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Former President Trump faces legal peril in 2 separate jurisdictions

ASMA KHALID, HOST:

For more now on the political implications of this indictment, let's bring in NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro.

Good morning, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Asma.

KHALID: So Trump is running for president to state the obvious, he is the leading Republican candidate to possibly get his old job back. And thus far, I will say not much has affected his trajectory. So why would this moment be any different?

MONTANARO: Well, we can't know for certain what's going to happen, but we know what's already happened. And amazingly, this is not Trump's first indictment. You know, after the one in New York stemming from those hush-money payments to women he'd allegedly had affairs with, his hand only got stronger in the GOP. That was also true after the FBI searched his home in this very case and even after he was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation of the writer E. Jean Carroll, who was awarded millions of dollars. You know, Trump has spent years, almost a decade now, undermining the Justice Department and the FBI, saying they're politically motivated and out to get him. That's been amplified by conservative media, and it's insulated him somewhat in this GOP primary fight.

KHALID: So what's been the reaction from the Republican rivals who trail Donald Trump?

MONTANARO: Some have been critical of Trump. You know, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson put out a statement last night saying that Trump has become a distraction and should end his campaign. Before this came out, of course, his former vice president, Mike Pence, said of Trump that anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States. Probably the most hotly critical of Trump has been former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Here he was in New Hampshire at his kickoff event.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS CHRISTIE: The person I am talking about who is obsessed with the mirror, who never admits a mistake, who never admits a fault and who always find someone else and something else to blame for whatever goes wrong but finds every reason to take credit for anything that goes right is Donald Trump.

MONTANARO: You know, but those criticisms really are the minority of his rivals. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who's really his chief rival, and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott both sided with Trump. They called what's happening the, quote, "weaponization" of the Justice Department and said that they believe there's been a double standard. Vivek Ramaswamy, the tech entrepreneur who's also running, even vowed to pardon Trump if he wins. You know, and I think we can expect to hear more of that. You know, Republican strategists I talked to think that in the short term, this could actually help Trump again in the primary. But in the long run, maybe if candidates make this argument, he could start to be seen as too chaotic and too weak a candidate against Biden. But we're not there right now.

KHALID: You know, Domenico, I realize that it is impossible to fully assess how this all could shape the 2024 election, but it is truly unprecedented. So I am curious what your analysis is. I mean, how do you think this might shape what voters think about him?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, take a step back. It's really remarkable. I mean, we have a candidate - a former president - who's now under a pair of indictments with trials potentially stretching into next year, at least legal proceedings. And these aren't even the only potential charges Trump is facing. You know, there's still the case in Georgia about Trump's scheme to overturn the election results and another federal one into his role into the January 6 riot at the Capitol. And if Trump is convicted and faces any jail time, he can still run for president and remain on the ballot even if he's convicted of a felony. He wouldn't be able to vote in Florida, though. This is a very strange place for the country to be in and not one, I think, most expected that we would be.

KHALID: Very strange indeed. NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro, thanks so much.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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