Voices: Trump legal woes pile on while Ron DeSantis ventures to Iowa
Liberals spent the entirety of Donald Trump’s presidency and much of his time since he left the White House hoping he would eventually be indicted. They hoped so during the Mueller probe, only to be disappointed. They hoped so during his first impeachment when he tried to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden in exchange for weapons.
Mr Trump faced his most credible chance of being indicted after the January 6 riot when seven Republicans in the Senate voted to convict him, but it wasn’t enough to send him away. Instead, this week, Washington saw Tucker Carlson begin an attempted whitewash of January 6 with footage of the riot that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy provided him.
But on Thursday, The New York Times reported that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has signaled to Mr Trump that he could face potential criminal charges for paying hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and offered him an opportunity to testify before a grand jury. The charge he paid Ms Daniels to keep quiet still appears to get in his craw, given he called her a “horse face” at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday.
Many Republicans, from corporate donors to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would like to move on from Mr Trump, not just because of the riot but because they see him as a loser who has cost them winnable elections. Even Mr Carlson, if his communications in Dominion’s lawsuit against Fox News are to be believed, said he “truly can’t wait” until the days he could ignore Mr Trump most days.
This explains why many in the conservative establishment want to get behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. On Friday, Mr DeSantis made his first venture to Iowa of 2023, often a tell-tale sign that he is considering a White House bid since it holds the first nominating contest in 2024 on the GOP side. In Iowa, he pulled out his favorite punching bag and warned against “an oppressive woke-ocracy.”
Similarly, Ken Cuccinelli, who served in the Trump administration, launched a political action committee to draft Mr DeSantis and former congressman Lou Barletta, whom Mr Trump backed in the 2018 Senate race in Pennsylvania, to join in the effort.
Mr Cuccinelli and Mr Barletta’s moves signal that its’ not just the establishment, ‘country club’ Republican Party that want to move beyond Mr Trump. Both are hardliners on immigration and were proto-MAGA Republicans. Mr Cuccinelli frequently clashed with Mr McConnell for backing unelectable candidates.
But don’t expect Mr Trump to back away. Last weekend, ahead of his address at CPAC, he told reporters he would still run for president even if he were indicted. Getting rid of Mr Trump will not be as easy as many want.