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Most Republicans want Trump to run again despite investigations, poll says

FILE - In this July 24, 2021, file photo former President Donald Trump smiles as he pauses while speaking to supporters at a Turning Point Action gathering in Phoenix.{ } (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
FILE - In this July 24, 2021, file photo former President Donald Trump smiles as he pauses while speaking to supporters at a Turning Point Action gathering in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
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As former President Donald Trump’s potential legal troubles mount, he continues to hint at a 2024 run for the White House and experts say a wave of investigations is unlikely to present much of an obstacle to a comeback.

“We won the first time, and the second time we won by even more. And it looks like we might have to think about, very strongly, a third time,” Trump said at an event in Florida Sunday, repeating his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

In a Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday, nearly 70% of Republicans said they want Trump to run again in 2024. Trump’s favorability rating with all voters in the survey was slightly lower than President Joe Biden’s but higher than that of Republicans in Congress.

Other recent polls have indicated Trump remains the top choice of GOP primary voters, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a distant second. His popularity with Republicans has slipped slightly since leaving office and being impeached a second time, but he is still viewed favorably by well over 80% of his party.

“If Republican primaries were held right now, Donald Trump would win them,” said Republican strategist Mark Weaver, “but there’s still a few years before that happens.”

A lot could happen in those years, and much has happened in the last few weeks that could complicate Trump’s pitch to return to the White House. Several political and legal investigations are advancing that may raise difficult questions for the former president.

The House voted Tuesday to refer a criminal contempt of Congress charge to the Justice Department against Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, for his refusal to cooperate with the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Committee members have signaled they are focused on Trump’s support for efforts to invalidate the 2020 election and his response to the chaos that day.

“Mr. Meadows’s testimony will bear on another key question before this committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes?” said Rep. Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the committee, suggesting Trump’s actions could amount to a felony.

Also on Tuesday, a federal judge sided with House Democrats in their yearslong battle to obtain copies of Trump’s tax returns. The former president’s attorneys said they planned to appeal, and the case could eventually reach the Supreme Court.

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee have asserted the tax returns are needed to assess how the Internal Revenue Service conducts audits of presidents. Even if they get their hands on them, it is unclear if any details would ultimately be made public.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that a key accountant for Trump’s company recently testified before a Manhattan grand jury probing the former president’s business practices. Among other concerns, prosecutors are looking into whether the Trump Organization made false claims when seeking loans and tax assessments.

That investigation has already yielded criminal charges against the company and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, for alleged off-the-books compensation. Trump has previously said Weisselberg and others were responsible for preparing financial statements, so his personal criminal exposure is uncertain.

There are also ongoing probes in Georgia of Trump’s efforts to influence state officials to overturn the 2020 election results there. Democrats have pressed the Justice Department to investigate, as well, but it is unclear if any action has been taken.

Trump has dismissed all the investigations as partisan witch hunts and many of his supporters are likely to agree. He and his allies have also sought to delay proceedings in Congress, and Democrats could lose the ability to probe his actions if Republicans take the House majority next fall.

Democrats recognize that risk, and the Jan. 6 committee is racing to complete its work in 2022. Lawmakers have completed hundreds of interviews, issued a flurry of subpoenas, and are aggressively pursuing those who defy them.

“Trump’s legal tactics as a private citizen before he took office were a nuisance, but unsuccessful,” Michael Conway, former general counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, wrote in an NBC News op-ed Wednesday. “The same will be true here.”

Still, Weaver, who is also a former prosecutor, is skeptical any of these investigations will result in serious criminal charges for Trump himself. Even if investigators conclude he might have violated the law, prosecutors would need to consider whether they can convince a jury to convict the former president.

“Anything to do with Donald Trump, you won’t get 12 people to agree on anything,” Weaver said.

One of Trump’s strengths and weaknesses as a political figure is that nearly everyone in America has formed strong opinions about him. He has already weathered two impeachment trials and a $32 million investigation headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller with his base intact.

Much of Trump’s conduct surrounding Jan. 6 is already public and questions about his finances swirled around him throughout both his campaigns. None of that stopped Republicans from supporting him, and if he chooses to run again, Weaver doubts there is much else that could come out that would sway them against him.

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“Absent charges that stick, which is hard to imagine, Trump haters will say we always knew he was a crook and Trump lovers will say they’ve always been out to get him, so everybody will get their opinions validated,” he said.

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