Donald Trump’s decision to spurn the Republican primary debate on Wednesday in favor of a pre-taped interview with Tucker Carlson solves the political question of how to inflict damage on the 2024 field, but it also eliminates concerns his remarks in the high-profile event could increase his legal exposure.
The former president confirmed over the weekend that he would not attend the debate in Milwaukee, saying in a post on his Truth Social platform: “New CBS poll, just out, has me leading the field by ‘legendary’ numbers… I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES.”
Instead, Trump has settled on counter-programming the debate by having the interview he recorded with the former Fox News host go live at the same time, with the aim of starving the other Republican presidential candidates of attention and publicly humiliating Fox News, which is hosting the debate with the RNC.
The move to upstage the debate tackles Trump’s political goals for his 2024 campaign, but it also quietly solves worries that Trump could deepen his legal jeopardy were he to be questioned about his four criminal cases by debate moderators or the other candidates.
Criminal defendants typically avoid speaking publicly about their cases, because prosecutors could use their statements against them. Trump has developed a pattern of discussing his indictments after getting angered about the framing of questions.
The interview with Carlson is not expected to touch on any of his legal issues, according to a person familiar with the matter, as Carlson believes questions around his retention of national security materials and Trump’s bid to stop Biden’s certification have been sufficiently litigated elsewhere.
The more pressing issue for Trump is that he has a habit of lashing out at prosecutors and potential witnesses in the cases, leading the federal judges overseeing his cases to issue protective orders and in one instance, a warning that inflammatory remarks would speed up the trial schedule.
That had the potential to cause trouble for Trump at the debate, given his former vice-president, Mike Pence, who is taking part in the debate, is also almost certain to be a trial witness in the case involving Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
While Trump did not appear to violate the protective order for the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case when he was last interviewed by the Fox News host Bret Baier, a debate moderator, the former president made a series of admissions that undercut his defenses.
The admissions included that he personally had sorted through some of the boxes with classified documents brought down from the White House to the Mar-a-Lago club at the end of his presidency after the National Archives requested their return.
Trump also seemed to concede that he delayed complying with a grand jury subpoena for the classified documents issued by the justice department in order to separate out any personal records that might be in the boxes, indicating a further level of personal knowledge of what he retained.
“Before I send boxes over, I have to take all of my things out,” Trump said. “These boxes were interspersed with all sorts of things.”
And when Trump participated in a live town hall event on CNN this year – before the classified documents indictment – he made a series of remarks that led to a court filing and gave ammunition to the prosecutors in the office of the special counsel Jack Smith.
The writer E Jean Carroll filed for additional damages from Trump after he insulted her anew at the town hall immediately after a New York jury found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation and $5m in damages.
On CNN, Trump echoed his earlier denials and called Carroll’s account “fake” and “a made-up story”. And despite a photo showing them together, he claimed he had never met Carroll, calling her a “whack job” and adding that the civil trial was “a rigged deal”.
#Trumps #plan #skip #debate #shields #legal #exposure #Donald #Trump