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How the indictment helps Donald Trump build his brand

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Supporters of former US President Donald Trump interact as his motorcade heads toward Palm Beach International Airport in Palm Beach, Florida, on April 3. Trump traveled to New York, where he is scheduled to appear in court on April 4.Giorgio Vieira/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump has been a political alchemist with few enemies, bringing outrages of lewd behavior, questionable tax returns, and a thousand other scandals into the public eye, and with it, votes.

On Monday, Mr. Trump arrived in New York, preparing to stand trial for his arrest on Tuesday, a process that will likely include being fingerprinted and possibly facing trial. mug photo.

It will be a moment like no other in US history, the indictment of a former president after a grand jury voted to convict him last week in a case that turned out to be a cover-up of pornography’s silent payments to actor Stormy Daniels.

But if there was a bullet in the face, some might expect Mr. Trump to turn it into a T-shirt.

“It’s perfect for him,” said Kenneth Cosgrove, a brand policy scientist at Suffolk University in Boston.

“It has now turned into, I fought the law — and won.”

Mr. Trump has failed in the past three US elections to regain the presidency or propel the Republican Party toward expected gains in the medium term. In recent months, his campaign to win back the Republican presidential nomination has faltered. Some of his staunch allies in Congress and in the media have softened.

The indictment gave Mr. Trump a new energy boost. Supporters from around the world sent him their best wishes, including the powerful Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. His opponents came to his defense, including many of his rivals in the Republican primary. Fox News put him back in the spotlight, airing live footage of Trump’s plane landing at LaGuardia Airport on Monday. And voters expressed new sentiment, with at least two polls showing support for Trump on the rise.

David Schreibmann: Trump’s expected verdict is a stress test for US policy

But those polls also showed that nearly half of Americans view the case against Mr. Trump as dangerous, suggesting he is entering uncharted and potentially perilous territory in his political career.

Allison Hearn, a researcher at the University of Western Ontario who has studied reality TV and Mr. Trump, said Mr. Trump “likes situations where he can control every element.” In court, “There are a lot of things he can’t control. He can’t control what the judge is going to do. He can’t control the course of the case.”

and in Once caught, “there’s a kind of distortion he might lose in a way I don’t think he could have predicted.”

Trump, who rose to national prominence on reality television, has previously sought to influence the way he might be perceived. One of his lawyers said he would not wear handcuffs. His lawyers have also sought to keep news cameras out of the courts, citing security concerns (other trials were postponed in a Manhattan courthouse on Tuesday to make room for the former president).

“He may be in legal jeopardy in court, but I don’t think he’s in danger of losing his support in the court of public opinion, at least not with his supporters,” said Jennifer Mercieca, a communications researcher at Texas A&M University. Writer Demagogue for the President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump.

She noted that Mr. Trump’s reputation for dodging impeachment has not been fully earned. He was isolated twice. He paid $25 million to settle a lawsuit against Trump University, which students accused of false advertising.

Yet he has often shown himself adept at turning misfortunes into his own gain.

“They only attack me because I’m fighting for you,” he said in a video he posted on social media on Sunday, in which he called for financial donations.

David Muscrop: Donald Trump’s indictment is a victory for the rule of law and American democracy

Whatever the accusations against Trump are, Professor Mercieca said they are likely to ‘weave in favor of him with his supporters who want to believe he is their hero and fight for them against the corrupt elite’.

Peter Eisner, co-author of Major Crimes: Corruption, Impunity, and the Impeachment of Donald TrumpHe likens Trump to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, the populist billionaire whose 2013 conviction for tax evasion did little to diminish his firm grip on the country’s politics.

Yet despite Mr. Trump’s public bravado, uncertainty about the outcome of the case against him — and the prospect of new indictments following separate investigations — is likely to be troubling, Ms. Eisner said. This may spur Mr. Trump to pursue another hallmark of his political persona, a campaign to demolish those he considers his enemies.

Imagine that the king, as he sees himself, goes to prison. “I’m sure he’s afraid of it,” said Mr. Eisner. And everything I have seen shows that he will criticize to the point of which he is afraid, and try to delegitimize everything around him – first the electoral systems in the country after losing 2020 to President Joe Biden and now the courts.

Mr. Eisner added that Mr. Trump’s arrest comes at a time of political turmoil in which the former president has risen to prominence amid a broader rift in public confidence in his civic institutions.

“Justice must be done,” he said, “and without that we have huge problems.”

With or without Trump, American democracy is on the line here.

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