POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

LISTEN: KSL Legal Analyst on former President Trump’s court date

Jan 11, 2024, 3:42 PM | Updated: 4:02 pm

Former U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a news story about New York Attorney General Letitia Ja...

Former U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a news story about New York Attorney General Letitia James as he speaks to the media at one of his properties at 40 Wall Street following closing arguments at his civil fraud trial on January 11, 2024 in New York City. The former president, who is currently the front runner for the Republican nomination, attended the closing arguments for the trial which will now go to the judge for the penalty phase in which New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking $370 million in damages and to prohibit Trump from doing business in the state. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Here’s 👇 our live interview with KSL Legal Analyst Greg Skordas:


 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — While his rivals contend with snow drifts and frigid temperatures as they make their last-ditch pitch to Iowa voters, former President Donald Trump has spent much of the week before the caucuses in court instead, by choice.

Trump was in Washington, D.C., for a federal hearing Tuesday and is attended the closing arguments of his civil fraud trial in New York Thursday, with a brief trip to Iowa in between for a Fox News town hall. He’ll only return to Iowa Saturday for a final blitz before the Monday caucuses.

Both court appearances are voluntary and Trump was not required to attend. But his campaign has come to embrace his legal woes as a centerpiece of its strategy — one that has so far, supercharged his candidacy instead of hobbling it.

That may not work in a general election when Trump will need to win over moderate and independent voters who turned from him in 2020 while he fights four separate criminal cases in four jurisdictions. But in the primary, Trump is using his court appearances to cast himself as the victim of a coordinated effort by Democrats to hobble the chances of their chief political rival and to push back against President Joe Biden’s assertion that his reelection poses a threat to democracy. He instead calls Biden the real threat.

“I’m an innocent man. I’ve been persecuted by somebody running for office,” Trump told the court, speaking from the defense table despite having been barred from giving a formal closing argument by the judge. “They want to make sure that I don’t win again.”

At a press conference later, Trump again hammered the point, even though there is no evidence Biden has played any role in the cases.

“They’re doing it for election interference. And, in a way, I guess you’d consider it part of the campaign,” he said. “Every time somebody sees me in court, remember: Joe Biden and his thugs that surround him did it.”

Aides have said Trump is deeply invested in the cases, which threaten everything from his control of his business empire to his freedom. And he believes his presence in court helps him there. But the appearances also guarantee Trump the media spotlight, giving him the opportunity to hammer his case, and pulling attention away from his rivals in Iowa as they make their final pitch to voters.

“President Trump is always going to defend himself,” senior adviser Jason Miller said. “We’re not going to allow any free shots on goal of Joe Biden’s legal henchmen trying to commit election interference.”

His campaign has also continued to fundraise off the appearances, including one email Monday in which they falsely stated Biden was “forcing” Trump “into a courtroom in our nation’s capital to defend my right to presidential immunity.”

Since long before the race’s final stretch, however, Trump has spent far fewer days campaigning in the state than his chief rivals including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who visited all of the state’s 99 counties, and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who visited each one, twice. The Des Moines Register’s candidate tracker this week listed 25 public Trump events in the state since March versus more than 125 for DeSantis, 79 for Nikki Haley and more than 300 for Ramaswamy.

Trump campaign aides argue that because Trump’s events draw far more voters than his rivals, he can reach just as many people with fewer events.

The less frantic schedule also doesn’t seem to have mattered in a state where Trump maintains a dominant lead over his rivals, with the focus not on whether he will win but his margin of victory.

“Any event that he has is loaded to the hilt,” said Dave LaGrange, who owns a financial services business in Winterset, southwest of Des Moines, and plans to caucus for Trump. He said he views the former president as more of a “known entity” than his GOP rivals, who might need to spend more time getting out their message.

“I personally view Trump kind of in some respects as an incumbent like-type of candidate,” said LaGrange, who will serve as a precinct caucus captain and doesn’t mind Trump’s absence. “He hasn’t been here as much, and the events that he’s had are sellouts.”

But others have voiced complaints.

