Former President Donald Trump arrives at his Mar-a-Lago estate in...

Former President Donald Trump arrives at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida hours after being arraigned in New York City on Tuesday. Credit: AP/Rebecca Blackwell

WASHINGTON — The shadow that former President Donald Trump casts across Washington and the rest of the country grew a little longer with the unveiling of the criminal indictment by the Manhattan district attorney last Tuesday.

During President Joe Biden’s first two years in office, Trump lost his dominant place on the national stage, but as the first former president to be arrested and arraigned for a crime, he stands poised to reclaim the spotlight as he runs for a second term in the White House.

Trump’s presence not only will be felt in the political arena as he seeks to outrun Republican rival Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, but it will also reverberate in the U.S. Capitol, where his support from his base will ensure he keeps his hold on House Republicans.

“Sex, hush money, adult film star, Trump and the National Enquirer — how can America resist?” said Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at The Third Way, a moderate Democratic policy group in Washington, D.C.

“Of all the criminal cases against Trump, this one is considered the least likely to succeed legally. But it’s the easiest to understand and hardest to turn away from,” Kessler told Newsday. “I don’t think Trump has a choice when it comes to the spotlight because he craves it and it craves him.”

Or as George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley put it on Fox News: “It's a curious thing … to lead with this case because the chaos that is erupting is pretty much the element for Donald Trump. It's like trying to kill an orca by throwing him in the water.”

Yet the water could get choppy if Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis files charges against him in Georgia for election tampering or Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith indicts him for taking classified documents or for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol.

And analysts said leading up to the 2024 election, Trump could be as unpredictable as he has been in the past, creating problems for negotiations over the debt ceiling and the federal budget, and possibly hampering Republicans’ attempts to retake the Senate and increase the party's majority in the House.

Political analysts say they are keeping a close watch on the polls following the spectacle of Trump’s motorcade arrival and departure at Manhattan criminal court. He sat, unsmiling, as he appeared before Judge Juan Merchan to plead not guilty to 34 criminal counts.

One of the most recently published polls, by Yahoo/YouGov, after the filing of the sealed indictment on March 30, found Americans split almost evenly over whether the criminal charges against Trump would make him a stronger or weaker candidate for president.

Predictably, twice as many Democrats as Republicans said it would weaken him, and three times as many Republicans as Democrats said it would make him stronger. Independents split evenly on the question. 

Since leaving office, Trump has had an approval rating of between 39% and 44%, according to polling averages calculated by FiveThirtyEight, the statistical analysis publication. That is about the same as Biden’s approval rating for the past year, those averages show.

In the week since the filing of the sealed indictment, however, Trump’s lead over DeSantis has grown from about 46% to 51%, while DeSantis has fallen from 29% to 25%, according to polling averages compiled by the right-leaning Real Clear Politics website.

Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s indictment of Trump on business record violations for hush money payoffs to an adult film star as well as a Playboy model has stirred considerable debate about whether it will boost or bust Trump’s bid for a second term.

Democrats should not underestimate Trump, Kessler warned. “He will be the Republican nominee for president in 2024. There’s no politician in my lifetime who has been able to turn bad press into more votes,” he said.

“No question many Republicans, even his opponents, are rallying around him right now,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political science professor. “But what happens if there are further indictments about more serious matters such as trying to overturn the election and his unlawful holding of federal documents?”

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and others have grumbled about the unorthodox candidates backed by Trump who lost last year, allowing Democrats to continue to control the Senate and producing a narrow, five-vote majority for House Republicans.

“The success Democrats had in the 2022 midterms reminds us that the more Trump dominates the headlines, the more voters want an alternative,” said Steve Israel, the former Long Island Democratic congressman who ran his party’s national House campaign committee.

“There are 18 House Republicans in districts won by President Biden. Those members do not want Trump on center stage. They want him behind the curtain,” said Israel, director of The Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University.

Peter King, a former Republican representative from Seaford, said Trump might be wearing out his welcome.

“Right now. I would say that he definitely is riding high,” King told Newsday. “But a year is a long time and it's possible that Republican voters may start getting tired if it's like endless summonses coming from New York and then Georgia and then Washington.”

King added, “It can start to wear people out. They may be saying, ‘Do we really want to go through all this again?’ ”

Trump’s move back to center stage also could cloud pending negotiations between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Biden over the looming debt ceiling deadline and a compromise deal on a spending bill to keep the government open.

“Kevin's in a tough spot,” King said.

No matter how good the deal McCarthy can work out with Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), King said, it will not satisfy Trump’s supporters in the House.

“Trump’s biggest effect on the congressional GOP is to divide it internally even more deeply,” said Frances Lee, a professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University. “Trump makes it hard for Republicans to stand pat on their party’s old fiscal orthodoxies.”

Trump has never expressed much concern about federal deficits, for example, even though many House Republicans are deeply concerned.

Fiscally conservative Republicans are calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, but Trump has warned them to leave those social service programs untouched.

“Trump’s stance against tackling entitlement spending is a factor behind the inability of the House GOP to reach agreement on a budget this spring,” Lee said.

Ultimately, Trump will be operating in uncharted territory.

“There is no point combing history books to find a precedent for an indictment of a former president seeking a comeback,” Cook wrote. “It’s never happened before. Then again, there has never been a precedent for just about anything Donald Trump has said or done.”

WASHINGTON — The shadow that former President Donald Trump casts across Washington and the rest of the country grew a little longer with the unveiling of the criminal indictment by the Manhattan district attorney last Tuesday.

