While the criminal investigations of former President Donald Trump often make the news with fresh developments, many of these revelations don't truly amount to much. On Tuesday, though, there was a significant exception to this pattern when multiple reports found that New York DA Cy Vance, who is working with the state's Attorney General Letitia James, has impaneled a special grand jury of his investigation of Trump and the Trump Organization. This suggests that serious charges may be on the horizon.
After the news broke, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, a longtime close observer of the president, explained how he will fight back against the investigations as it threatens to ensnare him or his interests.
"Trump is going to use talk of running again as a way to tar the Vance/James probes," she wrote on Twitter. "From his latest statement in response to the grand jury being empaneled: 'Interesting that today a poll came out indicating I'm far in the lead for the Republican Presidential Primary…'"
He has already suggested that he intends to run for president again in 2024 (even as he insists that he really won in 2020 and thus should be president now.) It's one way he can maintain power in the Republican Party and at least some level of attention from the media.
But Haberman is right that dangling a run — genuine or not — can be helpful in his effort to tar the investigations that target him. As long as he remains a potential candidate, he can say that criminal charges are just an effort to keep him out of power by his political enemies. Of course, that won't make an indictment go away — but it will likely be a potent message for his fans.
Since many are already primed to believe the 2020 election was stolen from him, it's not hard to imagine the prospect of his facing serious criminal charges could inspire more dangerous and lawless actions from his supporters like those seen on Jan. 6.
In the case of Letitia James, the criticism that she's a political enemy of his does have some genuine force. She explicitly campaigned in 2018 on investigating Trump, and she has used her investigation of him to elevate her profile. Vance is a more complicated story though. A ProPublica report actually found that Vance went easy on the Trump family as his office prepared to indict two of Trump's children in 2012. After Trump's lawyer Marc Kasowitz donated $25,000 to Vance, he reportedly overruled his own prosecutors and declined to bring the charges.