Will arresting Trump help him or hurt him?

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Will indicting and arresting Trump drag him down or only make him stronger. At a Kennedy Center event last night, Chris Rock joked that it was the latter:

‘Are you guys really going to arrest Trump?,’ he asked the crowd, which included lawmakers like Nancy Pelosi and several officials who serve in the Biden administration.

‘Do you know this is only going to make him more popular. It’s like arresting Tupac. He’s just gonna sell more records. Are you stupid?,’ Rock continued as the crowd roared with laughter.

Rock noted Trump had ‘f****** a porn star and paid off someone so his wife couldn’t find out. That’s romantic.’

‘We’ve all been cheated on. Don’t you wish that the person that cheated on you paid off somebody so you wouldn’t find out?’ he added.


Today, Politico published a story titled “Stop Overthinking It: An Indictment Would Be Bad For Trump.” Author Alexander Burns makes the opposite argument, i.e. an indictment/arrest might work up some of Trump’s fans but it won’t actually help him win an election.

Naturally, the question arises: Could this actually be good for Trump?

That thought generates itself by reflex in America’s political brain. It is a habit forged in 2016, when Trump defied countless terminal prognoses to defeat Hillary Clinton…

Trump has been unusually resilient against scandal over the years thanks to the unbreakable loyalty of voters who see him as their champion in the arena. My colleagues David Siders and Adam Wren reported that Republicans expect Trump to get a short-term boost from the indictment because it will energize his core supporters. That is probably true.

But those supporters are a minority of the country, as Republicans have learned the hard way several times over. Stimulating Trump’s personal following was not enough to save the House for his party in 2018 or to defend the White House and the Senate in 2020, or to summon a red wave in 2022.

Burns covers his bases by saying there’s no guarantee that Trump can’t win reelection. Still, he believes that riling up a shrinking base won’t be enough to get it done this time. At some point, you need to add people to your camp if you want to win. There’s no evidence this is doing that. On the contrary, I’m seeing people on the right argue explicitly that no one should join a Trump protest if he’s indicted.


And, at least so far, it seems people are heeding that advice and staying away.

To be fair, nothing has happened yet. If there is going to be a big protest it will happen after the indictment/arrest. But there’s no sign so far of a huge groundswell of support for a mass protest over this.

For the most part, people on the right, whether supporting Trump or not, seem to be in agreement that this indictment looks like political grandstanding by a progressive DA looking for attention. At the same time, it’s not really much of a threat to Trump. Frankly, I think the most mileage he is likely to get out of this comes not from protests but from walking out of court with either a misdemeanor conviction or no conviction at all. Those are still the most likely outcomes.


Chris Rock’s take on the situation is definitely funnier but I think Burns is basically right that there’s no need to do 11-dimensional chess on this one. The indictment will hurt Trump somewhat but probably not in a way that creates much of a backlash.

My own take is that most people don’t really believe Trump when he denies sleeping with Stormy Daniels. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say many people decided they didn’t care. If it happened, it was part of his private life and not really a public matter so long as it was consensual, which it was.

Now Trump is on the other side of that coin. A lot of people probably still feel like this is his problem to deal with and not a national issue. That means it won’t keep many of his fans from voting for him again even if he’s convicted but also it won’t create much of a backlash because it’s still fundamentally about his private life. A progressive DA being a grandstanding progressive DA isn’t really that shocking anymore.

Speaking of which, it’s always possible the grand jury won’t indict at all.

Attorney Robert Costello, a longtime ally of Donald Trump, slammed the former president’s onetime fixer Michael Cohen on Monday, describing him as “totally unreliable” and calling him “far from solid evidence” in the New York criminal case against Trump.

Costello, who was previously a legal adviser to Cohen, testified to a Manhattan grand jury on Monday, and later told reporters he had close to 330 emails detailing meetings with Cohen, who made the $130,000 hush money payment to the porn actress Stormy Daniels during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign over a sexual relationship that Daniels says they had. Trump has denied the affair, and Cohen alleges that he made the payment at Trump’s behest using campaign funds, a violation of campaign finance law…

“If they want to go after Donald Trump and they have solid evidence, so be it,” Costello said. “But Michael Cohen is far from solid evidence.”


It doesn’t look like it’s coming today so if it’s happening it will probably be tomorrow.

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