COMMENTARY

The walls are finally starting to close in — so expect Trump to announce his 2024 run soon

Boy has it been a bad week for Donald Trump

Published July 27, 2022 8:45AM (EDT)

Donald Trump and his personal 757 airplane (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and his personal 757 airplane (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

I will be shocked if Donald Trump doesn't announce his candidacy in short order. Why? Because for the first time since he became president, beguiling Republican voters with his astonishing upset in 2016, Trump seems to be losing his iron grip on Republican voters.

Sure, he still has many avid followers but that sense of control and command over the party, the awe at his sheer ability to survive and prevail even when he loses, is suddenly looking a bit weak. Watching his appearances over the last couple of weeks, it appears that Trump is aware of the shift and since giving up is clearly not in his nature — particularly when the need for vengeance and vindication is his reason for being — he will have to try to grab the spotlight and take control sooner rather than later.

And boy has it been a bad week for Donald Trump.

In fact, it's been a bad summer. The January 6th Committee hearings have obviously gotten under Trump's skin. His shrill, shrieking tantrums on Truth Social, his sad social media platform, attest to that. He seems brittle and unfocused at his rallies, even though his most devoted supporters still cheer for his patented insults and chant along with the greatest hits. The act is stale — but he's too narcissistic to admit it.

On Tuesday, Trump went back to Washington, D.C. for the first time since his ignominious departure on January 20th, 2021. He was there ostensibly to deliver a policy speech on law and order but when has he ever delivered such a thing? He had his prepared remarks which sounded suspiciously like a reworked version of his infamous "American carnage" inaugural address but, as usual, he quickly devolved into his schtick, whining about the 2020 election and mocking people for sport. His only "policy" pronouncements were an idea to round up homeless people to put them in camps outside of America's cities, the summary execution of drug dealers and allowing the president to call in the National Guard to crack heads without regard to governors' wishes, basically turning the service into a presidential Praetorian Guard.

Of course, Trump has never read nor would he understand the Constitution and has shown repeatedly that he doesn't care about it, so any protestations that these ideas are unconstitutional and unAmerican would fall on deaf ears. But his crowd of D.C. sycophants seemed to love it. Still, it was a ragged performance, verging on a nostalgia act, and you get the sense that on some level he knows it.


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He also must know that he's losing elite right-wing media support.

It is clear that the Murdoch empire is cutting him loose. Fox News isn't showing his appearance live anymore and even had the temerity to counter-program his rally last week with a fawning interview with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump's young, upstart rival for the MAGA crown. Both the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal turned against Trump in scathing editorials asserting that he is unworthy to run again. Anchor Bret Baier hosted Liz Cheney his January 6th nemesis and allowed her to make the case against him for the Fox News audience. The evening opinion hosts are still with him but they'll go where their audience goes and the Murdochs have evidently decided that they won't lose their audience if they extricate themselves from the Trump orbit.

Perhaps more telling than anything is the fact that the GOP's small donor fundraising has fallen out of bed. Polls still show that people say they are enthusiastic about voting and many of them say they still love Donald Trump but they are not putting their money where their mouths are. Trump is almost certainly aware of this — it's about money, after all, his first love.

So all of this adds up to what they used to call back in the 90s "Clinton fatigue," which was just a sense of exhaustion with the endless drama. Many of the pundits attributed Al Gore's loss to George W. Bush in 2000 to the knowledge among the voters that the Republicans were going to dog him just as they did his predecessor and they just weren't up for any more of it. Trump fatigue has got to be a hundred times worse. He made Clinton look like an amateur when it came to scandals, the worst of which was that he tried to stage a coup and incited an insurrection in order to prevent the peaceful transfer of power!

The news on that front is devastating.

The Washington Post reported late Tuesday that the Justice Department (DOJ) is investigating Trump's actions leading up to Jan. 6, citing four people familiar with the matter. Attorney General Merrick Garland, meanwhile, declined to rule out prosecuting Trump in an interview with NBC News' Lester Holt on Tuesday. This comes after two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence testified to the federal grand jury probing the Capitol riot last week. The testimony of Pence's former Pence chief of staff, Marc Short, the most high-profile Trump official known to have appeared before the grand jury, is a sign that the DOJ's investigation of the attack and the fake elector plot is heating up.

While the Republican poll numbers haven't moved much in response to the January 6th hearings, opinion among Independents has shifted. And there can be little doubt that the ceaseless drumbeat of criticism from his own former staff and appointees as shown in the hearings has contributed to the Trump fatigue. Having to defend his actions against these accusations from fellow Republicans — members of his own White House — causes uncomfortable emotional dissonance and even his stalwart supporters are feeling the weight of it.

More importantly, the legal threats are becoming very serious.

That plan to have fake electors send alternate ballots for Trump, a plan which the January 6th Committee has established Trump approved, may be the plot that nails him. The New York Times obtained copies of damning emails sent among Trump's cadre of co-conspirators (which includes the head of the Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel), one of which even said, "We would just be sending in 'fake' electoral votes to Pence so that 'someone' in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the 'fake' votes should be counted." This case is being actively investigated by both the Justice Department and the Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney.

We don't know exactly what Pence's former top aide and counsel testified about last week, but, as the Washington Post reported on Tuesday night, the case has been building for many months with phone records of former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows obtained last April (which may explain why they declined to prosecute him for the congressional contempt charge.) The Post concluded that Trump himself may be under criminal investigation for the attempt to delay or obstruct an official proceeding, with which many of the 850 defendants in the January 6 insurrection cases have been charged. And, yes, he is also possibly being investigated for fraud — election fraud  — for that fake elector scheme. Oh, the irony.

That's not even all of the pressure that has been brought to bear on Trump in the last couple of weeks.

As many of us have observed, Trump is not only driven to run again in 2024 to redeem himself as the one true president but he is also convinced that being an official candidate gives him some protection against all this legal exposure. He'll claim it's all a political witch hunt, as he has been doing non-stop for more than six years now. The question is if "Trump fatigue" makes that relentless mantra have the effect of making him even less politically appealing. There are warning signs everywhere that it's a risky gambit.  


By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

MORE FROM Heather Digby Parton


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Commentary Department Of Justice Doj Donald Trump Elections 2024 Jan. 6 Hearings Mike Pence