Will Trump’s 4th Arrest Tip the Scales?

Will Trump’s 4th Arrest Tip the Scales?

Will Trump’s 4th Arrest Tip the Scales?

Instead of hurting his poll numbers, Trump’s indictments have sucked the oxygen out of the Republican primary race. Will this latest indictment be any different?

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Wrap your minds around this: Donald Trump scheduled his fourth arrest for Thursday, the day after the first GOP presidential debate, in part to step on any positive storylines coming out of the tangle, which he skipped. A fourth perp walk seems like a weird way to hog the spotlight, but none of Trump’s prior indictments have hurt his poll numbers; his lead over sad Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has steadily grown.

“It will take the oxygen out of whatever happens from the debate,” a longtime Trump confidant told The Daily Beast.

It mostly did. On Thursday morning, coverage of Trump’s pending appearance at the notorious, scandal-plagued Fulton County Jail overwhelmed post-debate commentary. The disgraced ex-president summoned his supporters to mass outside the jail where he was booked and got his first mug shot. One man put a particular Georgia spin on the conflict, carrying a protest sign with a big picture of former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and the words, “Democracy Failed in Georgia.” The quote came from Abrams’s claim in 2018 that her opponent, Governor Brian Kemp, had as secretary of state suspended 53,000 voters and closed 214 polling places in six years, in disproportionally Black districts.

That comparison enraged Nsé Ufot, former head of the New Georgia Project, founded by Abrams, and now the founder of the New South super PAC.

“The false equivalency between Stacey refusing to concede until every vote is counted and a failed murder and coup plot is wild to me,” she told me over text. “One is protected speech and a demand for election integrity and the other is treason.” But making a Black woman the face of the supposedly hypocritical, power-hungry Democratic Party is not accidental, Ufot says.

“I hate how comfortable we have become with violent, racist, sexist attacks on Black women leaders just doing their jobs.” She pointed to death threats against District Attorney Fani Willis, New York Attorney General Letitia James in New York, and Fulton County election worker Ruby Freeman. Let’s not forget that Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan, presiding over Trump’s charges related to the January 6 insurrection, is traveling with more security since she began receiving threats of violence.

“And yes, Stacey,” she adds.

The fact that the latest and most dramatic of Trump’s indictments takes place in Fulton County is no accident either. This is, at its core, a voting rights case: Trump and his 18 codefendants conspired to deprive Georgia voters—many of them Black and brown and Asian—and Fani Willis fought back, while it seemed like Attorney General Merrick Garland dithered. The truth is, Trump and the “clown car coup” (my favorite sign from Rudy Giuliani’s perp walk Wednesday night) took direct aim at the work of Abrams, Ufot, and so many other activists who elected Joe Biden as president and gave Democrats control of the Senate in the persons of Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock.

That’s why to me the Fulton County proceedings have felt like the biggest deal of all—it feels personal for Willis. Not in a vindictive way, just that she knows the law, she knows how hard Black Georgians fought for voting rights laws—and she knows Trump and friends broke the law. There is great satisfaction in the fact that Willis is making all of these codefendants surrender, get fingerprinted, making them pose for mug shots, unlike her counterparts in other jurisdictions, and show up at the dreaded Fulton County Jail.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but Trump is embracing his prosecution/persecution, fundraising off of each one. He advertised that he would be “arrested” at 7:30 pm and urged his supporters to come to the jail. He’s made such pitches before, but almost nobody showed up. This time, however, at least 100 appeared, though they were peaceful. The night before, interviewed by fired Fox host Tucker Carlson, Trump refused to disavow the potential of violence as his prosecutions proceed. When his mug shot finally surfaced, I thought Trump looked like a cartoon villain, colors by Crayola. But to his followers this image will immediately be iconic, and we will soon see it everywhere.

While Ufot describes herself as “elated” and “relieved” at Trump’s finally facing justice, she worries that Democrats are unprepared for the battle ahead. “We’ve had foreshadowing: My first election was Bush v. Gore 2000. We saw widespread voter suppression, [Florida Secretary of State] Katherine Harris, [Governor] Jeb Bush conspiring. The ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’ in Miami,” that was organized by Trump ally Roger Stone. She continues: “A Supreme Court that stopped the recount. A silent Congress. A Democratic candidate who conceded in the name of being a ‘statesman.’” Democrats have consistently been unready for Republicans’ dirty fighting.

And the voters she describes as her “base” mostly don’t share her elation over Trump’s recent comeuppance, she says. “I’m fighting through the deep, deep skepticism felt by ordinary folks, their indictment watch fatigue,” she admits. “I’m relieved that there are still institutions that function, despite their being attacked repeatedly (most recently from the inside). That the rule of law might actually apply here.” The people whose votes Trump tried to invalidate in 2020, however, wonder what the hell took the system so long. “If we can’t get this motherfucker for wantonly criming in our faces like it was his job, then we’re screwed.”

One Trump mug shot won’t be enough. But it’s a start.

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