WASHINGTON – Donald Trump's prospective campaign to reclaim the presidency in 2024 faces legal and political jeopardy, but allies said some of the potential roadblocks – including the threat of prosecution – actually motivate him to run.
Trump is dealing with revelations about his conduct during the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, pushback from Republicans and, above all, the prospect of an unprecedented indictment of a former president.
Despite these problems, Trump is considering a 2024 campaign and may make an announcement as early as this summer, said aides and allies discussing internal deliberations on condition of anonymity.
If anything, the attacks on him encourage Trump to run again, if only to confront his enemies, they said.
"The American people remain hungry for his leadership," Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said, and the former president is not dissuaded by the various investigations.
"As another witch hunt is blowing up in the faces of Democrats, President Trump is in a stronger position now than at any time before," Budowich said.
Armed Trump backers:Trump knew Jan. 6 mob was armed and dangerous, witness says
Under investigation by a grand jury in Georgia and, perhaps, the Department of Justice in Washington, Trump has repeatedly hinted at another presidential run, including during a rally for 2022 candidates in Illinois.
"In 2024, most importantly, we are going to take back our magnificent White House," Trump told attendees, some of whom chanted, "Four more years!"
The obstacles for Trump, include:
The Jan. 6 hearings
The Illinois rally took place less than a week before former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified to the congressional committee investigating the riot Jan. 6 about allegedly aberrant behavior by the president in the days leading up to the insurrection.
Claims that could follow Trump onto the campaign trail include the spectacle of the president throwing a plate of lunch against a White House wall, staining it with ketchup.
One of the most serious allegations: Hutchinson testified that Trump knew that some supporters on Jan. 6 were armed with weapons, even as he exhorted them to march to the U.S. Capitol to protest the electoral vote count that put Joe Biden in the presidency.
Trump may be vulnerable to charges of inciting an insurrection or seeking to obstruct a legal proceeding.
The Jan. 6 hearings have produced a number of potentially embarrassing stories about Trump, and even gotten him crosswise with members of his family.
Committee members said Trump protested the 2020 election by claiming voter fraud, even though Attorney General Bill Barr and other aides told him those claims were bogus. Trump's daughter Ivanka told the committee in a videotaped deposition that she agreed with Barr's assessment, drawing a rebuke from her father on social media.
On the social media website Truth Social, Trump said his daughter "had long since checked out, and was, in my opinion, only trying to be respectful to Bill Barr and his position as Attorney General (he sucked!)."
An indicted ex-president?
Testimony before the Jan. 6 commission has fueled speculation that Trump is vulnerable to criminal incitement on a charge of inciting the riot designed to stop the electoral vote count that confirmed Biden's victory.
The Department of Justice is investigating the insurrection, and some of its findings could splash on Trump. Authorities searched the home of former department lawyer Jeffrey Clark, a player in Trump's election protest. They seized the cellphone of John Eastman, a private lawyer advising Trump who was involved in efforts to overturn the election.
The Department of Justice is prosecuting Jan. 6 rioters, but it is not known whether Trump is a focus of the investigation.
Trump is being investigated by a grand jury in Atlanta regarding another allegation: that he improperly pressured Georgia officials to change election results favoring Biden. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told USA TODAY in February that investigators are "looking at the total scope" of possible wrongdoing.
Trump and the Justice Department:Trump leaned on DOJ to help overturn 2020 election, witnesses tell Jan. 6 committee
Trump faces a civil investigation by the New York state attorney general's office on financial dealings.
Aides said Trump professes a lack of concern about the possibility of criminal charges, doubting prosecutors will go after him. At other times, Trump has fretted about the Biden administration and Democratic governments in New York and Georgia going after him, a fear he has expressed in public.
"They want to put me in jail," Trump told supporters in late January.
Trump and his allies said the various investigations would not affect his political plans.
"I think it is going to propel him to run even more," said Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign adviser, adding that Trump sees all the investigations as a plot against him.
