If it’s FRIDAY… Federal grand jury indicts Donald Trump on seven charges related to his handling of classified documents… It’s the second time the former president has been indicted, but first on federal charges… Trump declares: “I AM AN INNOCENT MAN”… Most (but not all) of Trump’s GOP rivals defend him… And Trump’s indictment sets the stage for busy 2024 weekend, per NBC’s Sarah Dean, Nnamdi Egwuonwu, Jillian Frankel and Alec Hernandez: Trump, Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence all address NC GOP convention, while Trump hits Georgia.
But FIRST… It’s now easy to forget, but Donald Trump’s closing argument against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election was that Clinton would be mired in endless investigations, a federal indictment, a criminal trial and a constitutional crisis — as a result of the investigation into her handling of government information.
Seven years later, that’s an argument that Trump’s rivals — Republican or Democrat — can now use against him.
Here’s how Trump campaigned against Clinton in 2016’s final days:
“Hillary is likely to be under investigation for many years, probably concluding in a criminal trial.” — Nov. 2, 2016 in Orlando, Fla.
“She’ll be under investigation for years. She’ll be with trials. Our country, we have to get back to work.”– Nov. 4 in Atkinson, N.H.
“If she were to win this election, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis. In that situation, we could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and ultimately a criminal trial.” — Nov. 5 in Reno, N.V.
“Her current scandals and controversies will continue throughout her presidency and we will make it honestly, look, it’s gonna be virtually impossible for her to govern.” — Nov. 5 in Denver, Colo.
So what Trump said would happen with Clinton — the former Democratic secretary of state was never charged with a crime — is playing out before our very eyes.
Regarding Trump himself.
So far, many of Trump’s GOP rivals (Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Vivek Ramaswamy) have defended Trump, while others have maintained that no one is above the law (Chris Christie) or that he should exit the 2024 race (Asa Hutchinson).
One final point: While Trump’s indictment is a HUGE story, don’t lose sight of what happened at the Supreme Court on Thursday in that Voting Rights Act case.
That decision could play a key role in which party controls the House after 2024.
Headline of the day
Data Download: The number of the day is … 4
That’s how many states could gain Democratic leaning House districts following Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling in a Voting Rights Act case out of Alabama. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the court’s three liberal justices in striking down Alabama’s congressional map, ruling that the map violated the Voting Rights Act by limiting Black voters’ influence with just one majority-Black district even though two could have been drawn.
NBC News’ Jane Timm and Lawrence Hurley report that Alabama could gain a Democratic-leaning House seat as a result of the ruling, and the decision could affect similar cases in Louisiana, Texas, and Georgia.
This may result in just a handful of seats moving in Democrats’ favor. Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, told Timm and Hurley that he expects at least three new Black-majority districts in the South due to the Supreme Court ruling. And the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter shifted five House seats in Democrats’ direction after the decision.
It’s important to remember that every seat matters in the battle for the House, since Republicans currently have a slim five-seat majority.
Other numbers to know:
$5.1 million: How much the Federal Communications Commission fined two conservative provocateurs for making illegal robocalls in 2020, which prosecutors say were aimed at suppressing Black voter turnout, NBC’s Charlene Richards reports.
28th: The number of the proposed amendment to the Constitution that California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to ratify to raise the age to buy a gun; mandate universal background checks and a mandatory waiting period; and ban the civilian purchase of what he classified as “assault weapons.”
50%: The share of Americans who disapprove of colleges and universities taking race and ethnicity into account for admission, per a new Pew Research Center poll.
93: The age of conservative evangelist and media mogul Pat Robertson when he died Thursday.
Eyes on 2024: How Trump’s rivals are reacting to his second indictment
News that former President Donald Trump was indicted for his handling of classified documents has not caused the rest of the GOP primary field to take aim at Trump – at least not yet, NBC News’ Allan Smith and Henry J. Gomez report.
Just former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was willing to criticize the former president, again calling on Trump to drop out of the race. Others criticized the Justice Department or stayed quiet. Here are some of the notable reactions so far:
Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted, “The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation. Why so zealous in pursuing Trump yet so passive about Hillary or Hunter? The DeSantis administration will bring accountability to the DOJ, excise political bias and end weaponization once and for all.”
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. on Fox News: “Every person is presumed innocent, not guilty, and what we’ve seen over the last several years is the weaponization of the Department of Justice against the former president.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement: “This is a sad day for our country. While Donald Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the ongoing criminal proceedings will be a major distraction. This reaffirms the need for Donald Trump to respect the office and end his campaign.”
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy said in a statement: “This is an affront to every citizen: we cannot devolve into a banana republic where the party in power uses police force to arrest its political opponents. It’s hypocritical for the DOJ to selectively prosecute Trump but not Biden … I commit to pardon Trump promptly on January 20, 2025 and to restore the rule of law in our country.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tweeted: “We don’t get our news from Trump’s Truth Social account. Let’s see what the facts are when any possible indictment is released. As I have said before, no one is above the law, no matter how much they wish they were. We will have more to say when the facts are revealed.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence had been scheduled to appear on Fox News to discuss his campaign, but NBC News’ Dasha Burns reports that Pence’s team and Fox’s team both decided to reschedule the interview once the program became dedicated to Trump’s indictment.
Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has not yet commented.
In other campaign news…
It’s over when it’s over: As the probes into former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence’s handling of classified information appear to be nearing the end, the investigation into President Joe Biden does not appear to be on the same timeline, NBC News’ Carol E. Lee, Monica Alba and Michael Kosner report.
AI has arrived: Trump’s allies criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign for sharing images of Trump embracing Dr. Anthony Fauci, which appeared to be made through artificial intelligence, the New York Times reports.
Pence’s friends go right at Trump: A new ad from the pro-Pence super PAC highlights the role the former vice president played in certifying the 2020 election, contrasting him with Trump directly by saying, “A weak man appeases a mob. A man of courage and character stands up to them.”
Chief fundraiser: Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis’ chief of staff helped raise more than $400,000 for DeSantis’ campaign following his launch, NBC News’ Matt Dixon reports. Dixon writes that this is “an unusual instance of a highly influential taxpayer-funded aide’s doubling as a top political bundler. And part of the way he raised that money was by having other government officials help him solicit cash from lobbyists.”
DeSantis gets the Oklahoma OK: DeSantis secured the endorsement of former GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstein and 20 Oklahoma state lawmakers, including the House majority leader, according to The Hill.
A jump ball in the Beehive State: Trump and DeSantis are virtually tied in a new poll of Utah Republican voters, with no other candidate in double digits.
Burg-mentum: North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum’s presidential campaign placed more than $2.5 million in advertising time in Iowa and New Hampshire, per AdImpact.
ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world:
Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid response coordinator, is stepping down and returning to his position at Brown University.
The FBI has arrested businessman Nate Paul, who is tied to the scandal that led to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment.