By Miriam Raftery
Photo: CC by Gage Skidmore; file image at Arizona rally
November 21, 2022 (Washington D.C.) – Twice impeached and under investigation for serious federal and state crimes, former president Donald Trump announced on Nov. 15 that he plans to run for president again in 2024. The announcement, made at Trump’s Mar al Lago estate in Florida, came just days after most Trump-backed candidates suffered defeats in elections for Congress, Governor and other key positions across the nation.
Meanwhile in Washington D.C., Trump’s reelection announcement prompted Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint a special independent prosecutor to complete federal criminal investigations into Trump’s incitement of violence in the January 6, 2021 capitol insurrection, his refusal to take action to halt it, his removal of numerous classified documents from the White House, and other potentially serious federal crimes. The appointment of Smith as independent prosecutor aims to eliminate the appearance of partisan politics from any future indictment or exoneration of Trump.
The federal prosecutor, Jack Smith, is a former federal prosecutor who has most recently been working to prosecute international war criminals at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. He formerly served as head of the Dept. of Justice’s Public Integrity Unit, which prosecutes public corruption cases such as bribery and election tampering.
Ironically, Trump is also under investigation for pressuring election officials in Georgia to alter election results without evidence.
In his 2024 candidacy announcement, Trump stated, “America’s comeback starts right now.” He then touted policies held by authoritarian regimes overseas. He pledged to deploy federal forces aggressively against protests and crime, as well as execute drug dealers.
He repeated debunked claims that the 2020 election was stolen, despite 62 judges including some appointed by Trump finding no evidence of fraud to overturn results in any state. Trump also called for an end to early voting used in 46 states and voting by mail available in 35 states, despite popularity of such measures with voters and increased turnout produced by making voting easier. “I’ll get that job done,” Trump pledged. “That’s a very personal job for me.”
His announcement has been met with trepidation even by many Republican party officials and by some conservative media outlets. Many view him as a likely loser no longer able to muster sufficient support to beat President Joe Biden, if Biden runs, or whoever the Democrats might run instead.
Both men would be the oldest to run for the office; Biden turned 80 this week and Trump is 78.
Though Republicans normally win many Congressional seats in midterm elections where a Democrat holds the presidency, this month’s elections results in Democrats holding the Senate, losing the House by only a handful of seats. Democrats also defeated the vast majority of Trump-backed election deniers running for positions such as Secretary of State, as well as many Governor positions and other key races.
The legal clouds hanging over Trump could potentially land him in prison before the election, if he is convicted. The most serious potential charges could bar him from holding federal office, if it were found he engaged in insurrection against the U.S. during the Capitol assault, or if classified documents were provided to enemies of the U.S., for example. He also faces various civil suits in multiple civil suits ranging from fraud allegations to rape.
Many polls now show Trump’s chances of victory appear dim. Exit polls by AP VoteCast showed 54% of voters nationally had unfavorable views of Trump, including 44 percent with very unfavorable views. An NBC News poll found 47 percent have a very negative view of Trump.
Democrats and independent voters have been angered by Trump-appointed judges pushing through the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade/abortion rights, his opposition to serious action on climate change, his early denial of COVID-19 as a serious threat, and Trump’s divisive rhetoric and statements bashing minorities while praising white supremacists, as during a neo-Nazi march in Charlston.
But now, even many who support Trump’s economic policies and views on issues such as immigration and abortion have had enough, and believe another candidate would be more electable.
Former House Speaker said this week that Trump is “unelectable.” The former Trump supporter said on ABC that he is now a “never again Trumper.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blames key House losses on “weak” candidates backed by Trump, the Washington Post reports.
The New York Post, owned by conservative Rupert Murdoch who also owns Fox News, declared Florida Governor Ron DeSantis “DeFuture” and chided Trump as “Trumpty Dumpty” who “had a great fall.” Trump, on the other hand, has called likely primary challenger DeSantis “DeSanctimonious.”
Other potential Republican Trump challengers include United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, and former Vice President Mike Pence, though the latter seems a longshot, given hostile insurrectionists’ cries of “hang Mike Pence” during the Capitol assault that killed several and injured some 150 police officers.
Trump is not the only ousted president to seek a return to office. But he would be the first to run since Theodore Roosevelt’s failed bid in the early 20th century. Only one former president, Grover Cleveland, has been successful in winning the presidency again, way back in 1893.
The clock is ticking on federal and state investigations to file charges and obtain convictions, meanwhile, since if Trump does win reelection, he would be immune from prosecution while in office.