Trump 2024 run could upend midterms – and deflect risk of prosecution

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Eric Lee/EPA</span>
Photograph: Eric Lee/EPA

Speculation is swirling in the US media that Donald Trump is considering announcing a 2024 presidential run as early as this summer and in the face of ever more damaging revelations from a congressional investigation of his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Irrespective of Trump’s chances of winning a second term, another presidential campaign under consideration – as reported by the New York Times, CBS and other US outlets – could give the former president a multi-year shield to deflect the attention of prosecutors.

The reports have come after committee hearings into the 6 January 2021 Capitol riot that could see the congressional panel itself recommend Trump face criminal charges for his role in an attempt to thwart the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win. Or the justice department could charge Trump via its own investigation of the scheme.

In testimony to the panel last week, Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, strengthened a potential criminal case when she alleged that Trump knew his supporters were armed when he encouraged them to march on the Capitol.

Related: January 6 panel getting more new evidence by the day, says Kinzinger

But if Trump were to run for a second stint in the White House, most experts believe it would – at the very least – complicate any decision to criminally charge him. It would also be likely to bolster his support in the Republican party, which has begun to ebb slightly in the wake of the January 6 revelations.

It would also, perhaps, stem the rise of Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, who has emerged in recent months as a genuine potential rival to Trump with the promise of pursuing the same rightwing agenda but with more traditional political skills and style.

A former House Republican aide told MSNBC on Saturday that Trump would probably announce his intentions soon.

“Well, we all know from past experience that Donald Trump doesn’t care about anybody else but Donald Trump,” said Kurt Bardella. “So it doesn’t surprise me that when faced with the criticism that’s been mounting right now, following the January 6 hearings, he’s thinking about pulling the trigger.”

At recent rallies, Trump has been relatively explicit about his designs. “This is the year we’re going to take back the House, we’re going to take back the Senate, and we’re going to take back America,” he said at a recent rally in Illinois. “And in 2024, most importantly, we are going to take back our magnificent White House”.

“The advantages of declaring now are that potential rivals could be dissuaded from running against him,” said Carl Tobias, Williams chair in law at the University of Richmond. “Meanwhile, the pressure will build for the January 6 committee to move quickly to find as much damning information as it can and refer it over to the attorney general.”

Carly Cooperman at Schoen Cooperman Research said Trump could be attempting to change the narrative because the January 6 hearings have painted him in a bad light. Cooperman also cautioned that the speculation could be just that – rumors – and that some Republican officials might try to stave it off.

“I’m skeptical Trump will actually make an announcement before the midterms. Republicans would rather have the conversation be about the economy, inflation, and a referendum on Biden. An early announcement from Trump would change the midterm elections to become a referendum on Trump and his claims of election fraud in 2020,” Cooperman said.

On Sunday, Trump’s Republican party nemesis Congresswoman Liz Cheney told ABC’s Jonathan Karl that the party could not survive if Trump were the nominee in 2024. “Those of us who believe in Republican principles and ideals have a responsibility to try to lead the party back to what it can be,” Cheney said.

Related: The case against Donald Trump

Trump has reportedly told advisers that declaring a run for the White House now would allow him to strengthen his argument that other criminal investigations against him in New York and Georgia are politically motivated.

According to a CBS report on Sunday, Trump’s deliberations are fluid and no decision has been made on a bid or the time of an announcement. As with other media reports, sources said to be close to Trump requested anonymity.

Typically, a presidential candidate waits until after the midterms in November, but the presidential cycle has been stretching longer and now begins as early as two years before the general election. A declaration now could upend both parties’ midterm strategies.

Trump told Newsmax last week that he thought “a lot of” the committee hearings were about trying to prevent him from running in 2024.

“I am leading in all the polls – against Republicans and Democrats. I am leading in the Republican polls in numbers that no one has ever even seen before. And against Biden, and anyone else they run, I am leading against them.”

“At the right time, I will be saying what I want to do,” Trump added. But in comments to the New Yorker last month, Trump said he was “very close to making a decision” about whether to run.

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