Trump has long conjured political storms, alternative realities, legal imbroglios and media spectacles to blur the truth or discredit institutions that have constrained his rule-busting behavior. He’ll lose that ability when he steps before the court at his arraignment in a case related to a hush money payment to an adult film actress.
And there are increasing signs that this new reality – which will come with hefty financial commitments in legal fees and locks on Trump’s calendar – could be multiplied at a time when he’s already facing the intense demands of another White House bid.
That’s because the ex-president – the first to face criminal charges – also appears to face serious problems in a potentially more perilous case involving his alleged mishandling of secret documents being investigated by special counsel Jack Smith. Charges look like an increasing possibility as the Justice Department secures evidence about Trump’s handling of classified documents after leaving the White House.
Trump’s former lawyer, Ty Cobb, told CNN’s Erin Burnett that the developments represent a serious turn in the case for the ex-president. “We’ve known the investigatory steps were under way, we just haven’t known alleged results until today,” Cobb said. “I think these are highly consequential.”
The documents case may not be the end of it. Smith is also investigating Trump’s conduct in the run-up to the US Capitol insurrection. Then there’s also a possible prosecution in Georgia led by a district attorney probing the ex-president’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election result in the swing state.
Trump denies any wrongdoing in all of these investigations. He has described his behavior in Georgia as “perfect.” And he has lambasted the sealed indictment in New York, where he faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud, as an example of politicized justice.
But at a grave moment for the country, given that an ex-president and current presidential candidate is about to appear in court, there’s also growing sense of inexorably building pressure on Trump that will compromise his capacity to evade accountability.