Emerging Republican opposition
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has made appearances in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, said he will make his own decision on a presidential run, regardless of whether Trump runs.
That sets up the possibility of a former vice president running against a former president who tapped him to be a running mate in the first place.
Some Republicans are casting about for an alternative to Trump – and one frequently mentioned name is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis said he is more focused on his reelection bid this fall than on a presidential run in 2024. His people put out the word that DeSantis didn't care whether he got Trump's endorsement.
A poll by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center gave DeSantis a slight lead over Trump in the state that is likely to host the first Republican primary in 2024.
The poll gave DeSantis 39% of likely Republican primary voters to Trump's 37%, well within the margin of error.
Anti-Trump political strategist Sarah Longwell, who has conducted focus groups through the year, said she sees a rising number of Republicans who want Trump to leave the scene.
Reporting on two focus groups, Longwell said, "For the first time, none of the respondents want Trump to run again in 2024."
Conflicting advice on timing
Some aides said Trump is being advised to announce early to send a message to Pence and DeSantis and make it harder for them to raise money.
Some potential GOP presidential candidates, such as former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, said they won't run if Trump does.
Other possible contenders, such as Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., wait to see what Trump does and when he does it.
The downside of an early announcement: Candidate Trump would have to separate himself from the political action committee that is spending millions on behalf of candidates in the November midterm elections – another big factor in Trump's personal political calculus.
Others advise Trump to hold off a formal declaration until after the November elections – the results of which could affect Trump's plans.
The November 2022 elections
Trump backs more than 140 Republican candidates for offices up and down the ballots.
That includes state and local offices devoted to running elections – part of what Democrats said is an effort to make it easier to overturn adverse election results in battleground states in 2024. Trump said his protest of the 2020 election remains an issue and should be issues for Republican candidates across the board.
Trump is probably prepared to claim the credit if Republicans win control of Congress in the November elections, theoretically strengthening his hand for another presidential run.
If Republicans have reversals, it could be a different story.
Hoping to keep control of the Senate, Democrats try to use Trump's support of Republican candidates in closely contested states, such as Herschel Walker in Georgia, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and J.D. Vance in Ohio, to sway swing state voters.
Trump touts the success of his endorsed candidates in Republican primaries, but that is a mixed bag.
His support of Vance helped propel the author/businessman to victory in the Ohio Senate primary, but he won only a little more than 32% in a crowded field. Oz won his primary in Pennsylvania, but it was so close that a recount was required.
Last month, the ex-president failed to defeat incumbent Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, who won a blowout over the Trump-backed David Perdue. Two Trump-backed candidates in Georgia lost congressional runoff races, though both the Republican winners said they are also Trump supporters.
Election reversals could affect Trump's thinking, allies said, but few said they would change his mind about running again.
One motive, allies said: revenge against Biden. The lower Biden's approval ratings, the more likely Trump is to run, they said.
An age-old question: How old is Donald Trump? How does his age compare with Joe Biden, former presidents?
Biden said he would welcome a Trump challenge.
"I'd be very fortunate if I had that same man running against me," Biden said in March.
Whatever the ratings, beating an incumbent is almost always a challenge.
Trump and his supporters point to his record of endorsements, saying he backed 146 successful candidates (against 10 defeats), though most of those were incumbents or otherwise heavy favorites with little opposition.
Trump has repeatedly hinted at a 2024 run since he left office Jan. 20, 2021, two weeks after the attempted insurrection and one week after the House impeached him a second time.
Last month, during a Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Trump began to talk about "one of the most urgent tasks facing the next Republican president," then he paused.
"I wonder who that will be?" he said.
As supporters stood and cheered, Trump said, “Would anybody like me to run for president?”
The final decisions about Trump's future belong to Trump, and they could be made anytime.
Gates, the former campaign adviser, said the former president "asks everybody if he should run" in 2024.
"But he will make the final decision."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump weighs announcing 2024 run this summer amid Jan 6 revelations