TIME: Inside Trump’s Strategy to Turn Legal Woes Into a Political Advantage


Donald Trump is at once in an unprecedented and familiar position. On Tuesday, a federal jury found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation in a civil lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll. Such a conviction is a first for a former president, let alone the presidential frontrunner of one of the major political parties. For virtually anyone else, it would mark a fatal blow to their White House ambitions. But within the cloisters and balustrade of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s inner circle is preparing for the news to come and go like every other Trump scandal, sources familiar with the matter tell TIME, as the campaign plots to turn his mounting legal woes into an advantage ahead of the Republican primary.

For those reasons, the Trump campaign and his strongest supporters—even those who will privately acknowledge the reputational wound of a guilty verdict—believe he can simply ride out the Carroll ruling. Several pointed to Trump winning a plurality of white women in 2016, even after the Access Hollywood tape came out, and him improving with women overall in 2020 compared to four years earlier, even after the Carroll allegation first surfaced. In March, a Fox News poll had him winning 40% of GOP women voters compared to 23% for DeSantis. “The American people knew they were not canonizing St. Donald of Manhattan in 2016,” says Mike Davis, founder of the conservative Article III Project and a close Trump ally.

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