“I’ve put everything on the line and I will never yield. I never yield. I will never be deterred. I will never stop fight for you.”
That was former President Donald Trump in Columbus, Ga. on June 10 in his first appearance after being indicted by the U.S. Justice Department on supposed violations of the Espionage Act over documents Trump says he declassified before leaving office, with Trump unsurprisingly using the prosecution to his political advantage in his 2024 election bid to oust President Joe Biden.
Addressing the indictment, Trump stated, “The ridiculous and baseless indictment of me by the Biden administration’s weaponized Department of Injustice will go down is among the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country. Many people have said that, Democrats have even said it. This vicious persecution is a travesty of justice…”
Trump added, “Biden is trying to jail his leading political opponent an opponent that’s beating him by a lot in the polls just like they do in Stalinist Russia or Communist China, no different.”
It’s a simple message and one that could easily resonate with Trump’s base, certainly in the Republican nomination, the first and most important hurdle he has to clear in order to get back on the debate stage with Biden.
Following the indictment, Trump improved his lead on his closest rival, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in the latest CBS News-YouGov poll taken June 7 to June 10, now leading by 61 percent to 23 percent.
The crosstabs are fascinating. Among Republican primary voters, 40 percent said the indictment made them more likely to vote for Trump, compared to 4 percent who said it made them less likely to support him. 60 percent said the indictment made no difference whatsoever, in a poll where he leads by 38 points.
That included a spread of 41 percent of independents who said it made them more likely to support Trump, compared to just 2 percent who said it made them less likely.
This might be a confounding outcome to Trump’s opponents, not just inside the GOP, but also in the White House and among Democrats in Congress. And yet, it’s the predictable outcome for anyone outside of the Washington, D.C. Beltway.
Similar the so-called “Streisand effect” — tabloid journalists took a picture of Barbara Streisand’s house in 2003, and following attempts to suppress it legally, naturally resulted in even greater interest in the photograph — Trump is now benefitting from the latest attempt to cancel him and his movement.
As Trump would say, what’s he got to lose?
Across all demographics, 61 percent of U.S. adults agreed that the indictment was politically motivated, although so far the country is split pretty evenly on whether the charges were legitimate: 38 percent say the documents that the FBI seized from Trump’s Mar-a-lago were a national security risk, 38 percent say it was politically motivated, and 23 percent said both.
As one might expect, 65 percent of Democrats said the charges were legitimate, and 69 percent of Republicans said it was politically motivated. For Democrats, it is a partisan matter of political animus, and for Republicans, a matter of sheer self preservation.
Among independents, 41 percent said it was politically motivated, 37 percent said the documents posed a national security risk and 22 percent said both. So, right off the bat, 63 percent of independents believe there is a political motivation to the prosecution.
That is devastating news, not only to the perception of the Justice Department — which already has severe trust issues among the American people and particularly among Republicans who have seen Trump relentlessly pursued since 2016 with investigation after investigation which began before he ever took office — but to Trump’s rival in the general election, President Joe Biden.
And that might be the floor. Watch for those numbers to shift as Trump expertly utilizes it to build his base.
In the same poll, 59 percent of U.S. adults disapprove of Biden’s handling of his job as President, including 23 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of independents and 88 percent of Republicans. And not a single vote has been cast in the presidential primaries yet, which are still several months away.
It’s so easy to sell it’s like political T-ball. Biden might lose, and so he and his Justice Department sought to imprison his top opponent. What a humiliating way to run a political campaign in a free country. It’s like bribing the referee in a game because your team just can’t win otherwise.
For the American people, that sense of fair play — and the lack of it that has been applied to Trump — might be Trump’s greatest strength going forward as a candidate. Stay tuned.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.