What really happens if New York criminally indicts Donald Trump before the election

Back when court filings revealed a year ago that a New York grand jury was subpoenaing Donald Trump’s tax returns, it meant by definition that the grand jury was in the process of criminally indicting Trump on state charges. The media largely ignored this reality, but Palmer Report emphasized it at the time, because we knew it would become important later in the election cycle. Now it has.

Trump’s own lawyers argued in court filings yesterday that the Supreme Court-mandated turnover of Trump’s tax returns shouldn’t happen before the election, because if the grand jury uses the returns to indict him before the election, the evidence in Trump’s tax returns might become public and influence voters. In other words, the prospect of Trump being indicted before the election is so real, even Trump’s lawyers are now acknowledging it and trying to fend it off.

To be clear, we don’t have any way of knowing whether the District Attorney and grand jury intend to indict Donald Trump before or after the election. If it does happen before the election, the courts will then have to decide whether New York can physically arrest Trump at the White House, book him, put him through the bond process and so on, or if his arrest would have to wait until he’s out of office. There’s no past precedent for this scenario, and therefore no way to predict how it would go. In any case, Trump’s trial would certainly be scheduled for long after the election, because the courts usually schedule trials several months out.

In any case, the main impact of Donald Trump being criminally indicted before the election is that voters in the middle would be sent a clear message that Trump is indeed every bit as much the criminal that his detractors have always said he was. Voters in the middle might also be hesitant to give a guy a second term who might go on criminal trial during that term.

All that said, we can’t sit back and count on Trump being indicted before the election, because we have no way of knowing when that indictment is coming down. Nor can we presume that Trump would automatically lose the election if he’s indicted beforehand. For all we know, it could only knock him down a couple points in the polls.

The bottom line is that while there’s a decent chance Donald Trump will be indicted before the election, we have to proceed under the assumption that he won’t be. Our best tools for defeating him are voter registration, turnout, phone banking, polling place volunteering, and the like. Now let’s get to it!

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