Donald Trump’s chances of re-entering the White House may be hindered by a number of current and upcoming events.
While the former president is still the overwhelming favorite to clinch the Republican nomination, despite facing 91 criminal charges across four investigations, the question remains as to whether he can go on to win the 2024 presidential election.
As well as major updates in the criminal cases Trump is involved in, there have been other developments in the $250 million fraud lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, a case that could damage Trump financially and hurt his reputation as a savvy businessman.
There has also been some positive news regarding Trump’s likely 2024 Democratic rival, President Joe Biden, and for a long-shot presidential candidate who may have an oversized say in who is elected the next president.
1) New York Civil Trial to Be Decided by Judge
On Monday, Judge Arthur Engoron told the New York court on the first day of Trump’s civil fraud trial that the reason the case is not being decided by a jury is because nobody asked for a jury trial. It will be decided by the judge in a bench trial.
The remarks prompted speculation that Trump’s lawyers failed to merely tick a box in court documents to request a jury trial, a claim which has been rejected by the former president’s legal team.
The lack of a jury puts Trump in a perilous position with regards to the outcome of the civil trial. It could see the former president’s companies and assets—including Trump Tower, where he announced his intention to run for president after coming down a golden escalator in June 2015—being removed from his control or even dissolved, and he could face a large financial penalty.
The remaining outcomes and any penalties will be decided solely by Engoron, a judge who ruled on September 26 that Trump committed fraud while inflating the value of several of his properties and assets for years when filing financial statements, the main crux of James’ $250 million lawsuit.
2) Georgia 2020 Election Case Updates
On October 23, the first trial involving defendants indicted alongside Trump in Fani Willis‘ sprawling election case will begin.
Former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell and lawyer Kenneth Chesebro are set to face a jury after a judge allowed them to sever their cases from the other 17 defendants charged under the RICO probe, which also includes Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
If Chesebro and Powell are found guilty, it will put further pressure on Trump, who is accused of overseeing the alleged criminal attempt to overturn the 2020 election results.
Last month, prosecutors in Willis’ office also indicated that they are willing to offer a plea deal to either Powell, Chesebro, or both ahead of their trial.
Elsewhere, another Georgia defendant, Scott Hall, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a voting system breach in Georgia’s Coffee County in 2021, becoming the first of Trump’s co-defendants to have their cases resolved.
Hall pleaded guilty to five misdemeanour counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties, down from the seven felony charges he faced in the indictment.
As part of the plea deal, Hall must testify if prosecutors call him as a witnesses in any other of the Georgia election cases.
3) Mar-a-Lago ‘Garcia Hearing’
Also in October, the judge in the classified documents case will oversee a hearing on whether there is a conflict of interest involving two attorneys representing Trump’s co-defendants.
The Department of Justice had previously called on Judge Aileen Cannon to hold a so-called Garcia hearing because the attorneys representing Trump aide Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker Carlos De Oliveira also represent people who could be called as witnesses in the federal case.
The potential conflict of interest means that John Irving, who represents De Oliveira, and Stanley Woodward, who is representing Nauta, could represent a defendant in the classified documents trial, and then cross-examine another of their clients providing evidence during a trial.
Cannon has scheduled hearings on the matters on October 12, and Nauta and De Oliveria could request new attorneys.
The DoJ previously called for a Garcia hearing due to a potential conflict as Woodward was representing Yuscil Taveras, a Mar-a-Lago IT worker.
Taveras later flipped against Trump and the other two defendants in the classified documents case after requesting a new lawyer. Taveras changed his original testimony because he was facing a potential perjury charge after investigators were aware he made false claims about not being aware of any attempts by Trump, Nauta, or De Oliveira to delete security footage that had been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors.
4) Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Switches to Independent
A major, but perhaps far-fetched, challenger to Biden’s bid for the Democratic candidacy is said to soon announce that he will instead run for president as an independent candidate.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has often seen double-digit support in 2024 Democratic primary polls, is planning to announce he will run as an independent on October 9 in Pennsylvania, according to Mediaite.
While third party candidates are often blamed for pulling votes away from Democratic challengers—as seen with Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in the 2000 election in which Al Gore narrowly lost to George W. Bush—there are indications that Kennedy may actually pull votes from Trump.
Kennedy, who has pushed misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines, appears to be better liked by Republican voters than Democrats.
According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, Republicans have a net 30-point favorable view of Kennedy (48 percent favorable to 18 percent unfavorable.) In comparison, just 14 percent of Democrats have a favorable opinion of Kennedy, compared with 57 percent who have an unfavorable one.
5) Joe Biden’s Polling Boost
The president has long struggled with his approval ratings, which have raised questions about whether he should run for office again in 2024, but Biden has seen some positive news in a recent survey.
According to an adjusted Rasmussen poll, 49 percent of Americans approve of his job as president, while 48 percent disapprove—Biden’s first net positive poll result for five months.
However, according to FiveThirtyEight’s average poll tracker, Biden is still struggling overall with his approval rating.
As of October 3, Biden’s national average approval rating is 39.8 percent, and he has not been above 50 percent since August 2021.