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Trump’s legal problems grow. So does his political power


Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN

(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump’s fortunes seem to be moving in opposing directions.

He is burning cash on an expanding, multipronged legal war with fronts in courtrooms up and down the East Coast: New York, Florida, Georgia and Washington, DC. Trials are already scheduled for March in Manhattan and May in Florida.

But Trump’s place atop the Republican primary field for the 2024 presidential race has never felt more secure and his chances against President Joe Biden have never felt more competitive.

Trump’s political power feeds on his criminal exposure

In a self-propelling cycle, Trump’s grassroots political supporters give a portion of their donations to his leadership PAC, which is paying his epic legal bills – more than $40 million in the first half of this year alone.

And his campaign, fueled by outrage over his legal problems that Trump alleges are politically motivated, remains his best bet for outlasting the two criminal cases he currently faces.

Two more criminal trials could be coming. Federal prosecutors may carry forward with allegations related to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And the Fulton County district attorney in Georgia is wrapping up her own case and could bring charges by the end of August.

Read CNN’s full report on Trump’s legal bills.

Separately, The New York Times and CNN’s Kristen Holmes reported Monday that Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America, has asked for a refund on a $60 million contribution it gave to a super PAC formed to support Trump.

A legal defense fund is also being set up to help offset legal costs for Trump’s associates. His aide Walt Nauta and the Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira are listed as co-defendants in federal charges related to alleged attempts to hide classified material from the FBI.

Related interactive: Track the indictments against Trump.

De Oliveira made an initial court appearance Monday in Miami. But he did so without a Florida-based attorney, which might seem like an accident if Nauta had not done the same thing. Arraignments for both men were delayed as a result.

Delay is Trump’s top legal strategy. His legal team has been working hard to delay and disassemble the cases against him.

“Every day of delay counts,” said CNN’s senior justice correspondent Evan Perez, appearing on “Inside Politics.” “Every bit of it will add up. The former president’s overall goal – he has made it very clear – is to … wait until after the election to actually go to trial.”

Evidence of the delay strategy in many of his moves

Trump’s request to have charges brought by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg – regarding a 2016 hush-money payment scheme involving an adult-film star – moved to federal court has been denied. Trump is appealing the ruling.

He has also tried to revive a previously abandoned RICO lawsuit alleging a conspiracy against him by Democrats and Hillary Clinton. Read CNN’s report by Kara Scannell and Tierney Sneed on Trump’s legal maneuvers.

Endgame in Georgia

Security measures have been ramped up around the Atlanta courthouse in Fulton County, Georgia, and a yearslong investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in that state is complete, according to District Attorney Fani Willis.

“We’ve been working for two and half years. We’re ready to go,” Willis told CNN affiliate WXIA.

Whether that means Trump will ultimately face charges in Georgia is unclear, although Willis has said she would make a decision by the end of August.

On Monday, the judge who has overseen Willis’ investigation, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, dismissed Trump’s latest effort to circumvent the Georgia case, making clear the former president will have to wait until he is actually indicted there to fight potential charges.


He also alluded in a footnote to how Trump has fanned fury at his legal problems for his own political purposes.

“And for some, being the subject of a criminal investigation can, à la Rumpelstiltskin, be turned into golden political capital, making it seem more providential than problematic,” McBurney wrote, drawing a parallel between the former president and the villain of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale who turns straw into gold.

Trump is also trying to have McBurney bounced from the case. A hearing before another judge is scheduled for August 10.

Read CNN’s full report on the Fulton County probe by Sara Murray and Jason Morris.

Trump’s political fortunes stay bright

CNN’s Harry Enten has two very important points in his analysis.

Trump is in a very strong position to win the GOP primary.

Enten: No one in Trump’s current polling position in the modern era has lost an open presidential primary that didn’t feature an incumbent. He’s pulling in more than 50% of support in the national primary polls, i.e., more than all his competitors combined.

Proving Enten’s point, in a new New York Times/Siena College poll, Trump has the support of more than half, 54%, of the Republican primary electorate. He roughly triples the support for his nearest competitor, the flagging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is under 20%.

Trump would be competitive in November 2024 against Biden.

Enten: What should arguably be more amazing is that despite most Americans agreeing that Trump’s two indictments thus far were warranted, he remains competitive in a potential rematch with President Joe Biden. A poll out last week from Marquette University Law School had Biden and Trump tied percentage-wise (with a statistically insignificant few more respondents choosing Trump).

Enten notes that general election polling so far from the election should not be viewed as predictive, which could give Democrats some solace. But the fact is that both men have poor favorability ratings. And Trump is neck and neck with Biden in some key states like Pennsylvania.

And note: The primary will mostly be completed by the end of March, when the first of the currently scheduled criminal trials is set to get underway.

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