“Where was he earlier, when he had the opportunity to be here,” asked Michael Peiffer, a Winterset farmer and small business owner who supports DeSantis.

“Dude, you’re the president,” Peiffer said of Trump. “You just farmed everything out to a bunch of other people … I don’t trust that you’re going to do anything different this time and you’re going to be 78 when you take office.”

In Trump’s absence, his campaign has been holding a series of surrogate events featuring top supporters like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Ben Carson, Trump’s former secretary of housing and urban development.

“I think it’s very important that we do continue to put his message out even though he’s got a number of people who are trying to do everything they possibly can to interfere,” Carson told reporters at an event Wednesday.

While events featuring Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders and her father, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, as well as actress Roseanne Barr, were canceled due to weather, his son Donald Trump Jr., will hold an event Thursday and Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake will hold one Friday.

Those surrogates could also step in more if Trump’s criminal trials force him off the campaign trail for long stretches of time in the coming months. Some of those who have appeared are among those thought to be vying to be considered as Trump’s vice presidential pick, giving them a chance to demonstrate their draw.

It’s also a way for Trump to appeal to different constituencies.

On Wednesday night, Carson drew more than 100 people to a church in Davenport, Iowa — comparable to the number at many DeSantis and Haley events — and preached to the audience of Trump supporters in a calm voice about restoring Christian values to the national identity. He drew vocal reactions — yeas and nays, amens and laughs – from the friendly room.

Carson reminded those gathered of Trump’s strengths, despite his flaws, saying not everyone in the Bible was a “boy scout.” His language may be a little “wild,” Carson said — and “offensive,” he said later to reporters — but his policies are right.

Like Carson, Cindy Brotzman of Davenport said she believes God is working through Trump. She wanted to see Carson on a cold winter night to join with a community of like-minded people to pray for the country.

Brotzman, a 55-year-old optician who also attended a Trump “commit to caucus” event in Clinton last weekend, said she cried when she saw the former president in person. She would love to see him again but it doesn’t matter to her how often Trump is in Iowa because “he’s like anyone else,” she said. “He’s busy.”

“I believe in the heart of what he’s doing. I don’t need him to make 55 appearances as long as I know that he’s steering our country in the right direction,” she said.

___ Fingerhut reported from Davenport, Iowa. Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard in Winterset, Iowa. contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Politics + Government

Former president Donald Trump, Manhattan trial...

MICHAEL R. SISAK

With trial starting next month, Manhattan DA asks judge for a gag order in Trump’s hush-money case

The Manhattan DA's office asked that Trump be barred from making or directing others to make public statements about people involved in the case.

1 hour ago

FILE: The Utah attorney general’s office at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 27, 202...

ANNIE KNOX AND DANIELLA RIVERA

5 things to know about KSL’s legal fight for transparency

KSL and the Utah Attorney General’s Office are squaring off in a legal fight over access to Attorney General Sean Reyes’ work calendar.

2 hours ago

Utah capitol clock...

Bridger Beal-Cvetko, KSL.com

These are the biggest unresolved issues as Utah lawmakers enter last week of session

The 2024 Utah Legislative Session will come to a close on March 1. Here are some of the biggest bills yet to be passed.

6 hours ago

utah lawmakers shown, a new resolution wants to address the natalie cline controversy...

Allessandra Harris

Lawmakers working to approve budget as legislative session enters last week

Lawmakers are looking to approve final budget as the legislative session enters the final week. The session ends March 1.

7 hours ago

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, left, and President Joe Biden toast before Biden speaks to members of the Na...

Darlene Superville

Biden and Utah’s governor call for less bitterness and more bipartisanship in the nation’s politics

President Joe Biden and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox spoke at the White House during a black-tie dinner for the nation's governors.

1 day ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night ...

MEG KINNARD and WILL WEISSERT Associated Press

Trump wins South Carolina, easily beating Haley in her home state and closing in on GOP nomination

Donald Trump won South Carolina's Republican primary on Saturday further consolidating his path to a third straight GOP nomination.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

LISTEN: KSL Legal Analyst on former President Trump’s court date