On March 30th, 2023, former President Donald Trump became the first ex-president of the United States to be charged with a crime, after being accused of using a fixer to pay hush money to a porn star over an affair.
This event will become a defining moment for the 2024 presidential campaign, with the opportunity for Trump to play victim and for Republicans to test whether to rally behind the former president’s defense.
Despite Trump’s move to Florida, he has never truly left New York, as he spent years using its media market to propel himself from an unknown outer-borough developer into Manhattan’s high-society scene.
Trump liked being in the news pages but loved being in the gossip pages. His willingness to manipulate the media, pay for silence, and court tawdry headlines with salacious behavior became part of his persona.
Trump met Stormy Daniels, a porn star, at a 2006 golf tournament, and Daniels alleges they had an affair. During the stretch run of the 2016 campaign, Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid her $130,000 in “hush money” to keep her quiet about it. Trump has denied the tryst, but he acknowledged personally reimbursing the Daniels payment.
The indictment against Trump is only the beginning of his legal troubles. He faces a probe in Georgia over possible election interference, as well as investigations into his mishandling of classified documents and his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Republicans in leadership positions have pledged to use their positions of power to investigate the investigators, and party insiders believe that Trump could get a bump in GOP primary polls. Republicans are also fearful that Trump’s legal woes won’t just curtail his ability to campaign next year but impact the party too.
In the White House, senior aides have debated how to respond to a possible charge. The answer remains the same: say nothing. Avoid being accused of trying to influence a criminal justice matter.
Trump’s followers may heed his calls for violence, which could impact the party, and if so, the White House would condemn it. Overall, Trump’s indictment drama is a reminder that he has never truly left New York, and despite his move to Florida, he is still a creature of the city.