Trump plans to delay 2024 decision as political and legal issues mount

While his schedule could still change by November, the onslaught of political and legal concerns is making the former president nervous about plunging prematurely into the 2024 primary, according to nine former and current Trump aides and allies who requested anonymity to discuss internal matters.

Arguments from advisers that he should take his time with a campaign ad have varied. Believing he will be the clear frontrunner regardless of when he is announced, some have said that if he launches another White House bid too soon, he will run out of money by the time Republicans stage their nominating convention, leaving him cash-strapped and vulnerable in the legislative elections.

“Everyone was assuming that shortly after Labor Day would be the best possible time to launch, but that changed and he was told to take care of FBI business first,” an adviser said. of Trump.

Otherwise, advisers say, the former president is more likely to be blamed for potential midterm losses if he becomes a presidential candidate before November and his legal troubles distract from bread-and-butter issues. Butter most Republicans — but especially those running in competitive races — would rather focus on.

As Trump-backed Senate candidates in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Arizona struggle to eclipse their opponents in fundraisers and recent polls, a growing number of Trump confidants have shared concerns with him that that a pre-midterm announcement would be weaponized by Democrats, who remain eager to distract from inflation and rising crime and already know how to use Trump as a campaign foil.

“There’s a direct link if Trump becomes a campaign ad in November and Republicans lose the Senate, and the last thing he wants is to be blamed,” said a former campaign aide at Trump.

Trump himself began privately complaining about Mehmet Oz’s performance in the Pennsylvania Senate contest and a wave of bad press that Georgia Senate hopeful Herschel Walker generated earlier this summer when he became public that he fathered several children out of wedlock despite regular criticism from absentee fathers. , said this assistant.

In the days after federal investigators raided his waterfront residence in early August, Trump was inundated with calls from allies urging him to immediately announce his candidacy for president.

“It was so hot,” a Trump ally said, describing the growing support Trump found among grassroots supporters and top Republicans after revealing the FBI searched his home.

But as the legal battle over the documents seized in the search continues to unfold and new details emerge about the sheer volume of classified documents Trump was apparently storing randomly at Mar-a-Lago, others in the Trump’s orbit have urged him to post any campaign announcements. on hold until he resolves his legal issues. The FBI warrant unsealed earlier this month revealed three possible federal crimes as the reason for the search: violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice and criminal handling of government records. In a filing late Tuesday, the Justice Department said documents were “likely concealed and removed” from a storage room in Mar-a-Lago as part of an effort to “hinder” the FBI investigation. Trump, who has not been charged with a crime, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing while boasting that FBI research has supported his 2024 outlook and sent a jolt of energy through his political base.

Another Trump adviser who previously pushed for a campaign announcement before November has since recanted, joining those who think waiting until after midterms is a more cautious approach.

“There’s no rush because he won’t be eclipsed by anyone else,” former Trump campaign aide Bryan Lanza said, pointing to the crowd of potential 2024 rivals lining up. are rushing to Trump’s defense — or hurling strong criticism at the Justice Department — after learning that federal investigators executed a search warrant at his home.

“I personally feel like it’s a sign of weakness if he announces before midterm,” said Matt Schlapp, one of Trump’s top allies who chairs the American Conservative Union. Trump had previously viewed a pre-midterm announcement as a way to clear the field of potential challengers, which Schlapp and others now say he no longer needs to worry about.

Some in Trump’s world still want him to announce now

Although Trump has been advised by a growing number of advisers to delay announcing his campaign until later this fall or winter, not everyone in his inner circle is convinced it’s the right move.

A source close to Trump dismissed escalating political and legal concerns as an ‘apology’, arguing the former president is already blamed for changing midterm forecasts and the postponement is unlikely of the presidential campaign launch protects him from further criticism among Republicans if the party fails to win the Senate or disappoints in its overall gains.

“They’re going to blame him no matter what, so he should just announce,” this person said.

People familiar with Trump’s thinking said he was more receptive to delaying his campaign announcement until after midterms, in part because of how Republicans rallied around him after the FBI raid. The former president recently told his allies he doesn’t think he’ll face a formidable challenger in the 2024 GOP primary, according to three people familiar with his comments, one of whom said Trump doesn’t was quick to point out how Florida Governor Ron DeSantis likened the FBI’s search to “Banana Republic” tactics. DeSantis is widely expected to be one of the main rivals if he runs for the nomination against Trump.

“He’s in deep legal trouble, but that hasn’t stopped him from fully enjoying it,” said a second person close to the former president, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

So far, the consensus among Republican operatives two years from the 2024 election is that Trump is unlikely to face a real primary threat, even though he is widely expected to rise to the challenges of a handful of GOP hopefuls. Former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan are among the most likely rivals Trump could face if he runs again.

Schlapp, who believes Trump will indeed attract primary contenders, said none would be “serious in terms of winning the nomination.” He added that Trump’s outrage over the FBI’s search would give him something to exploit if and when he announces a third presidential campaign.

“Sometimes I think the better he gets, the more acrimonious he gets,” Schlapp said, saying Trump’s appearance in early August at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas was a turning point for some Republicans who were previously undecided about his desire to return. offer after losing to Joe Biden in 2020.

Two days before federal investigators conducted their search for Mar-a-Lago, Trump used the speech to lament that he was “still persecuted.”

One of Trump’s advisers went further, suggesting that an indictment of Trump by the Biden administration would “benefit” the former president at this point.

“It would just seem too partisan at this point,” said the adviser.

Biden, who insisted he had no advance notice of the search, stressed the independence of the Justice Department. But Trump has frequently used his social media platform to detonate what he calls a politically motivated “witch hunt” and railed against the FBI and Biden, including in a posting spree on Truth Social. just Tuesday.

Prioritize your legal battles

Although Trump has yet to make a firm decision on when he considers a 2024 candidacy, his lack of planning for a campaign rollout has signaled to those around him that he wants to bide his time.

Until the addition of former Florida Solicitor General Chris Kise to his legal defense team on Tuesday, Trump had struggled to navigate the legal danger he finds himself in as federal investigators sift through classified documents which they seized at his residence – possibly building a criminal case in the process.
Those around him say Trump appears to be putting his political ambitions on hold — if only temporarily — to give his legal team the space to operate and strategize without the time constraints that a presidential campaign. The former president has spent the three weeks since the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago trying to politically capitalize on the moment, while his lawyers have meanwhile struggled to develop a clear strategy. His legal team waited weeks after the search, for example, to file a so-called special lead request for an independent review of materials taken from his home, which is the subject of a hearing this week.

“Right now it’s a question of whether he wants to turn it all into politics or gain some legal stability to make sure everything goes well before taking the next step,” said one of the Trump advisers.


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