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An indictment could boost former President Donald Trump’s chances of winning the GOP nomination in 2024.
At least that’s the view of Trump supporters who spoke to NBC News at a rally Monday in Davenport, Iowa — which holds the first nominating contest on the calendar.
“I think it helps him,” said Allen Hockemeyer, a 78-year-old farmer from Waterloo, Iowa, said of the criminal investigations into Trump in Manhattan, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. “They’re all a fraud.”
In a post on his Truth Social media platform Saturday, Trump predicted that he would be indicted Tuesday in a case in New York involving alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. A spokesperson from Trump told NBC News that the former president has not been notified of a possible pending indictment but based his remarks on “illegal leaks” from prosecutors.
Whatever effect an indictment or conviction would have on Trump’s hopes for winning a general election in 2024, his first priority is rallying Republicans to capture the nomination. He holds a lead in most national polls, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who has not announced a bid — having distinguished himself as the strongest challenger in the early stages of the race.
“It just energizes the base even more. This absolutely helps President Trump going into a primary,” one Washington-based Republican operative said in a phone call Saturday afternoon. “I’m not so sure what it does in a general.”
The operative noted that there is a faction of the GOP that thinks Trump would already have trouble beating a Democrat and is looking for an alternative.
“That’s what the party is struggling with right now,” he said.
Some prominent Republicans were quick to come to Trump’s defense on Saturday, an indication that they don’t fear political backlash from standing by him.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called the potential indictment an “outrageous abuse of power” by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and vowed to use congressional committees to investigate whether “federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, R-Ga., a close Trump ally, wrote on Twitter that Democrats are “idiots” who are “sealing their own fate” with the “political weaponization” of the legal system against Trump.
The top prosecutors in Manhattan and Fulton County, Ga., are Democrats. At the federal level, special prosecutor Jack Smith, who is investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection and Trump’s handling of classified documents, was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who works in a Democratic administration.
One indication that Trump sees a political boon in the prospect of an indictment: He sent out fundraising appeals Saturday, over text and email, following his Truth Social posts.
Traci Walters, a 52-year-old accountant from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, suggested Monday that Trump is uniquely suited to thrive politically in the face of legal challenges.
“FAKE!” she blurted before a question about the investigations could be completed, adding that she’s “not at all” concerned he could be hurt by court cases.
“He’s been under the microscope for how many — what, 6, 7, 8 years now — they’re not finding anything,” Walters said, describing herself as “100 percent” for Trump in the GOP primary. “I mean, come on, who could survive that, right?”
Ernie Morgan, 52, of Muscatine, Iowa, expressed a similar sentiment about the specter of charges against Trump.
“I don’t hold a lot of credence to that because it’s unproven, it’s unfounded at this point,” he said, sitting with his wife and two children toward the back of the Adler Theater in Davenport before Trump’s speech Monday.
“There’s been so many cases in the past where there’s been indictments tried to go down, and they never seem to materialize,” Morgan said. “So, I think with his proven track record, he’d be my guy in ’24.”