Political scientist Elaine Kamarck is convinced that the strategy of staging himself as a victim will not help Trump. Instead, the investigators are on his heels, and more and more Republicans are turning away. And a successor is ready: the governor of Florida.
Kamarck is director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the influential Washington think tank Brookings Institution. She teaches public policy at Harvard University. From 1993 to 1997 she worked in the White House for Democratic President Bill Clinton.
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Read the full interview with political scientist Elaina Kamarck about Donald Trump here:
The pressure on Donald Trump is increasing. In New York, it’s about his business practices. In Florida, the FBI even searched his country home. Can Trump now present himself as a victim of justice?
no I don’t think that will help him politically. Maybe if it was a little thing. But the FBI has searched the home of a former president. This is unprecedented. I’m a firm believer that the FBI only does that when they’re looking for something pretty serious.
Supposedly it’s about misappropriated government files.
Mishandling classified information alone does not justify a search warrant on a president’s home. You have to put that in context: Trump has been the focus of investigators since 2015 and 2016. His companies have received remittances from a Russian bank controlled by Putin and the KGB. He bought a mansion for $7 million and a year later sold it to a Russian oligarch for $42 million. As president, he threw his staff out of the room at a meeting with the Russian ambassador. I believe there is a pattern here. The question is: what do powers like Russia hold against Trump?
How great is Donald Trump’s power?
Can the search also have something to do with the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021?
I wouldn’t be sure. Trump used disposable phones on Jan. 6, bypassing normal government channels. Department of Homeland Security logs are missing. I don’t think you will find much here. Tim Snyder, the Yale historian, describes Trump’s decades-long association with Russian intelligence in great detail in his book The Road to Unfreedom. I suspect there is more to it than that.
The FBI searches his home based on a court order. Trump calls this an “attack”, an “occupation”, speaks of the “arming of the judiciary”.
Trump’s rhetoric threatens democracy. There is no doubt about it.
Trump is loud, but how great is his power? Half of registered Republican voters want another candidate in 2024, according to Siena College poll.
He is influential within the party. There’s a lot of copycats, mini-Trumps who do what he says. Its candidates have done well in many primaries. But that doesn’t mean they’ll win in the congressional elections. Republicans make up about 29 percent of the American electorate. The Democrats make up about 31 percent. In between is a big middle. It has to be won.
How do Republican lawmakers view Trump?
you hate him To put it bluntly, the majority of Republicans in Congress hate this man. He has fanatical followers, yes. But for the majority he is a braggart, a talker, a slob. But he has gathered powerful supporters around him, in the party and in the media. No one wants to be the target of their anger. Best example: Mike Pence. He acts very, very carefully. Trump tried to kill him.
Trump tried to kill his vice president?
Of course. Trump didn’t call anyone to get him protected. He cheered on his supporters as they stormed the Capitol rather than calling for a stop.
About 60 percent Trump critics in Congress
You’re talking about January 6, 2021. Pence was supposed to certify the election result in Congress that sealed Trump’s defeat. One rallying cry from Trump supporters was, “Hang Mike Pence!”
I mean, Mike Pence has never been closer to his own murder. So, does he like Donald Trump? No of course not. He positions himself as the better Trump, praising the achievements of the Trump-Pence administration. In the primaries, he supports non-Trump candidates. But he is careful not to attack Trump head-on and waits.
More and more voters believe that Trump betrayed them. It starts with the people he sent to the Capitol who now face jail time. Most Republican congressmen and senators remain silent to avoid risking Trump’s revenge. But how long?
How big is the proportion of Republican Trump critics in Congress?
I would say it’s 60 percent today. One by one they will turn their backs on Trump when there is a better alternative.
Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is being tipped as the next presidential candidate. Officially, he introduces himself to Trump. Are the two men already negotiating behind the scenes?
no I’m pretty sure there are no secret talks. DeSantis has time. He has to declare by next summer if he’s going for the Republican nomination, maybe sooner. He wants to win over Trump’s voters in a Republican primary, as does Mike Pence. He doesn’t even have to say: I’m against Trump.
Instead, he will present himself as his heir. He can just say, Listen, I think Trump is a great man. He did a lot for the party and the country. But he is old and I am young. I’ll do what Trump did for you. But without all the drama and without the lies. Then his chances are not bad.
Do you think Trump will agree to a deal: he supports DeSantis, but he will be pardoned as soon as he is president?
You never know, but I don’t think it’s going to work that way. Trump is running out of time. He could be in court next year. That’s not a good starting point for a candidacy (laughs). There are massive lawsuits against him across the country, in Georgia, in New York. Nobody wants to lend him money anymore. The walls are getting closer and closer. Running for president may be his last chance to avoid jail.
Will Biden run again in 2024?
I’m conflicted about that. On the one hand, he is old. Many young people would rather see someone new. On the other hand, he coped well with the major crises. Decades of experience show how he navigates the Ukraine war and supports the Ukraine without risking total war with Russia. I think in the end it’s up to him: does he dare to do four more years or not.
And if Biden no longer wants: Who would be the most promising Democratic candidate?
There is a wide range of people in their fifties and sixties who are eligible. There’s Vice President Kamala Harris. Then California Governor Gavin Newsom. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. The race would be open.
Ms. Kamarck, thank you very much for the interview.
More: After FBI raid and tax ruling: Ex-President Trump presents himself as a victim