During President Joe Biden’s first two years in office, Trump lost his dominant place on the national stage, but as the first former president to be arrested and arraigned for a crime, he stands poised to reclaim the spotlight as he runs for a second term in the White House.

Trump’s presence not only will be felt in the political arena as he seeks to outrun Republican rival Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, but it will also reverberate in the U.S. Capitol, where his support from his base will ensure he keeps his hold on House Republicans.

“Sex, hush money, adult film star, Trump and the National Enquirer — how can America resist?” said Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at The Third Way, a moderate Democratic policy group in Washington, D.C.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The shadow former President Donald Trump casts across the nation grew longer with the unveiling of the criminal indictment against him last Tuesday.
  • As the first former president to be arrested and arraigned for a crime, Trump stands poised to reclaim the spotlight as he runs for a second term in the White House.
  • Trump’s presence will be felt in the political arena as he seeks to outrun Republican rival Ron DeSantis, and in the U.S. Capitol, where he is expected to keep his hold on the House GOP.

“Of all the criminal cases against Trump, this one is considered the least likely to succeed legally. But it’s the easiest to understand and hardest to turn away from,” Kessler told Newsday. “I don’t think Trump has a choice when it comes to the spotlight because he craves it and it craves him.”

Or as George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley put it on Fox News: “It's a curious thing … to lead with this case because the chaos that is erupting is pretty much the element for Donald Trump. It's like trying to kill an orca by throwing him in the water.”

Yet the water could get choppy if Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis files charges against him in Georgia for election tampering or Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith indicts him for taking classified documents or for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol.

And analysts said leading up to the 2024 election, Trump could be as unpredictable as he has been in the past, creating problems for negotiations over the debt ceiling and the federal budget, and possibly hampering Republicans’ attempts to retake the Senate and increase the party's majority in the House.

Poll watching

Political analysts say they are keeping a close watch on the polls following the spectacle of Trump’s motorcade arrival and departure at Manhattan criminal court. He sat, unsmiling, as he appeared before Judge Juan Merchan to plead not guilty to 34 criminal counts.

One of the most recently published polls, by Yahoo/YouGov, after the filing of the sealed indictment on March 30, found Americans split almost evenly over whether the criminal charges against Trump would make him a stronger or weaker candidate for president.

Predictably, twice as many Democrats as Republicans said it would weaken him, and three times as many Republicans as Democrats said it would make him stronger. Independents split evenly on the question. 

Since leaving office, Trump has had an approval rating of between 39% and 44%, according to polling averages calculated by FiveThirtyEight, the statistical analysis publication. That is about the same as Biden’s approval rating for the past year, those averages show.

In the week since the filing of the sealed indictment, however, Trump’s lead over DeSantis has grown from about 46% to 51%, while DeSantis has fallen from 29% to 25%, according to polling averages compiled by the right-leaning Real Clear Politics website.

Pundits ponder

Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s indictment of Trump on business record violations for hush money payoffs to an adult film star as well as a Playboy model has stirred considerable debate about whether it will boost or bust Trump’s bid for a second term.

Democrats should not underestimate Trump, Kessler warned. “He will be the Republican nominee for president in 2024. There’s no politician in my lifetime who has been able to turn bad press into more votes,” he said.

“No question many Republicans, even his opponents, are rallying around him right now,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political science professor. “But what happens if there are further indictments about more serious matters such as trying to overturn the election and his unlawful holding of federal documents?”

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and others have grumbled about the unorthodox candidates backed by Trump who lost last year, allowing Democrats to continue to control the Senate and producing a narrow, five-vote majority for House Republicans.

“The success Democrats had in the 2022 midterms reminds us that the more Trump dominates the headlines, the more voters want an alternative,” said Steve Israel, the former Long Island Democratic congressman who ran his party’s national House campaign committee.

“There are 18 House Republicans in districts won by President Biden. Those members do not want Trump on center stage. They want him behind the curtain,” said Israel, director of The Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University.

Peter King, a former Republican representative from Seaford, said Trump might be wearing out his welcome.

“Right now. I would say that he definitely is riding high,” King told Newsday. “But a year is a long time and it's possible that Republican voters may start getting tired if it's like endless summonses coming from New York and then Georgia and then Washington.”

King added, “It can start to wear people out. They may be saying, ‘Do we really want to go through all this again?’ ”

Disruptive force

Trump’s move back to center stage also could cloud pending negotiations between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Biden over the looming debt ceiling deadline and a compromise deal on a spending bill to keep the government open.

“Kevin's in a tough spot,” King said.

No matter how good the deal McCarthy can work out with Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), King said, it will not satisfy Trump’s supporters in the House.

“Trump’s biggest effect on the congressional GOP is to divide it internally even more deeply,” said Frances Lee, a professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University. “Trump makes it hard for Republicans to stand pat on their party’s old fiscal orthodoxies.”

Trump has never expressed much concern about federal deficits, for example, even though many House Republicans are deeply concerned.

Fiscally conservative Republicans are calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, but Trump has warned them to leave those social service programs untouched.

“Trump’s stance against tackling entitlement spending is a factor behind the inability of the House GOP to reach agreement on a budget this spring,” Lee said.

Ultimately, Trump will be operating in uncharted territory.

“There is no point combing history books to find a precedent for an indictment of a former president seeking a comeback,” Cook wrote. “It’s never happened before. Then again, there has never been a precedent for just about anything Donald Trump has said or done.”

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