We are all still living in the political environment of the late President Donald Trump.
On a Saturday, Trump was able to sway the political landscape, influence the media, send law enforcement into a tizzy, and demonstrate his continuous grasp on the Republican Party with a single ALL CAPS rant on his own, low-traffic social media platform.
Citing ambiguous “ILLEGAL LEAKS,” Trump claimed he “WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK.” (Today.)
He then called on his followers to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”
Top law enforcement authorities from New York met Sunday to discuss potential protests. On Monday, steel barricades were erected outside the New York criminal court.
Indicting Trump in a case involving a seven-year-old hush-money payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels appears to be extremely close, according to indications from a grand jury in New York. Notwithstanding Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of alleged leaks from the district attorney’s office, no reputable news organization has been able to confirm exactly that Trump would be detained on Tuesday.
But Trump’s message had the desired effect, triggering the GOP’s inside and outside game and boxing in rival candidates and potential ones.
Even if he gets arrested, there won’t be much of a shift in public perception. In the aftermath of the several other controversies Trump has been involved in, it hasn’t changed much, if at all.
Trump is not new to this tactic. This is how it goes: Post a provocative message. elicit interest and headlines. Make money by using those headlines. Pound the table. Activate liberals. trigger the right’s protective wrath.
It’s the same behavior he displayed in the past when something bad was anticipated to occur, such as the Access Hollywood tape, the Mueller investigation, two impeachments, the election he lost, on Jan. 6, or the search of his Florida home that uncovered boxes of classified documents that had not been reported.
After that search, in the 48 hours that followed, Trump’s team raised more than $2 million. At least a dozen fundraising emails concerning Trump’s upcoming “arrest” have been sent out in his name since Saturday (plus about half a dozen more trying to shape the narrative).
You almost wonder whether Trump performs it merely to test his physical stamina.
Congressional Republicans Jump to Trump’s Defense
Certainly, the previous few days went as planned. The “I-didn’t-see-the-tweet” faction resorted to defensive mode as the House GOP was attending a retreat in Orlando, Florida.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy engaged in some well-known rhetorical gymnastics. In his initial tweet, he referred to New York D.A. Alvin Bragg’s actions as an “outrageous misuse of authority” and said that he was “directing relevant committees to promptly investigate” if federal money were being used to interfere with elections or otherwise undermine our democracy.
McCarthy responded, “I don’t think people should protest this, no,” when questioned later about Trump’s call for demonstrations by reporters.
Afterward, he asserted, “I think President Trump if you talked to him, he doesn’t believe that either,” and claimed that people can “misinterpret” what Trump says.
Here is what Trump actually said in his Saturday post as a reminder (our emphasis):
“…THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK. PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”
During his speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, Trump said, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness.”
His fans were urged to “stand together in peacefully defending our movement” in an email he sent out Monday afternoon.
Yet it is understandable why some might believe that violence could be instigated, which is why even McCarthy and other Trump loyalists are attempting to put a stop to it.
Three House GOP committee chairmen are demanding papers, communications, and testimony relating to Bragg’s probe of Trump. They also want him to testify before Congress as a sign of their newly acquired political clout.
Republican Presidential Hopefuls Have to Comment Too
Republicans in Congress have defended Trump, but even his former vice president, Mike Pence, has done so.
“It simply feels like a politically driven prosecution here,” Pence, whose life was threatened on January 6 and who has lost the favor of his former employer, said to ABC.
Chris Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire, who is considering running for president but is not a fan of Trump, said on CNN: “I believe it’s developing a lot of compassion for the former president.” Republicans who aren’t necessarily in support of Trump, he continued, “all stated they felt like he was being targeted.”
Yet the Trump universe was charging them with “radio silence” when it came to some other significant contenders or potential ones.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott have not said much if anything.
The only person to speak in a way that could be interpreted as critical of Trump was DeSantis, who said this: “Look, I have no idea what goes into paying a porn star hush money to ensure silence on some sort of supposed affair. Can’t comment on it, sorry.”
But then, in the next breath, he said:
“But what I can speak to is that if you have a prosecutor who is ignoring crimes happening every single day in his jurisdiction and he chooses to go back many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush-money payments, that’s an example of pursuing a political agenda.”
As they always do when it comes to DeSantis, Trump’s crew launched an assault. It centered on DeSantis’ statement that “I’ve got genuine challenges I’ve got to deal with here in the state of Florida” in an email with the subject line “Ron is wrong.”
The email began with the statement, “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis doesn’t think that the weaponization of our judicial system is a real concern,'” before quoting Republican after Republican endorsing Trump.
It states that “DeSantis stands alone”. Even more critical of his social media platform was Trump himself.
All of this has been both a smart PR move on the part of the Trump administration and a kind of loyalty test.
One of the 36 Chinese psychological warfare strategies is similar to the pressure he is using to his fellow Republicans: “Beat the grass to surprise the snake.” It basically means to take action to elicit a reaction from your adversary.
Trump like discussing snakes, and his team undoubtedly sees one in DeSantis. However, he should remember the saying in Texas: “Don’t dig up more snakes than you can kill.”