PoliticsTrump on Trial


Indictment may boost primary support for Trump, some Republicans say

As Donald Trump arrives in New York City to hear his charges, we talk to Republicans who say they still support Trump despite his legal woes.
Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Texas.
Posted at 1:23 PM, Apr 03, 2023

On news of former President Donald Trump’s indictment by a Manhattan Grand Jury for his role in hush money paid to a porn star, Republican Paul Johnson sensed a shift within his party. A candidate for a committee seat in Morris Township, New Jersey, Johnson thinks the legal wrangle may benefit Trump in the long run. 

“This indictment may gain some sympathy for Trump,” said Johnson, 56. 

As the country watches the Trump saga unfold with the former president arriving in New York City to hear his charges, Republicans in northern New Jersey have mixed feelings about the issue and how it will impact the 2024 presidential primary. Since leaving office in 2021, Trump has made North Jersey his summer home, at the Trump National Golf Club where he continues to hold meetings and rallies for his supporters.

Trump announced his presidential bid for the 2024 race back in November of last year. Since then, a handful of candidates have emerged, including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Others are weighing their options, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. 

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With the indictment, Trump becomes the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges. But that does not bother some Republicans. 

“It’s based on pure politics,” said Johnson, who is supporting Trump based on the current slate of four GOP candidates who have announced. “The indictment is a non-issue.”

Mike Smith, 51, an entrepreneur who lives in the northern New Jersey suburb of Mount Arlington, thinks there should be a statute of limitations when it comes to charging people with crimes. He is likely to support Trump, based on the former president’s performance.

“He’s crass, he could be a better person. But he was a good president,” Smith said.

Johnson echoed the same sentiment about Trump’s role as president.

“Our enemies feared us,” Johnson said.

The interviews are a diverse, non-scientific sampling of Republican opinions in the Garden State. People within the party have differing ideas when it comes to the charges and the upcoming primary next year. 

Donald Trump exits a vehicle

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Johnson, who is an actuary, breaks down the most prominent camps within the party: the nationalists who see the country's interest as the top issue, the mainstream Republicans who want to keep taxes low, and the moderate Republicans who support social issues such as gay marriage while remaining fiscally conservative. 

William Woo, an entrepreneur and former Edgewater council member, considers himself to be a moderate. Woo describes himself as fiscally conservative but socially moderate.

On Trump gaining support due to the indictment, Woo said that is a Fox News talking point. He is saddened by media coverage in mainstream press and conservative talk shows of the indictment.

 “All the attention is on Trump again,” Woo said. “I want to see new blood.”