is imminent? I would put it front and center on the table. Remember the old adage: “Politics is the art of the possible!”

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for Nexstar Media’s seven television networks serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states and the entire Washington, DC media market. He is also a policy writer and analyst for MINDSETTER™ for www.GoLocalProv.com and its affiliates.

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