Will Donald Trump go to trial next year? Will he be nominated in 2024?


WASHINGTON – After a year of legal challenges, former President Donald Trump – and the rest of the political world − face unprecedented unknowns in 2024.

A dozen months from now, Trump could be on his way back to the White House. He could also be a convicted felon facing a prison sentence.

Trump’s legal and political worlds have collided in recent months. Last week, for example, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled Trump ineligible for office because of the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, potentially keeping him off the ballot in the state. While Trump hasn’t been criminally charged with inciting the Capitol riot, he does face both state and federal charges over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 race for the White House.

Trump and his aides have expressed confidence that the U.S. Supreme Court will reverse the Colorado ruling. But they have also said that, while Trump’s support in polls has increased amid indictments in four different cases in 2023, his legal problems could undercut his presidential campaign in 2024.

“They’re weaponizing law enforcement for high-level election interference,” Trump told supporters during an evidence-free rant in Reno, Nevada.

As voters prepare to weigh in during the upcoming Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Trump and his rivals, including President Joe Biden, operate in a fog of uncertainty.

Here are the questions they’ll face in the new year:

Will Trump go to trial in 2024? What if he’s convicted?

Trump and his legal team are pursuing pretrial motions that could, in theory, delay the starts of all four criminal trials past Election Day on Nov. 5.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, based in Washington, had scheduled a March trial on federal charges that Trump attempted to steal the 2020 election from Biden. Trump’s attorneys, however, claim he’s immune from prosecution for actions taken as president. They are engaged in an appeal process that could reach the Supreme Court, delaying the proceedings.

The timing of the Washington election case could also affect the schedule in New York, where Trump faces charges related to hush money payments before the 2016 election. That trial is scheduled to start in late March, but that could well slip.

The Trump team is also engaged in maneuvering in Florida, where the former business mogul is charged with mishandling classified information, and in Georgia, where he is accused of breaking state conspiracy laws in trying to overturn his loss to Biden in the Peach State.

If any of these cases do get to trial, Trump will have to attend in person – and be off the campaign trail. There’s also a chance he’ll become the Republican presidential nominee as he’s facing four sets of criminal trials.

One of Trump’s Republican opponents, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, said earlier this month the indictments altered the race in 2023 because so many Republican voters thought they were unfair and rallied around the former president.

“I would say if I could have one thing change, I wish Trump hadn’t been indicted on any of this stuff…it distorted the primary,” DeSantis told the Christian Broadcast Network. “It also just crowded out, I think so much other stuff. And it’s sucked out a lot of oxygen.”

But perhaps the biggest question in an already certain year: What if Trump is convicted as he seeks a second term in office? While the former president has gained support from his political base over his indictments, there is evidence convictions would change the minds of some Trump voters.

A recent Wall Street Journal poll that gave Trump a 4% lead over Biden in a 2024 matchup also said that “a felony conviction for Trump … would shift the head-to-head ballot to give Biden a slight, 1-point lead, within the poll’s margin of error.”

Whether Trump is found guilty or innocent, or his trials are delayed, a former president facing criminal proceedings while seeking reelection will certainly mark a new element for the nation’s voters.

Will Trump’s support hold?

Throughout 2023, the procession of indictments against the former president appeared to help him, at least with Republican poll respondents nationally.

Now that 2024 is approaching, actual voters in specific states will weigh in on Trump’s White House bid.

Trump is a huge favorite in Iowa, with big leads over DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Things are more up in the air in New Hampshire, where Haley is challenging Trump for the lead in various polls. Haley won a key endorsement from New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, and both are making issues of Trump’s tribulations.

“She’s a new generation of conservative leadership who can help leave behind the chaos and the drama of the past,” Sununu said in a Haley television ad running in New Hampshire.

All of this raises more questions for candidates and voters. What happens if Haley beats Trump in New Hampshire? Would that give the former United Nations ambassador enough momentum heading into Haley’s home state of South Carolina, which holds a primary on Feb. 24?

One thing seems certain: If Trump experiences primary losses as well as legal setbacks, expect the former president to lash out even more.

“It means we’re going to have the meanest, most vicious campaign in modern times,” said pollster Frank Luntz.

Will Trump debate?

Trump risked some political support in 2023 by deciding to skip all four of the Republican presidential primary debates. While rivals decried his absence as cowardly, Trump did not appear to suffer among his backers.

According to a Real Clear Politics average of national polls of Republican voters, the former president leads DeSantis, in second place, by more than 50 percentage points.

Now the question is whether he will skip planned debates in Iowa and New Hampshire ahead of the contests in the crucial early voting states.

The debates could spotlight an issue that Trump also faces in 2024: His rhetoric.

In recent months, Trump has made comments that echo 20th-century fascists, describing opponents as “vermin,” denouncing migrants for “poisoning the blood” of the country and outlining plans to inject more partisan politics into governing. Even if Trump doesn’t participate in primary debates in 2024, they could give his rivals a stage to target his controversial commentary.

What new revelations will there be about Trump?

It’s not just criminal cases dogging Trump. There are civil lawsuits too.

Jan. 15, the same day as the Iowa caucuses, is the scheduled start date for a defamation damages trial involving writer E. Jean Carroll, who was another part of Trump’s now-historic year.

In May, Carroll won a $5 million award against Trump for defamation and sexual abuse stemming from an incident in the 1990s.

The Carroll trial, and any of the criminal trials, could generate new accusations against Trump while he is campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump is also awaiting a ruling on damages in a civil bank fraud trial that soaked up his time this year. Judge Arthur Engoron, who has found Trump liable for fraud by inflating the value of his real estate assets, is expected to assess damages that could gut large parts of Trump’s business empire.

What will be the surprises?

In past presidential campaigns, officials have speculated about the “October Surprise,” the last-month development that could shift votes down the stretch.

This time around, Republican political consultant Liz Mair said there could be monthly or even weekly surprises.

“There isn’t anything predictable,” said Mair, who opposes Trump. “Get ready for a roller coaster type of year.”

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