Inside the Trump's Club When the Calls for Accusations Come

Former President Donald J. Trump was hanging out with his top political advisers in an office near his poolside cottage at his club in Bedminster, NJ, when his phone rang around 7 p.m. on Thursday. On the phone, according to two people with knowledge of the call, was one of his lawyers, who informed him that he had been charged a second time in less than three months.

Unlike the first indictment — in state court in Manhattan relating to allegations he had paid hush money to a porn star during the 2016 election — the current indictment is federal, and stems from his behavior before leaving office and roughly 18 months after.

Mr. Trump, always tinkering, immediately turned to political reactions.

At 7:21 p.m., he did what he often did when he was president: He personally programmed the chyron on every news channel in the country. He broke the news of his own indictment – drafting and then sending a three part statement on his social media network, Truth Social, which soon interrupted evening shows on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN.

The former president posted screre against the Biden administration, but buried within his attacks on Democrats were pertinent details: not only had he been indicted, but also that he had been subpoenaed to appear at a Miami courthouse Tuesday afternoon.

A studio van was brought to Bedminster so one of the lawyers could appear on television. Another Trump attorney, James Trusty, immediately went to CNN to explain some of the charges, and share his client's reaction.

“He thought about it,” said Mr. Trusty. “He said: ‘It's just a sad day. I can't believe I've been indicted.'” But, at the same time, he immediately recognized this historical nature. It crosses the Rubicon.”

For days, Trump's team has been seeking information about his charges, after three of his attorneys met with Justice Department officials on Monday. They entered the meeting after being alerted to the possible accusations, and nothing was said to change that perspective, according to people close to Mr Trump. But while they suspect charges are imminent, they operate more on rumors, gossip, and news reports than verified facts.

As speculation mounts ahead of the Justice Department's notice of indictments, Trump's team captures video of the former president reacting to the expected charges in a direct speech to the camera – and standing in front of what appears to be a version of a painting of President Theodore Roosevelt and Kaiser Wilhelm II, Germany's leaders during the War. World I

Half an hour after he announced his charges, he posted videos on his social media sites. In it, he blasted Democrats, described the indictments as evidence of a “degenerate state” and called himself an “innocent man”.

Mr Trump's team has urged Republicans close to him to start issuing statements, and soon his allies complied: Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a tweet, “Sad day for America. God bless President Trump.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy went further, calling it a “dark day” and vowing, “Republicans will hold this brazen arsenal of power accountable.”

That Mr Trump is surrounded in Bedminster by his political and communications circle, rather than most of his lawyers, reflects the uncertainty over when the charges will come and how consistently Mr Trump approaches his legal challenges.

His political advisers have been preparing for weeks to exploit the federal charges to full effect. Her team sees federal enforcement action against her as a core part of their fundraising strategy. Online fundraising – which has long been the lifeblood of Mr. Trump – as most high-profile Republican donors shun him – has run dry for all Republican candidates over the past few years, including Mr. Trump.

GOP donors are exhausted by the constant hysterical calls to give Mr. Trump money to stop the Democrats destroying the country. It takes a lot these days to catch the attention of those contributors; the indictment was one of the few events that inflamed grassroots enough to reach into their pockets.

The last time Trump was indicted, in New York, his campaign said it had raised more than $12 million in the week following the indictment—a huge bump in fundraising that was previously anemic. Since then, Trump's fundraising has fallen back to disappointing levels, according to people briefed on the situation.

Not even an hour had passed since Trump learned of the indictment before his campaign sent out its first mass email to monetize the sense of shared mistreatment and victimization the former president had fostered among his supporters. Trump's fundraising call at around 7:45 p.m. on Thursday began, “We are watching our Republic DIE before our eyes.”

Trump allies outside of his official campaign structure have also been preparing to seize the moment, and put his political antibodies to work.

Officials at the main pro-Trump super PAC, MAGA Inc., have fed the allied opposition research so they have talking points for attacking Jack Smith, the special counsel who brought the case against Mr. Trump, in television and radio appearances and on social media. media. The group even circulated information about Mr Smith's wife to try to show that her contributions to Democratic politicians had created a conflict of interest for her husband.

Last week, when allies of the former president saw reports that Mr. Smith is most likely nearing the end of his investigation, the strategist working with super PAC Mr. Trump began drafting television commercials to coincide with anticipated federal indictments.

The ad will be submitted for national cable placement on Friday, according to a person with direct knowledge of the plans. The ad's message will relate to talking points circulating among some of Trump's most staunch defenders on Capitol Hill. They would describe the indictment as a partisan plot from President Biden's Justice Department.

These allies also plan to insinuate — without evidence — that the Justice Department has timed these indictments to distract from the Republican Party's investigation into the business dealings of Mr. Biden and his family.

As Trump prepares for his impeachment Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Miami, several of his close allies are preparing a campaign to pressure his Republican presidential contest rivals to support him.

“Every ‘Republican' running for President should suspend their campaign and go to Miami in a show of support,” tweeted Charlie Kirk, a young conservative activist close to Trump.

“Otherwise,” Mr. Kirk added, “You are part of the problem. Either we have an opposition party or we don't.”

Operators of several rival campaigns privately admit they fear an indictment because it would take over the news cycle and deprive the media of attention for their candidate.

A senior adviser to one of Trump's Republican primary rivals, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said GOP voters strongly believed that any accusations against Trump were a plot by Democrats and that they wanted to see all Republicans fight. to defend the former president.

This leaves most Republicans running for 2024 in the abject position of feeling as if the only way they can appease their electorate is to fully defend Trump and stop trying to compare their record to his.

Team Mr. Trump ran the same pressure campaign the last time he was indicted, in New York – and it's worked out surprisingly well.

In mid-March, the former president predicted that his arrest would be imminent, and his political operatives and allies in the news media began publicly intimidating Florida Governor Ron DeSantis into defending Trump, which he eventually did.

This time, Mr. DeSantis attacked the prosecutors, but not defended Mr. Trump either. Without promising to forgive Mr Trump, as another candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy, has doneMr. DeSantis stated on Twitter, “The DeSantis Administration will hold the DOJ accountable, eradicate political bias and end arsenal once and for all.”

There were other, more eccentric parallels Thursday night with Trump's first indictment.

Approximately 90 minutes after he learned of his latest distress, Mr Trump – who was playing disc jockey on the terrace of his club Mar-a-Lago after April's indictment – headed to the main house in Bedminster for an outdoor dinner.

Wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, he's back in the DJ role, according to someone there, using an iPad to play some of his favorites: Elvis, opera singer Pavarotti and his idol in the show, James Brown.