One of the funniest subplots in the Donald Trump Indictment Show—which centers on the hush money payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016—involves the multiple reports that, after predicting to his followers that he would be arrested on March 21, the ex-president and his allies came to believe he was in the clear.
Trump, The Washington Post reported late Thursday, “had grown cautiously optimistic” in recent days, after “advisers had counseled him that a possible indictment by a Manhattan grand jury…would not come for some time—if at all.” The former president, the outlet noted, was apparently so unconcerned about the prospect of being charged that he’d “even begun joking about ‘golden handcuffs,’” which is probably not something one does if one thinks there’s a legitimate possibility they might be indicted, convicted, and sentenced to time in prison. “It was a surprise to everybody,” David Urban, a longtime Trump adviser, told the Post, which noted that “some of his lawyers had been preparing to take a few days off.” Following the indictment, The New York Times similarly reported that “Trump and his aides were caught off guard by the timing, believing that any action by the grand jury was still weeks away and might not occur at all.” The paper of record noted that Trump had recently been “telling nearly anyone that he was in a good mood and that he believed the case against him by Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, had fallen apart.”
Of course, the biggest indication that Trump indeed believed he’d outrun Bragg? His taking to Truth Social on Wednesday to write: “I HAVE GAINED SUCH RESPECT FOR THIS GRAND JURY, & PERHAPS EVEN THE GRAND JURY SYSTEM AS A WHOLE…. THE GRAND JURY IS SAYING, HOLD ON, WE ARE NOT A RUBBER STAMP, WHICH MOST GRAND JURIES ARE BRANDED AS BEING, WE ARE NOT GOING TO VOTE AGAINST A PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE OR AGAINST LARGE NUMBERS OF LEGAL SCHOLARS ALL SAYING THERE IS NO CASE HERE.” Sure, that could have been an unabashed attempt to sway the jurors through flattery—but, in retrospect, those very much sound like the words of a man who was extremely confident he was not going to be indicted. “Such respect”! “The grand jury system as a whole”! “The grand jury is saying, hold on”! Do you think he still stands by these statements? If there were ever a time for the internet-ism “ROTFLMAO,” it would be now.
In related news, according to the Times, Trump was less focused on “the legal consequences” of the indictment Thursday than “the political implications.” Trump previously said he would not drop out of the 2024 presidential race if charged, boldly claiming that being indicted might actually help his chances of making it back to the White House. One adviser told the Post that the ex-president and current presidential candidate is planning to “milk [the indictment] for all it’s worth politically.” And while Trump has reportedly raised millions since he first claimed he’d be arrested earlier this month, it does not appear that people are reacting exactly as he had hoped.
Per the Post:
Meanwhile, according to the Times, on Thursday, “a large group of former Trump Organization employees was quietly cheering the latest developments via text messages.”