Donald Trump is not legally prohibited from running for president from prison or as a convicted felon. | John Bazemore/AP Photo
Donald Trump vowed Saturday to continue running for president even if he were to be convicted as part of the 37-count federal felony indictment that was issued against him this week. “I’ll never leave,” Trump said in an interview aboard his plane. “Look, if I would have left, I would have left prior to the original race in 2016. That was a rough one. In theory that was not doable.” Trump is not legally prohibited from running for president from prison or as a convicted felon. But such a bid would nevertheless provide a massive stress test for the country’s political and legal systems.
The former president leveled harsh criticisms at special counsel Jack Smith and argued that the case against him was politically motivated and flimsy. “These are thugs and degenerates who are after me,” he said. Next SlideTrump predicted he would not be convicted and said he did not anticipate taking a plea deal, though he left open the possibility of doing so “where they pay me some damages.” He sidestepped the possibility that he would pardon himself should he win the presidency in 2024. “I don’t think I’ll ever have to,” Trump said. “I didn’t do anything wrong.” While Trump said campaign fundraising had skyrocketed since the indictment was issued, he conceded it was an unwelcome development.
“Nobody wants to be indicted,” said Trump. “I don’t care that my poll numbers went up by a lot. I don’t want to be indicted. I’ve never been indicted. I went through my whole life, now I get indicted every two months. It’s been political.”
He repeatedly invoked the Presidential Records Act to assert he’d done nothing wrong, a vigorously disputed interpretation of law that Trump has offered before. Trump’s remarks came as he flew between speeches to Republicans in Georgia and North Carolina. The trip came one day after Smith unsealed a 37-count indictment against Trump, including accusations of violating the Espionage Act, retention of classified documents and obstruction of justice. Trump is set to appear in court Tuesday in Miami.
Trump’s personal valet, Waltine Nauta, was also charged. Nauta was seen traveling with Trump on Saturday, and the aide followed Trump out of his SUV upon arriving at the Newark, N.J., Airport en route to Georgia.
Trump is also facing an indictment in New York, stemming from allegations that he concealed hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. He is also under investigation in Georgia over his efforts to pressure officials to overturn the state’s 2020 vote count. Smith is also investigating Trump’s role in instigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. 'I'm an innocent man': Trump responds to classified docs indictment Play VideoWhat role the most recent indictment will play in the GOP presidential primary is not yet clear, though following the New York indictment the former president saw a boost in his poll numbers and fundraising support as Republican voters rallied around him. Trump’s campaign is looking to replicate the performance, with his team sending out appeals to supporters in hopes of generating small-dollar contributions.
All day Saturday, there were signs that Trump’s staunchest backers were unmoved by the news. Supporters lined the side of the highway running parallel to the runway at the airport in Columbus, Ga., many waving flags and standing atop trucks to get a view of the “Trump”-emblazoned jet touching down. Upon deplaning, he was greeted by a group of supporters on the tarmac, some holding “witch hunt” signs.
At the Georgia state party convention, the crowd was filled with people wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, and some audience members called out “We love you” while the former president was speaking. Shortly after, Trump made a pit stop at a Waffle House restaurant where he was mobbed by diehard fans — one of whom offered to give the meatloaf-loving ex-president a copy of her mother’s recipe. Then Trump headed to the airport, where he posed for pictures with police officers.
In an indication of the hold Trump maintains over the congressional wing of his party, the former president was joined on the trail by North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson, a Trump backer who oversees the House GOP campaign arm. Trump was also joined by Marjorie Taylor Greene, a firebrand Georgia congresswoman and loyal ally.
But the classified documents case — and the detailed, 49-page indictment that came with it — is widely seen as far more serious than the New York one, and the former president’s adversaries are hoping that his legal problems will distract him from the campaign.