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Kira Wanandi / Gavel Media

Keeping Track of Trump's Indictments (Why Are They Helping His Campaign?)

After Donald Trump's first indictment in April of 2023, I wrote an article concluding that "[t]heoretically, Trump could come out of this trial stronger, angrier, and possibly even the president." Unfortunately, this conclusion has so far proven true after the three subsequent indictments that occurred over the summer.  

As explained in my original article, the first indictment in New York regards hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels that he illegally classified as business expenses. It has since come out that these payments, prosecutors allege, were "a part of an illegal conspiracy to undermine the integrity of the 2016 election." Spoiler alert: undermining elections is a common theme across Trump's indictments. 

Trump's second indictment was in June of this year when a federal court in Miami indicted Trump on forty-two federal counts, thirty-two of which were "willful retention of national defense information." Trump, his aide Walt Nauta, and his Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira were all charged with taking classified national defense documents and resisting the government's attempts to retrieve them, violating the Espionage Act. This indictment was the first brought by the Department of Justice's special counsel, Jack Smith, who was appointed to oversee two of Trump's criminal charges. The indictment was revised in July with additional counts of obstruction and willful retention of national defense information

A month later, in the second case under Jack Smith's probe, a federal grand jury in Washington D.C. indicted Trump with four charges relating to his attempt to overturn the 2020 election. As explained by CNN in an annotated copy of the indictment, Trump was charged with one count of "conspiracy to defraud the United States," two for "obstruction of an official proceeding," and one count of "conspiracy against rights." It's also notable that this is the only case that Trump is the only defendant listed. 

Lastly, on August 14th, a grand jury in Georgia indicted Trump on thirteen state charges "stemming from their alleged efforts to overturn the former president's 2020 electoral defeat." This indictment also charges eighteen others with similar charges, notably including former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman and his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. In this case, the essential and infamous evidence is the phone call with Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, when Trump told him to "find" the votes needed to win the swing state. Notably, because these are state charges, Trump will not be able to pardon himself if he is convicted (and elected).

Trump's base rallied around him after his first indictment, but even after three much more severe indictments, Trump is still not suffering politically. The majority of the allegations against Trump are related to him trying to steer the election in his favor or overturn it altogether. Yet somehow, Trump has repeatedly justified this by saying his election loss and legal troubles are "part of a politically motivated witch hunt to thwart his pursuit of a second four-year term" on behalf of the Justice Department and the Democratic Party. Because of this, with every indictment or criticism, Trump's base only becomes more defensive. In fact, as said by AP News, "instead of trying to minimize his legal jeopardy [Trump] has made it a centerpiece of his campaign, framing it as an assault on democracy, freedom and his own followers." 

Trump has ingeniously turned record-breaking criminal charges into a successful presidential campaign; he has not only maintained support, but he is still the Republican Party's top candidate for the 2024 Presidential election. According to the Morning Consult's poll, last updated on September 6th, 3 in 5 potential Republican voters would vote for Trump. Once viewed as a possible frontrunner and alternative to Trump, Florida Governor Ron De Santis is a distant second, 45 percentage points behind Trump. 

After divulging myself into Trump's felony legal accusations, my broader conclusion of him is reinforced: Trump is the biggest danger to the United States, and unimaginable disaster would ensue if he is elected for a second term. If Trump can make it out of four (legitimate!) felony indictments charging him with attempting to overturn the election and get elected President, that would mean two terrifying things. For one, there is a large portion of the country that has fallen for Trump's lies, meaning they're stuck in the never-escaping hole of fake news, far-right extremism, and Republican media echo chambers. And second, these supporters will continue to let Trump delegitimize our democracy, putting our country and its people in unprecedented danger.