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OPINION

Trump, Felony Indictments, And The Storybook Ending That Will Never Happen

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Suppose you’re both a fan of Donald Trump and storybook endings. In that case, you’ll likely envision the climax of the former president’s legal woes beginning with his inauguration as the 47th President of the United States and ending with him pardoning himself, freeing the J6 political prisoners, and personally sinking the Deep State, all while putting his feet up on the Oval Office desk and eating a Big Mac on a live Truth Social stream. It would be a pretty fitting ending for a former president who, whether or not you think at least some of it has been his own fault, has undoubtedly been targeted, reviled, and persecuted more than any other modern political figure.

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But, with few exceptions, storybook endings only happen in storybooks. And, unfortunately for Mr. Trump, NFT images of his head on a superhero’s body aren’t real life. As sad as it is for him, his supporters, and our country, the fact of the matter is that Donald Trump is far more likely to find himself in a prison cell in 2025 than in the Oval Office. Even as someone who has moved on politically, I take absolutely no pleasure in that fact. I know our Justice Department was long ago weaponized against conservatives of any stripe, and I know if they can brazenly railroad a former president while leaving a current president alone for the exact same ‘crime,’ they can certainly do it to any of us. No good comes from this, and I’ll be rooting as hard as anyone for legal victories on all fronts and Trump suing his persecutors into oblivion for malicious prosecution.

Still, fair or not, we’re left with a leading GOP presidential primary contender facing multiple legal battles on multiple fronts, with more on the way. And these aren’t just civil matters that would, at worst, demand a hefty check from the billionaire politician; these are charges that, if they stick, could send Trump to a prison cell for the rest of his life. Even a single such legal proceeding would take a heavy toll on anyone. Trump is no different, and he’ll be facing at least four.

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John Cardillo, a former NYPD detective turned radio host who once strongly backed Trump before switching his support to Ron DeSantis for this, among other reasons, strongly agrees with this assessment.

“I’ve seen hardened criminals in their thirties crumble in the face of a single criminal prosecution, guys who came from nothing and only knew crime,” Cardillo told me. “Trump grew up wealthy and is used to luxurious affluence. He's now facing two and might soon face four criminal prosecutions in as many jurisdictions. I just don't see how a man in his late 70s can handle that while retaining the energy and schedule a presidential campaign demands.”

First of all, obviously, if Trump is incarcerated or even in home confinement, he cannot be president, nor can he wage any kind of effective campaign, Joe Biden’s unprecedented 2020 basement feats notwithstanding. But it doesn’t end there. Legal battles only ‘help’ Trump with his most loyal base. For the rest, which includes over 80% of the electorate, stuff like felony indictments and prison time tend to make politicians even more unelectable than they already were.

How can a candidate with an already abysmal sub-50% approval rating by all metrics possibly run an effective campaign, much less win, while defending himself on multiple legal fronts? The answer is he can’t, and if you think with your head instead of your heart, you know it’s true. With the equivalent of one arm and probably at least one leg tied behind his back, Trump’s already slim general election prospects will only get infinitesimally slimmer as the legal issues mount. Even if there were no other reasons (there are), it would be political suicide to nominate him based on this alone. In truth, the best shot Trump has to stay out of prison is for the GOP to nominate someone who can actually win and who may be willing to issue a pardon.

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In an election cycle that’s almost certainly more important for a conservative to win than any prior ‘most importantist election everrrr,’ why, other than card-carrying cult membership, would Republican voters take a chance on a candidate like this? I understand the frustration and the instinct to rally around the beleaguered champion as all the forces we’ve opposed for decades line up against him. I get the desire for the storybook ending. But that’s fantasy, not real life. Here, in the real world, if Republicans don’t wake up and elect someone who can actually win a general election against a Democrat, the genre quickly turns to horror as we endure four more years of giving this country - perhaps irreversibly - over to the radical left. And that’s an ending none of us want to see.

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