Trump supporters don’t care about hush money trial. They told me so


Trump clearly dreads the notion of Americans hearing the sordid details of 34 felony charges stemming from the alleged affair with a porn star, all while his wife had just given birth to his child.

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SCHNECKSVILLE, Pa. — Donald Trump’s most fervent fans offered a variety of views when I asked if they believed he had sex with the porn star and adult film director known as Stormy Daniels – from “possibly” to “hell no” to “that’s nobody’s business.”

Those loyal supporters spoke with more certainty when asked if they were concerned that Trump paid her $130,000 in “hush money” during the 2016 presidential campaign to keep quiet her account of their alleged tryst.

They just don’t care, they told me at a Trump campaign rally Saturday in Schnecksville, a village of 3,300 residents in Lehigh County, about 10 miles northwest of Allentown.

Monday morning in New York City, Trump will become the first former president to face criminal trial, accused of business fraud to disguise that $130,000 as legal fees, which a grand jury considered a federal campaign finance law violation because of its potential impact on the 2016 election.

Trump’s supporters at his rally Saturday were, for the most part, convinced he can’t receive a fair trial in a city that made him famous as a real estate developer with a penchant for breaking the rules.

Trump took the stage Saturday evening knowing the crowd was more than willing to see him as a victim of his criminal prosecution. But he must also know the people who don’t attend his rallies – voters he needs in November – will now spend weeks hearing things about him that he always wanted kept quiet.

Trump supporters proudly defended their candidate

Larry LoSchiavo of Mount Pocono sells Trump banners and other flags, flying them from racks atop his pickup. He thinks its possible Trump had sex with the porn star.

“That’s a big question mark because he was a playboy before he became a president,” LoSchiavo told me Saturday. “What’s the deal? It’s no different than someone going out with a hooker in New York City.”

Julie Hess of Bethlehem was among the thousands of people, some who waited more than 10 hours on a damp and windswept field, to hear Trump speak.

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Donald Trump ‘hush money’ trial starts this week

Julie Hess, of Bethlehem, Pa., talks about the accusations Donald Trump will face in court.

“First of all, that’s nobody’s business,” Hess told me when I asked about the affair Trump denies having. “That’s not what makes our country run. He was a good president. The fricking Democrats are all liars. And all they keep doing is bringing stuff up that’s not true for stupid people to believe in.”

Debbie Lee, who lives near Scranton, cited a 2018 affidavit Daniels signed that said she and Trump never had sex.

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Daniels renounced that affidavit not long after it was made public, saying she thought the nondisclosure agreement she had with Trump required her to sign it, while denying that it was accurate.

“I don’t think he gave her money to stay quiet,” Lee said. “I think he gave her money because she was a thorn. She was a pain. Sometimes people do that, they go after wealthy, important and popular people and they make stories up and they threaten you.”

Lee was one of the few Trump fans who thinks he can prevail in court in New York. She’s hoping a Republican or two on the jury swing it his way. “All he needs is two jurors,” she said.

Trump’s speech encouraged followers to watch ‘communist show trial’

Trump was in his favorite space Saturday, hurling epithets and insults while basking in the adulation of the crowd as he spent a little over an hour pivoting from bragging about how strong his campaign is to what a victim he is of a criminal justice system.

He tried to cast President Joe Biden as both a “demented tyrant” pushing for his prosecution and a as feeble-minded puppet of his White House staff. The crowd showed no signs of concerns about the cognitive dissonance in that message.

“I’m proud to do it for you,” the former “reality television” star told the crowd about his trial. “Have a good time watching.”

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Trump complained about a limited gag order imposed by “a highly conflicted and corrupt judge” that forbids him from attacking witnesses, potential jurors or family members of the prosecutor and judge. That came after Trump repeatedly tried to vilify the daughter of Judge Juan Merchan for her work as a consultant to Democratic campaigns.

“This is what you call a communist show trial,” Trump said.

While Trump tried to wear a brave face Saturday, he and his lawyers spent last week frantically filing legal motions to yet again delay the trial. He complained from the stage about facing a jury “in the middle of our campaign,” but the timing here was set when his legal maneuvers were finally exhausted.

Trump knows his trials are a bad look to voters outside MAGA bubble

Those delays are part of a larger strategy Trump has deployed to stall three other criminal cases: a state case in Georgia involving attempts to overturn the 2020 election there and two federal cases, one in Florida on keeping classified documents after he left office and the other in Washington, D.C., over his actions before, during and after the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

It’s been largely effective, as Trump has likely put off the other cases until after November’s general election. He has cast all of them as “election interference,” despite the piles of evidence presented by prosecutors.

On the eve of his hush money trial, big, bold Donald Trump shows he’s nothing but a giant chicken

A courtroom is the one place a control freak like Trump can be made to feel powerless, facing judges with the authority to silence or even jail him for the kinds of turbulent tantrums he has normalized now in our day-to-day politics.

He clearly dreads the notion of Americans hearing for the next six to eight weeks the sordid details of 34 felony charges stemming from the alleged affair with a porn star, lured with a potential spot on his reality television show, all while his third and current wife had just given birth to his fifth child.

This grim and gross stuff will now be in our national discourse, as much a part of the presidential election as the debates about how to curb inflation, secure the country’s southern border and address the death and conflict raging in Ukraine and Gaza.

Trump is certainly no stranger to sleazy situations. It might perfectly fit his narrative that his first criminal trial won’t focus on the insurrection he is accused of sparking or the classified document he is accused of hoarding or the actions he’s accused of taking to overturn an election.

His most zealous supporters won’t care how trashy it gets. They’ll probably love him more for it. The problem for Trump is the rest of America, the people who would rather have their politics less prurient, who now will find this tawdry tale inescapable for weeks to come.

Follow USA TODAY elections columnist Chris Brennan on X, formerly known as Twitter: @ByChrisBrennan



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