Trump's crowded legal calendar on collision course with campaign trail

Washington, Jan 3 (IANS): Former US President Donald Trump's criminal cases of tax fraud and election subversion in his crushing calendar of legal obligations is set for a head-on collision with the race to the Iowa caucuses in two weeks' time that will decide the trend on who GOP will eventually nominate for the presidency in 2024. However, Trump still holds the wild card against his rivals Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.

With the courtroom and campaign trail demanding his presence in equal measure, they will compete with each other curtailing his campaign tours of states. It will set the tone for an unprecedented White House race overshadowed by the former President's four looming criminal trials, poll strategists and election experts say.

The US is about to embark on a political litmus test that will put the country's unity, democracy and legal institutions under duress, CNN analysts wrote.

Trump has drawn up his calendar for the first days of his 2nd term as President, should he win 2024, to punish his political enemies and most likely use his presidential authority to duck accountability for his "attempt to steal" the 2020 election in Washington DC and Georgia, where he is facing criminal charges.

The 2024 presidential race may even run the dubious distinction of seeing Trump, the GOP front-runner, contest as a convicted felon in November, all depending on his trials' timings and if he secures the GOP nomination.

The most likely scenario in November is a tight rematch between Trump and Biden. Most polls show most voters don't want this 2020 contest to repeat. They don't want either Trump or Biden and may pitch for a third-party candidate such as Robert Kennedy Jr, grand nephew of John F. Kennedy, making uncertain who the winner could be.

Trump is betting heavily on Iowa, where he failed in 2016, to make an extraordinary comeback to the national mainstream of politics amid his mounting legal woes. DeSantis hopes to beat him against all odds in Iowa and Haley hopes to secure New Hampshire, as both hope to close the ranks with the frontrunner.

Trump has emerged as a winner in all the national pre-poll surveys by leading institutions as the first step in an extraordinary political comeback, though Democrats touted their wins in Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia in the off-year elections as the ballot counts and not the poll surveys.

Pollsters recall that Trump left Washington in disgrace after refusing to accept the result of the 2020 election and whipped up a mob that attacked the US Capitol in a stunning assault on democracy.

Now, Trump -- who faces 91 criminal charges -- is well positioned to become only the second former President after Grover Cleveland in 1892 to claim a non-consecutive second term that would rock the country and the world, CNN analysts wrote.

Trump often takes to his social media platform Truth Social to vent his frustrations and attack his political opponents and this time, he rang in the New Year Monday with a wild social media post filled with "falsehoods about the 2020 election and unsubstantiated accusations that President Joe Biden had committed criminal acts", media reports said.

He claimed on Truth Social that his successor (Biden) had "attacked his Political Opponent at a level never seen before in this Country, and wants desperately to PUT 'TRUMP' IN PRISON. He is playing a very dangerous game and the great people of America WILL NOT STAND FOR IT".

Trump's erratic behaviour and mood swings after the last election are at the root of why the 2024 election is sure to be so fractious -- and critical to the future of the nation, CNN observed.

As Trump uses his political and legal plight to spearhead his campaign in 2024 on claims that he's being politically persecuted by the Biden administration -- and his growing extremism will pollute the political atmosphere running up to the election, political observers said.

Trump's closest allies in the GOP have warned him to take a fresh approach to his campaign in 2024 and not harp on the Democrats stealing the elections from him in 2020 with dubious claims that could eventually backfire on him in swing states if and when he is convicted as trial opens in March this year. Tell the people what you want to do for them in your 2nd term in presidency is the advice that most mature GOP members are giving him, but he seems in no mood to listen.

Trump's promise to devote a second presidency to "retribution" against his enemies raises the prospect of another dark period in American politics, analysts said.

Trump's double political and legal life in the next few weeks will coincide with the intensifying effort by his Republican rivals to thwart his march toward a third consecutive Republican nomination, say media reports.

Florida Gov. DeSantis has staked his campaign on an upset win in Iowa, which seems unlikely, according to polls. And former South Carolina Gov. Haley is pushing hard for a win in New Hampshire that would grant her ticket to a head-to-head clash with Trump elsewhere.

Neither candidate wants to capitalize on the former President's legal troubles out of fear of alienating GOP base voters who have rallied to Trump's side with every indictment and mug shot. His rivals' struggles suggest Trump has an even firmer grip on the party than he did in 2020.

But despite his strength, he remains a high-risk general election prospect for Republicans, since his demagoguery has alienated critical swing-state voters in the past, both donors to the GOP and its senior members fear. And with his rhetoric reminiscent of 1930s dictators, he may be playing directly into Biden’s main argument that he would destroy US democracy and political freedoms, analysts opined.

Trump is planning a string of events in Iowa as he seeks to quickly close out the primary and move on to a general election campaign against Biden. But he will be constantly dragged back from the trail. The former President faces a new battle against efforts by Maine and Colorado to bar him from the ballot over the 14th Amendment's "insurrectionist" ban. He's fighting special counsel Jack Smith on multiple fronts, including over his own expansive claims that steps he took to overturn the 2020 election were covered by presidential immunity.

If appeals that will probably land at the Supreme Court ended in his favour, they’d result in a massive expansion of executive authority and effectively mean presidents would be above the law.

Any Iowa victory party on January 15 could, meanwhile, be soured for Trump the next day with the opening of the trial to set damages in the second lawsuit brought against him by E. Jean Carroll. A civil jury in a separate suit has already ordered Trump to pay the writer $5 million for battery and defamation after finding he sexually abused her. Trump has denied all wrongdoing.

His legal problems will not end with this list. Fresh litigation is expected in the coming weeks and months ahead of the racketeering trial in Georgia in which Trump and associates are being called to account for alleged election meddling and in the federal case in Florida over his hoarding and alleged mishandling of classified documents.




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