Donald Trump has publicly joked about the four latest felony charges brought against him. But behind the scenes, Trump’s aides are quietly acknowledging that this latest indictment—over the ex-president’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election—is far from a laughing matter.
“Most of us look at the January 6th stuff as the most concerning,” one Trump confidant told The Daily Beast. “There is real concern this must be handled perfectly.”
Two Trump advisers who spoke to The Daily Beast agreed with that analysis, though aides seem to separate Trump’s political and legal problems.
“Sure, yes,” one adviser said of this indictment being the most serious. “But it’s also the one he may be able to criticize as impossible to get a fair trial.”
While Trump characteristically took the charges and orders from a judge to not communicate with any potential witnesses less than seriously—he almost immediately posted on Truth Social that, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU”—his aides tried to clean up those remarks quickly.
“The Truth post cited is the definition of political speech, and was in response to the RINO, China-loving, dishonest special interest groups and Super PACs,” an anonymous Trump spokesperson said, “like the ones funded by the Koch brothers and the Club for No Growth.”
A Trump spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment on this story.
But perhaps more interesting than their opinions aligning with the truth of the situation is that many current and former aides could play a part in a potential trial.
The Washington Post identified over the weekend at least seven current aides who are mentioned prominently in at least one of his indictments. In this newest charging document, there are six co-conspirators—five of them have been identified, and The New York Times strongly suggested Friday that the sixth was another current top aide.
That could make Trump’s campaign more than awkward for a number of advisers.
Another Trump confidant who routinely speaks to the former president said the speed at which the case is moving has left those inside Trump’s orbit nervous about having to turn against the boss, possibly during the campaign.
“You’re not going to be able to put your big toe in the water,” this source said of Trump aides cooperating without really cooperating. “The whole leg and body goes in. The prosecution will not allow them to dance in the margins.”
In all of Trump’s indictments and investigations, aides have played a prominent role in providing damning depositions—whether they’ve meant to or not.
But in this case, with co-conspirators and more potential charges looming on a quick timetable, the Trump confidant didn’t see how the former president’s aides could navigate cooperating while not actually being helpful to the prosecution.
“You either shut up completely or you spill,” this Trump source said.
While all of the cases could be trouble for Trump, this new case has another wrinkle that makes it the most serious for the former president: timing.
Trump has already been able to push off the documents case with the help of a judge he appointed. And in the Manhattan DA case, where Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, the judge has set a trial date of March 25, 2024. Many experts, however, think Trump’s team could push that back or potentially get the whole thing delayed because Trump could be the presumptive GOP nominee by then.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors in D.C. are trying to go to trial in three months, and the judge overseeing the case is supposed to set a trial date on Aug. 28—just three weeks away.
The judge has also shown little patience for Trump’s usual antics or his lawyers’ patented dilatory tactics.
The DOJ quickly filed a protective order on Friday after Trump’s Truth Social post seeming to threaten anyone who goes after him. The protective order would limit what Trump could share publicly about his case.
Trump’s lawyers wanted more time to respond to the protective order request, hoping to push it back from a Monday hearing. But the judge ruled over the weekend that Trump’s lawyers only had until Monday at 5 p.m. to respond.
All of these orders and motions usually take days or even weeks. In this instance, it all happened over the weekend.
Trump is also seeking to move the trial out of D.C. and into West Virginia, where he won in 2020 by nearly 30 points. But other defendants in Jan. 6 cases have repeatedly tried that tactic, arguing they can’t get a fair trial in D.C. because the Capitol riots touched so many people’s lives there—directly or indirectly. Not a single defendant has been successful in getting their trial moved.
Still, Trump is likely to argue from a public relations standpoint that all of these factors—the forum of the case, the quick timing, the fact that it’s Joe Biden’s DOJ going after him—point to him not being able to get a fair trial.
“That court is so backed up and slow with everything that it would look nakedly political for them to expedite this, let alone have cameras in the courtroom,” one Trump adviser told The Daily Beast. “Trump derangement syndrome isn’t enough to make exceptions.”
But it’s not just the timing and his motions getting shot down that are angering Trump. Following his Thursday arraignment, CNN reported the ex-president was particularly irked by the judge referring to him as “Mr. Trump” instead of “President Trump.” (Both at his Mar-a-Lago resort and Bedminster golf club, aides and allies continue to refer to Trump as the president.)
Trumpworld continues to project confidence that he will, once again, be president, citing Trump’s sustained poll numbers atop the GOP field.
In Trumpworld, some Trump allies have suggested that, politically, it would be in Trump’s interest to have multiple indictments instead of merely one indictment.
Jackson Lahmeyer, founder of Pastors for Trump, told The Daily Beast that the more indictments of the ex-president, the better.
“I think at some point it becomes laughable,” he said. “The more, the merrier at this point.”
But one of the advisers disagreed strongly.
“No,” one of the previously mentioned advisers said when asked if the more indictments, the better. “Of course not.”