Inside Trump’s Club When the Call Arrived: You’re Facing an Indictment
Trump’s Club former president Donald J. Trump was faced with a sense of deja vu as he gathered with his core political advisers in the office near his poolside cottage at his Trump’s Club in Bedminster, N.J. It was around 7 p.m. on Thursday when his phone rang, bringing news that he had been indicted for the second time in less than three months, this time on federal charges.
Known for his ability to compartmentalize, Trump swiftly shifted into political reaction mode. At 7:21 p.m., he took a page out of his presidential playbook and personally programmed the chyrons on every news channel in the country. He broke the news of his own indictment by issuing a three-part statement on his social media network, Truth Social, which quickly interrupted prime-time shows on major news networks. Within his attacks on the Biden administration, Trump included pertinent details about his indictment and the summons to appear at a Miami courthouse the following Tuesday afternoon.
One of Trump’s lawyers went on television from a studio van brought to Bedminster, while another lawyer, James Trusty, shared a few of the charges during an interview on CNN. Trusty described Trump’s reaction, stating, “He thought about it. He said: ‘This is just a sad day. I can’t believe I have been indicted. But, at the same time, he immediately recognizes the historic nature of this. This is crossing the Rubicon.”
Prior to the official notification of the indictment by the Justice Department, Trump’s team had been searching for information. Following a meeting between three of his lawyers and Justice Department officials earlier in the week, the expectation of charges remained unchanged. While operating on rumors, gossip, and news reports, the team anticipated an imminent indictment.
In preparation for the indictment, Trump’s team recorded a video of the former president reacting to the expected charges. The video was released half an hour after Trump announced his indictment and featured him denouncing Democrats, portraying the indictment as a sign of a nation in decline, and asserting his innocence.
Recognizing the political opportunity the indictment presented, Trump’s team urged close Republican allies to issue statements of support. Representatives Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy were among the first to publicly express their solidarity, with McCarthy vowing that House Republicans would hold the perceived weaponization of power accountable.
Trump’s location at Bedminster, surrounded by his political and communications circle rather than most of his lawyers, reflected the uncertainty surrounding the timing of the charges and Trump’s consistent approach to legal challenges.
Having experienced the fundraising benefits of previous indictments, Trump’s team was well-prepared to exploit the current federal indictment. They regarded federal law enforcement actions as a central element of their fundraising strategy. Online fundraising, critical to Trump’s political operations due to a lack of support from high-end Republican donors, had declined significantly for all Republican candidates in recent years, including Trump.
With the attention of potential donors waning, indictments were seen as an opportunity to re-engage grassroots supporters. Following his previous indictment in New York, Trump’s campaign reported raising over $12 million in just one week, a substantial boost to his previously lackluster fundraising efforts. However, since then, Trump’s fundraising levels had returned to a disappointing state.
Within an hour of learning about his indictment, Trump’s campaign sent its first mass email, capitalizing on a sense of shared persecution and victimhood. The subject line of the email read, “We are watching our Republic DIE before our very eyes.”
Outside Trump’s official campaign structure, allies at the pro-Trump super PAC, MAGA Inc., prepared to maximize the moment and attack the special counsel, Jack Smith, who brought the case against Trump. They distributed opposition research to allies, providing talking points for television, radio, and social media appearances. The group even disseminated information about Smith’s wife to insinuate a conflict of interest due to her donations to Democratic politicians.
In anticipation of the federal indictment, strategists working with Trump’s super PAC began crafting a television advertisement that aligned with circulating talking points among his most ardent defenders on Capitol Hill. These talking points sought to portray the indictment as a partisan plot orchestrated by President Biden’s Justice Department. Additionally, allies planned to insinuate, without evidence, that the timing of the indictment was intended to distract from House Republicans’ investigations into Biden and his family’s business affairs.
As Trump prepares for his arraignment in Miami, his close allies are launching a campaign to pressure his competitors in the Republican presidential race to rally around him. Young conservative activist Charlie Kirk tweeted a call for all Republican candidates to suspend their campaigns and show support in Miami. Failure to do so, according to Kirk, would brand them as part of the problem rather than an opposition party.
Competitors in the Republican primary privately admitted their dread regarding the indictment, as it would dominate the news cycle and deprive their campaigns of media attention. Feeling compelled to appease their voters, many Republicans running in 2024 find themselves in the position of vigorously defending Trump and pausing efforts to differentiate their records from his.