Donald Trump wants to turn his January 6 criminal baggage into 2024 Republican Primary Gold

When Donald Trump took the stage for a campaign event in Waco, Texas last month, the crowd was warmed up with a startling spectacle: giant video screens showed footage of Trump supporters violently storming the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump’s presentation of the darkest day of his presidency — and one of the darkest in US history — as a just hour to celebrate marked the beginning of how central it will be to his 2024 presidential bid.

If anything, Trump’s criminal indictment in Manhattan has only reinforced the ex-president’s plans to weaponize January 6th.

Beneath the surface — largely at the urging of an increasingly influential Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Trump has been preparing for his unprecedented legal conundrum, according to Republicans familiar with their talks It is associated with the sense of “political persecution” that is rampant in the MAGA base after January 6th.

In doing so, the reasoning goes, Trump is able not only to strengthen his ties with key primary voters, but also to drive a wedge between those voters and other GOP presidential candidates — some of whom have been vocal about Trump’s role in the have criticized violence in the Capitol.

Crucially, it all ties into Trump’s current primary goal in the 2024 race: to “outpace” his prime nemesis, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“DeSantis can’t come out and say that January 6th was a horrific day in our country’s history, much like Pearl Harbor. He would be done,” a GOP strategist outside the Trump campaign but familiar with talks surrounding the tactical shift told The Daily Beast.

“But he also can’t be put in a place where he defends Trump’s actions,” the strategist said.

At an otherwise devastating low for a presidential nominee beset by a multi-count indictment in addition to other legal woes, Trump’s 2024 campaign believes it has found a way to turn the tables by daring them to order the Cross GOP base on hush money case and January 6th.

Indeed, the burgeoning GOP presidential primary field has responded mildly to both developments. Candidates and potential aspirants have largely stuck by attacking Manhattan Attorney Alvin Bragg with Fox News-enabled attack lines — while avoiding Trump’s Jan. 6 realignment altogether.

A savvy challenger — DeSantis, for example — might be expected to capitalize on Trump’s extensive woes in preparation for a primary KO.

Instead, DeSantis refused to say anything negative about Trump — or even mention his name at all — after the indictment, having already paid a price for his first response, in which he accused the ex-president of his involvement in a porn star. The Florida governor continues to slide toward Trump in the polls, despite having stronger results in some early states compared to his declining national numbers.

“You saw evidence last week of how this shift can work when DeSantis was 95 percent on his way to becoming a stand-up double in his testimony and response to the president’s possible impeachment and then screwed it up by saying made a joke about the allegations,” an outside adviser who has known Trump for decades told The Daily Beast.

“A lot of Trump supporters, some of whom were hesitant and maybe ready to move on — they saw that as disrespect,” the adviser said.

Another sticking point in Trumpworld is a since deleted tweet by DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern on Jan. 7, 2021, where he perfunctoryly responded to the Capitol Police fatal shooting of Ashli ​​Babbitt with the joke, “How to Fuck Around and Find Out 101.”

Redfern and a representative of DeSantis’ political operation did not respond to a request for comment.

Though Trump’s impeachment and riot were unprecedented events, his defense remains predictable. Backed into a corner, Trump constantly portrays himself as the victim of “political persecution.” The cycle is familiar: create outrage, set the pace of debate, repeat.

The new question this time is how a field of rivals — many of whom were forged in the new GOP Trump created — will react as they try to wrest the mantle of party leadership from him.

Former Trump administration officials and likely 2024 rivals Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo continued to focus on Bragg, with Pompeo going so far as to accuse the Manhattan DA of “undermining America’s confidence in our legal system.”

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, the only official candidate in the field who served in the last Trump administration, called the case “more about revenge” than justice in a tweet in which she noted a video of her on Fox News beating up Bragg.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of the party’s most outspoken Trump critics, was one of the rare figures to say he would wait to read the actual charges before commenting.

But Christie, Pompeo and Pence have denounced Trump at various points during the riot, while Haley has largely come to terms after saying in 2021 that the former president’s “actions since Election Day are being judged harshly by history.”

However, there is no enemy that worries Trump more than DeSantis. As Florida’s governor continues to lay the groundwork for a possible 2024 bid, Trump’s team saw an opportunity to change his message, merging Jan. 6 rhetoric and imagery with the looming impeachment.

Remarkably, there is far less talk about the 2020 election conspiracies, which proved such a burden on Republicans in last year’s midterm elections.

“Two things are happening here: I think one is trying not to talk about the specific situation of the stolen election because that’s becoming less and less popular with voters,” the GOP strategist said. “The second part of it tries to outperform DeSantis on that issue.”

A key element of the news shift is Trump’s increased focus on the condition of his supporters, who are accused of crimes stemming from their January 6 actions.

Greene in particular has helped draw the ex-president’s attention in that direction. The Georgia congresswoman has visited the prison in Washington, where some defendants are still behind bars awaiting trial; She has tried to publicize the inhumane prison conditions faced by what she calls “political prisoners”.

A source familiar with Greene’s conversations with Trump told The Daily Beast “she spoke to him about conditions in prison.”

Given Greene’s long list of inflammatory comments and fringe views — including her recent advocacy of a “national divorce” to split the union — Republican observers are surprised at how effective she’s become in the arena.

“That’s why a lot of advisors are concerned, possibly [with] y’all…there are right things to talk about that aren’t January 6,” noted the GOP strategist.

Even in an early primary state like New Hampshire, where Trump-backed candidates were swept up in the midterm elections, there is a clear price to pay for opposing Trump on Jan. 6.

Though Pence has gradually and methodically increased his criticism of Trump over the riot – which quickly put his own life in jeopardy – the former vice president has kept his powder dry on the charges against Manhattan, calling them “criminalization of politics.” Beginning with a soft start to his criticism of Trump on Jan. 6 in June 2021, Pence has yet to see any near-term benefit from Republican voters.

In the Monmouth University poll in late March, Pence had the highest unfavorable ratings of any potential candidate and had risen nearly 10 points to 37 percent since February. Trump, on the other hand, had a 71 percent positive, 21 percent negative rating in the poll of Republican and GOP-affiliated voters.

The Pence campaign has not returned an interview request for this story.

Damaging as the riot and Trump’s legal troubles may prove in a general election, in the context of a GOP presidential primary, they have bestowed a skewed set of advantages on Trump and his allies.

When DeSantis’ frivolous comments after the arraignment “really put off a lot of people who are fed up with these garbage investigations, they’re pushing through Trump and all his supporters,” argued the source close to Trump, the rest of the field took note.

“It’s not funny.”

—Zachary Petrizzo provided coverage for this story. Donald Trump wants to turn his January 6 criminal baggage into 2024 Republican Primary Gold

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