Trump is seeking the White House again amid legal investigations and losses for the Republican Party

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday launched his third campaign for the White House just a week after a disappointing Republican midterm bid forced the party to decide whether to embrace a candidate whose refusal to accept defeat in 2020 sparked an uprising and propelled American democracy to a halt. the edge of the abyss.

Trump said to an audience of several hundred supporters in a chandelier ballroom at the Mar-a-Lago club, where he stood flanked by American flags and “Make America Great Again” banners.

“America’s comeback begins now,” he said, formally at the start of the 2024 Republican primary.

Another campaign is a remarkable turn for any former president, let alone one who made history as the first to be impeached twice and whose term ended with his supporters storming the Capitol in a deadly attempt to halt the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 6. , 2021.

Trump also enters the race at a moment of deep political vulnerability. He had hoped to launch his campaign on the heels of the GOP’s resounding midterm victories, fueled by the candidates he mounted during this year’s primaries. Instead, many of those candidates lost, allowing the Democrats to keep the Senate and leaving the GOP a path to only a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.

Trump has been blamed for the losses by many in his party, including a growing number who say the results show it’s time for him to move beyond the GOP and look to the future, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis out of last week’s election. Preferred early.

In addition to his attempt to dampen the rise of his potential rivals, Trump’s decision to launch his candidacy before the 2022 election is also fully set as he faces a series of escalating criminal investigations, including several that could lead to indictments. They include an investigation into hundreds of classified documents the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago and ongoing state and federal investigations into his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

While Trump has spent recent months teasing his comeback, aides have been outlining a campaign modeled on his 2016 process, when Trump and a small group of aides defied the odds and defeated a better-funded and more experienced Trump. competitors by exploiting deep political fault lines and using shocking data to relentlessly capture media attention.

Trump returned to that bleak rhetoric in his speech on Tuesday, painting the country under President Joe Biden in harrowing terms, describing “bloodstained streets” in “sink cities” and an “invasion” on the border and winning cheers as he vowed to execute him. Those convicted of selling drugs.

“We are a nation in decline,” he said. “We’re here tonight to say it doesn’t have to be this way.”

Trump in particular has avoided talking about the 2020 election, eschewing the extremist conspiracy theories that often dominate his rallies. However, the speech contained many exaggerations and perversions as he presented himself as a “victim” of wayward prosecutors and “festering, rotten, and corrupt Washington.”

As Trump spoke to a crowd of several hundred, missing in particular were several longtime supporters including former campaign managers, aides and his daughter Ivanka, who issued a statement saying she had no plans to participate in his campaign.

“While I will always love and support my father, I will do so outside the political arena,” she said in a statement.

Even after the GOP’s midterm losses, Trump remains the strongest force in his party thanks to the loyalty of his base. For years, he has consistently outperformed fellow Republican contenders by wide margins in virtual head-to-head contests. Even out of office, he consistently draws thousands to his rallies and remains his party’s most prolific fundraiser, raising hundreds of millions of dollars.

But Trump is also a deeply polarizing figure. Fifty-four percent of voters in last week’s midterm elections thought he was very or somewhat ill, according to AP VoteCast, a poll of more than 94,000 voters nationwide. And an AP-NORC poll in October found that even Republicans have reservations about him remaining the party’s standard-bearer, with 43% saying they don’t want to see him run for president in 2024.

Trump’s candidacy raises profound questions about America’s democratic future. The final days of his presidency were consumed in a desperate effort to stay in power, undermining centuries-old traditions of peaceful transition. And in the two years since his loss, Trump’s constant lies – and baseless – about widespread election fraud have eroded confidence in the country’s political process. By late January 2021, about two-thirds of Republicans said they did not believe Biden was legitimately elected in 2020, according to an AP-NORC poll.

VoteCast showed that many Republican voters in the midterm elections continued to hold that belief.

Federal and state election officials and Trump’s attorney general have said there is no credible evidence that the 2020 election was tainted. The former president’s allegations of fraud have also been rejected by several courts, including by Trump-appointed justices.

While some Republicans with presidential ambitions have long ruled out running against Trump, others, including Vice President Mike Pence, are taking increasingly public steps toward their own campaigns, raising the prospect of a crowded GOP primary.

That may ultimately serve Trump in favor, as it did in 2016, when he beat more than a dozen other candidates who split the anti-Trump vote.

Trump’s decision also paves the way for a possible rematch with Biden, who has said he intends to run for re-election despite concerns from some in his party about his age and low approval ratings. The two men were already the oldest presidential candidates ever when they ran in 2020. Trump, who is 76, will turn 82 at the end of a second term in 2029. Biden, who will be 80, will be 86.

If he ultimately succeeds, Trump will be the second US president in history to serve two non-consecutive terms, following the victories of Grover Cleveland in 1884 and 1892.

But Trump enters the race facing daunting challenges that go beyond his party’s growing concerns. The former president is under numerous investigations, including a months-long investigation into hundreds of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump also faces scrutiny from the Justice Department over efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fanny Willis is investigating what she claims is a “coordinated, multistate plan by the Trump campaign” to influence the 2020 results.

Some in Trump’s orbit believe the run will help protect him from possible indictment, but there is no legal statute preventing the Justice Department from moving forward — or preventing Trump from continuing to run if indicted.

However, the Trump campaign will further complicate what is already a fraught decision by Biden’s Department of Justice, which will have to decide not only whether it believes Trump broke the law, but will face enormous political pressure to charge the man who is now president. current president. main political rival. Indeed, Trump has called the investigation a politically motivated attempt to derail his candidacy.

Aides who managed to persuade Trump to delay his announcement until after the midterm elections also urged him to wait until after next month’s Senate runoff in Georgia. But Trump chose to ignore the advice.

It was no secret what he was planning.

At the White House Christmas party in December 2020, Trump told guests it had been “four amazing years.”

“We’re trying to get another four years,” he said. “Otherwise, I will see you in four years.”

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