Trump’s 2024 vulnerabilities mount after damning testimony
SIOUX CENTER, Iowa (AP) — Stunning new revelations about former President Donald Trump’s fight to cancel the 2020 election have revealed growing political vulnerabilities even as he considers another presidential bid.
A former White House aide this week described Trump as a lopsided leader with no regard for the safety of elected officials from either party as he clung to power on Jan. 6, 2021. The testimony of the Congressional panel investigating the Capitol attack provided a roadmap for prosecutors to potentially charge Trump with a crime, some legal experts say.
Republican voters — and Trump’s potential rivals in the 2024 presidential race — have taken notice.
Here in Iowa, the state is set to host the first presidential nominating contest in about 18 months, with several voters signaling Thursday that they were open to another presidential candidate even if Trump were to run again. At the same time, some conservative media launched scathing rebukes at the former president. Aides to several GOP presidential candidates have also indicated, publicly and privately, that they feel increasingly emboldened to challenge Trump in 2024 in the wake of the explosive new testimony.
Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, drew about 350 conservative activists to a Congressional fundraising barbecue Thursday in Sioux County, where Trump won 82% of the vote in 2020.
And there was plenty of evidence of Trump’s fatigue. Interviews with a dozen attendees revealed strong interest in a 2024 alternative, even if Trump is on the ballot.
“You would be hard pressed to find people in this field who support the idea that people aren’t looking for someone else,” said Dave Van Wyk, owner of a transportation company. “Assuming conservative America is 100% behind Donald Trump is simply not the case.”
For some Republican voters, that was the sentiment even before this week’s stunning new testimony.
Former White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson on Tuesday offered previously unknown details about the extent of Trump’s rage in his final weeks in office, his realization that some supporters had brought guns in the city on January 6 and his ambivalence as rioters later besiege the Capitol.
Shocked by the size of the crowd at his ‘Stop the Steal’ rally – many supporters avoided entering because they were armed and didn’t want to go through metal detectors – Trump said words to the effect of: “I don’t care that they have guns. They’re not here to hurt me,” according to Hutchinson. She recalled hearing about a separate incident after the rally in which Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of the presidential vehicle to drive to the Capitol to join his supporters.
This detail caused some backlash. The officer driving the vehicle and another official were reportedly prepared to testify under oath that Trump never rushed behind the wheel.
But the renewed concern was evident,
The Washington Examiner’s conservative editorial board said Hutchinson’s testimony “should spell the end” of Trump’s political career. “Trump is unfit to be anywhere near power again.”
The often pro-Trump New York Post lambasted the headline: “Trump Tyrant.” And the Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page wrote: “Just when it seems Donald Trump’s behavior after his 2020 defeat couldn’t get any worse, some savage new testimony comes in.
To be sure, conservatives have repeatedly shared serious concerns about Trump in recent years. And in any case, the former president came out largely unscathed, sometimes stronger. He was caught on video bragging about sexual assault; he provoked a violent attack on the Capitol; and he was impeached twice.
Still, Trump is sitting on campaign funds that exceed $101 million and remains deeply popular with many Republican voters. Lest there be any questions, Republican candidates from Arizona to Pennsylvania to Georgia have clashed this midterm season for his support.
“The American people remain hungry for his leadership,” Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said, citing Trump’s strong approval record and fundraising success. “And as another witch hunt erupts in the faces of Democrats, President Trump is in a stronger position now than at any time before.”
But even before this week’s revelations, a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that 48% of American adults say Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the attack. January 6 against the Capitol.
Opinions on Trump’s criminal liability predictably split across parties, with 86% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans saying Trump should be indicted. Still, the fact that nearly half the country thinks he should be prosecuted is a remarkable stance for the former president, underscoring the difficulties he could face should he run for the White House again.
Trump reported raising nearly $9 million in March and April combined. Figures for May and June were not yet available, but aides to the former president say his fundraising has remained strong.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, considering a 2024 presidential bid, said he was hearing concerns about Trump from donors and voters ahead of this week’s testimony, adding to the “cumulative weight of the political shortcomings of the former president.
“People are worried that we could lose the election in 24 and want to make sure we don’t appoint someone who is seriously flawed,” Christie said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is also eyeing a 2024 race, said he sees Trump as beatable in a GOP primary even if Republican voters aren’t paying close attention to congressional hearings, as he suspects. .
“His approval among Republican primary voters has already been somewhat diminished,” Hogan said in an interview. “Trump was the least popular president in American history until Joe Biden.”
Aides to other Republican presidential hopefuls said privately this week that Trump could still be the heavy favorite to win the next GOP presidential nomination, but they believe his standing with Republican voters is in steady decline. There was a broad feeling — or at least hope — that Hutchinson’s testimony would hasten this decline among voters and donors in a way that would open up opportunities for others.
Marc Short, senior adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence, another likely 2024 presidential candidate, was candid when asked about Trump’s political strength.
“Republican activists thought Donald Trump was the only candidate who could beat Hillary,” Short said. “Now the dynamic has reversed. He’s the only one who lost to Joe Biden.”
Indeed, Trump’s potential Republican competitors are leaning.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who serves on the Jan. 6 commission and has not ruled out a 2024 presidential bid, called Trump a direct threat to American democracy in a Wednesday night speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
“Republicans cannot be both loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution. You have to choose,” she said.
Haley, who said she would not seek the 2024 GOP nomination if Trump runs, declined to say Thursday whether the testimony gave her reason to rethink that plan. Instead, she sounded upbeat.
“If it looks like there’s a place for me next year, I’ve never lost a race, I’m not going to start now,” Haley told reporters. “I’m going to put in 1,000% and I’m going to finish it. And if there is no place for me, I will fight for this country until my last breath.
Farmer Bob de Koning said he remains committed to Trump. He plans to support him in the first Iowa caucuses no matter who shows up.
But his wife, Kathy de Koning, said: “We can do better.”
“I just don’t know if he’s eligible anymore,” she said.
People reported from New York. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the number of Trump fundraisers had dropped dramatically over the past two months.
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