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How Trump's federal indictment affects the presidential race

President Donald Trump faces legal peril that no party's presidential frontrunner has ever faced. What will the ramifications be?
How Trump's pending federal indictment affects the presidential race
Posted at 6:59 AM, Jun 09, 2023

Never before has a major presidential candidate faced so much legal peril in the buildup to the election. But former President Donald Trump is facing not one but two sets of indictments.

On Thursday, Trump revealed that he will be indicted in federal court next week relating to the Department of Justice’s investigation into his handling of classified documents. The indictment is expected to come nearly two months after the Manhattan District Attorney filed felony charges against Trump for allegedly falsifying documents.

According to polling, Trump is far and away the frontrunner in the GOP primary. In an average of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics, Trump has 53% of Republican support, nearly 30 points ahead of his nearest rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis. Trump and DeSantis are the only candidates polling above 5%.

Before Trump faced his first indictment in April, he was polling in the mid-40s. The indictment, if anything, appeared to help Trump in the polls.

Bill Kristol, who served as Vice President Dan Quayle’s chief of staff, has been a consistent Republican critic of Trump.

"Will people stick with them? I think the odds are better than not they do just based on history," he said. "Obviously, over the last six, seven years, every time something happened, the tape in October of 2016, the first impeachment, the second impeachment, January 6th, you know, and still people stuck with him."

SEE MORE: Who is Jack Smith and why is he investigating Trump

But Kristol noted that unlike the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation, which was led by a Democrat, the newest indictment comes from Jack Smith, an independent special counsel assigned by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

For now, Kristol said that Trump should be considered the frontrunner.

"But again, we don't really know sort of how compelling this evidence will be," he said, adding that the indictment might not move his core base but could impact GOP supporters who are merely "OK" with Trump.

So far, most of Trump’s Republican rivals have yet to capitalize on Trump’s pending indictment. DeSantis decried the pending indictment.

"The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation," he wrote. Why so zealous in pursuing Trump yet so passive about Hillary or Hunter?"

SEE MORE: TIMELINE: What led to Trump's federal indictment in documents case

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who once was a Trump ally, did not rush to an immediate judgment.

"We don’t get our news from Trump’s Truth Social account," Christie wrote. "Let’s see what the facts are when any possible indictment is released. As I have said before, no one is above the law, no matter how much they wish they were. We will have more to say when the facts are revealed."

Kristol noted that Christie’s experience as a former federal prosecutor could make for an effective foil against Trump. 

"He could be pretty effective, actually, at explaining why this is serious," Kristol said. "It is serious in terms of security, in my opinion. "So I think we just don't quite know how the party is going to break how the conservative movement is going to break what donors think about this."

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