‘Remember, Hitler went to prison’: moderate Republicans warn Trump prosecutors to ‘get this right’ or risk chaos
Even as some Democrats are cheering this latest pending Trump indictment, some more moderate Republicans fear the former president will ride his mounting legal troubles back into the White House next year.
“I’m waiting for the smoke to clear, but in the short term, in the context of the Republican Party, this probably strengthens Trump, because they feel he’s being picked on,” former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) told Raw Story in an exclusive interview Thursday evening. “There are a group of Americans who are going to feel this is a double standard.”
Davis has history on his side. This spring, Trump saw his poll numbers shoot up after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg dropped 34 felony counts on the former president for his alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Even after Trump was found liable in May for sexually abusing writer E. Jean Carroll – as the GOP presidential primary field kept expanding — Trump’s popularity amongst his GOP base has remained historically strong.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for special counsel Jack Smith.
“You better get this right. You’re in a new area here,” Davis said. “I just have this uneasy feeling, at a time when you’re trying to keep people together and bring the country together to maybe have this guy ride into the sunset due to being prosecuted.”
Optics matter now more than ever, especially with a former president who made a name for himself on “reality” TV. That’s why Davis and others are hoping the case is tried in Florida, far away from the Beltway and all its baggage.
Trump is reportedly due to appear Tuesday in federal court in Miami, Fla.
“The more removed this indictment is from the Biden administration, the more damaging it will be to Trump,” former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) told Raw Story in an exclusive interview Thursday evening. “Trump is already connecting the indictment to Biden, so I think choosing this venue – a Florida court where Trump actually lives, in a Republican state – I think that will make the case more damaging to Trump.”
When it comes to the GOP political class – along with the conservative media machine – Trump seemingly could get away with shooting a Democrat on Fifth Avenue. But Curbelo says the fealty of the Republican rank and file is paper thin.
“Politicians endorsing Trump, they're just protecting themselves. They see the poll numbers, they see that Trump is popular in their districts and they perceive Trump as a safe place for them to station themselves,” Curbelo said. “If Trump's numbers start coming down, they’re going to flee. A lot of these people don't even like Donald Trump.”
That’s not likely to change any time – or potential indictment – soon, said Davis of Virginia.
“A lot of this goes to intent. I understand the subtleties, the nuances, but the public doesn’t get it. All they see is a guy who the media’s been after, the establishment’s been after forever,” Davis said.
Davis fears this could all backfire – and backfire badly.
“Remember, Hitler went to prison…that’s when he wrote Mein Kampf,” Davis said. “This is not good.”
Still, moderate Republicans are waiting for their fellow party members to come back to the party’s conservative roots. Populism can only be popular for so long, no?
“Every television show gets old at some point. And, at the end of the day, Trump is much more of a celebrity than he is a political leader,” Curbelo, of Florida, said. “Certainly, a majority of Americans are over it and ready to move on. The question is whether a majority of Republicans will get to that point. I think the weight of all these indictments and controversies will eventually tip the scales against Trump.”
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