Donald Trump is expected to fly to New York this week from his home in Florida to be arrested. For now, the specific charges are unknown because the indictment is under seal, but they involve his role in the payment of hush money during the 2016 presidential campaign to cover up an extramarital affair.
To help you get ready for the week ahead, I talked with my colleague Maggie Haberman, who’s known for her behind-the-scenes reporting on Trump.
David: You’ve reported that Trump and his aides were surprised by the news and didn’t expect an indictment for a few weeks — if at all. What’s the atmosphere like at Mar-a-Lago on the days after?
Maggie: They’re still trying to assess what is happening on a few fronts. One is the political front, which I’d say they were most prepared on.
Another is the legal front, which is messy because his team has had a lot of infighting, and there’s finger pointing about why they were so caught off guard. The lawyers also don’t yet know the charges because it’s a sealed indictment.
Finally, there is the emotional front. While Trump is not said to be throwing things, he is extremely angry and his family is, not surprisingly, rattled.
The other cases
David: My instinct is that this indictment may make an indictment in one of the other cases — the investigations into Trump’s actions in Georgia after the 2020 election, his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack and his handling of classified documents — more likely. After all, one of the issues apparently giving pause to prosecutors was the idea that they would be the first ever to indict an ex-president. That potential barrier is gone. Nobody can know what will happen in those other cases, but does that basic dynamic seem correct?
Maggie: You raise a point some lawyers have raised privately. All the prosecutors were concerned about being first with a historical precedent. And now there is a broken seal of sorts. That said, Republicans who dislike Trump are saying privately they wish this case wasn’t first because they view it as more trivial than the others.
David: Is there one of those other investigations that most worries Trumpworld?
Maggie: Georgia has bothered Trump personally for a while, possibly because there are tapes of him telling officials to find votes. Some of his aides are very worried about the documents investigation that the Justice Department has. It’s a clearer-cut issue, and a federal judge overseeing grand jury matters showed in a recent ruling that she’s taking the government’s claims seriously.
David: Trump has faced major legal threats to his business career in the past and always managed to escape criminal charges. How does this compare to those earlier threats?
Maggie: Trump has been trying to avoid being indicted since he was first criminally investigated in the 1970s. He actually hasn’t faced enormous criminal legal threats since then. He has instead operated in a world in which so much is based on machine politics and what Marie Brenner, the journalist, once described as New York’s “favor economy.”
A project involving two of his kids was investigated by the Manhattan district attorney about a decade ago, but for a variety of reasons there were no indictments. Then, when he was president, he was protected because of a Justice Department opinion against indicting a sitting president. It’s worth remembering his company was convicted on 17 counts of tax fraud and other crimes last year. So this is something of a slow roll.
Trump up, DeSantis down
David: The last few weeks of Republican primary polls have looked pretty good for Trump: He’s up, and Ron DeSantis is down. Depending on which polls you believe, Trump either has a sizable lead or the two are close. Apart from the indictment, why do Trump and his team think he’s surged? And how do they see the politics of an indictment playing out?
Maggie: I think nearly every national poll shows Trump with a sizable lead. Polls this early aren’t great predictors, but they are a snapshot of what has been pretty durable support Trump has among Republican primary voters.
Trump’s team thinks it’s had a pretty good few months politically — it has, in fairness — and that DeSantis has struggled to gain traction. That is striking since DeSantis has been on a book tour. Trump’s team believes this indictment will help him raise money and could give him some boost — and maybe political antibodies when and if future indictments come from other investigations.
It was lost on no one on Trump’s team that DeSantis — after initially trying to minimize a possible indictment as an issue that voters care about and speaking about it later than other Republicans — rushed out with a statement once an indictment happened attacking it as “un-American” and saying Florida wouldn’t help extradite Trump. It tells you a great deal about the grip Trump still has.
More on Trump
War in Ukraine
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THE WEEK AHEAD
What to Watch For
For Western Christians, today is Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week.
Iowa and Louisiana State will play for the women’s N.C.A.A. basketball championship this afternoon, and the men’s final is tomorrow, pitting UConn against San Diego State.
Trump is expected to surrender in Manhattan on Tuesday.
Two major elections will be held on Tuesday: A runoff will decide the mayor’s race in Chicago, and Wisconsin will fill a vacancy on its state Supreme Court.
Passover begins at sundown Wednesday.
The U.S. government will release monthly jobs numbers on Friday.
The U.S. stock markets will be closed on Good Friday.