Trump’s road to Iowa contains several more legal obstacles


If it’s MONDAY… City of Jacksonville, Fla., mourns victims of racist shooting… Federal judge is expected to set trial date in Donald Trump’s election interference case… Vivek Ramaswamy talks about racism and Jan. 6 on “Meet the Press”… Tim Scott and Nikki Haley stump in South Carolina… Ron DeSantis cancels events in Palmetto State as major storm approaches Florida, per NBC’s Alec Hernández… And President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcome students at back-to-school event at noon ET at D.C. public school.

But FIRST… If one of the biggest mistakes of 2016 was the failure of imagination that Donald Trump couldn’t win the presidency, are we at risk of making the opposite mistake in 2024 — by assuming Trump can’t lose?

Think about how legally perilous the next few months could be for a candidate considered a virtual lock to win his party’s nomination.

A federal judge could decide as early as today when Trump’s trial in the federal election interference case against him takes place.

Will be it be in January as special counsel Jack Smith has requested? Or April 2026 as Trump’s lawyers want? Or somewhere in between?

Then there’s the election-interference case in Georgia, where at least two of Trump’s co-defendants have requested speedy trials — which means of the possibility of those trials taking place before the GOP primaries and caucuses next year.

On television.

Make no mistake: Donald Trump is the clear GOP frontrunner, particularly when 40% to 50% of Republican voters say they want him to continue as the party’s leader — in a multicandidate field.

But let’s also keep open the possibility that things can change.

Especially when you consider everything on the legal front that could happen in the next four to five months before the Iowa caucuses.

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 80%

That’s the share of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers who describe themselves as “pro-life” in the latest NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom statewide poll, the most popular of the 13 attributes tested in the survey.

The survey offers a picture of these likely caucusgoers, with other top responses including “afraid for the Constitution” (77%), “disgruntled with government (77%), and “traditional conservative” (71%).

And 46% describe themselves as “MAGA Republican,” almost mirroring the share of likely voters who said former President Donald Trump was their first choice for president (42%). The least popular attribute was “anti-Trump” (23%).

Read more on 

Other numbers to know

3: The number of people who were killed in a racially motivated attack Saturday at a Dollar General in Jacksonville.

$7.1 million: How much Trump’s campaign says it raised as of Sunday since his mug shot in the Georgia election interference case was released on Thursday NBC News’ Jake Traylor and Katherine Doyle report. 

More than 58,000: The number of asylum-seekers now in the care of New York City.

1: The number of Trump’s co-defendants in the Fulton County, Ga., election interference case who are being held in jail without bond.

3: The number of months in prison a New York man will serve after he made threatening phone calls to Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s office last year. 

Nearly 5,000: The number of pilots under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration for falsifying their medical records, concealing benefits they may be receiving from Veterans Affairs for mental health conditions and other serious ailments, the Washington Post reports.

Eyes on 2024: Ramaswamy talks racism, Jan. 6 and elections

After grabbing attention during last week’s first GOP debate, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy joined “Meet the Press”, where he weighed in on a variety of topics. Here are some of the takeaways:

The Jacksonville shooting and racism: “Is there existing racism in the United States? Of course there is. But those last, burning embers of racism, the last thing I want to do is throw kerosene on it. And yet, that’s exactly what I believe the modern culture is doing by creating race-based quota systems that deny people access to goods or services based on the color of their skin … I think the right answer is actually to restore colorblind equality, colorblind meritocracy, embrace what unites us across our diversity instead of celebrating our skin-deep diverse attributes.”

Running against Trump: I believe I can take the America First agenda even further than Donald Trump did. I think I will be more effective in uniting this country in the process.” 

Federal government: Mass layoffs are absolutely what I will bring to the D.C. bureaucracy.” 

Pence’s actions on Jan. 6: I would have done it very differently. I think that there was a historic opportunity that he missed to reunite this country in that window … Here’s what I would have said, ‘We need single-day voting on Election Day. We need paper ballots, and we need government-issued ID matching the voter file. And if we achieve that, then we have achieved victory, and we should not have any further complaint about election integrity.’”

Trump’s actions on Jan. 6: I’ve also been very clear, Chuck, and I want to be clear today, that I would have made very different judgments than Donald Trump did that day and on many of the matters in his path out of office. But there is a difference between a bad judgment and a crime.”

His 2020 vote: I was skeptical of Donald Trump in 2016. That is accurate … So, I was deeply skeptical, but I judge based on results, and I voted for him with confidence in 2020.”

Watch the full interview here. 

In other campaign news … 

Back at home: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis returned to his home state after a racially motivated shooting in Jacksonville, where a white gunman killed three Black people, and DeSantis was booed at the vigil. DeSantis also canceled his Monday campaign events as a major storm approached Florida, per NBC News’ Alec Hernandez

Newsom nuisance: Biden’s political advisers are annoyed at California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to debate Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, NBC News’ Jonathan Allen, Carol E. Lee and Monica Alba report. They write that Biden’s team believes the debate “carries more risk than potential reward.”

On the airwaves: The pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down is planning a $25 million ad blitz in Iowa and New Hampshire in September and October, per the Washington Post. 

Missed opportunity?: The New York Times explores how last week’s GOP debate was “the moment that wasn’t” for South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. 

Youngkin’s move: Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who continues to be mentioned as a potential presidential contender, is planning to prioritize a 15-week abortion ban, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, if Republicans take control of the state legislature in November, per NBC News’ Gary Grumbach. 

Houston, ready for takeoff: The Republican National Committee chose Houston, Texas as the site of the 2028 presidential convention. 

Thinking about it: Republican Kari Lake, who lost last year’s race for governor in Arizona, told Fox News over the weekend that she is “contemplating” a Senate run, adding that “this is the season for saving our country.”

New York state of mind: House GOP conference chairwoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., is planning a $100 million effort to defend Republican House seats in the Empire State. 

Throwback: NBC News’ Steve Kornacki details a time when a Republican frontrunner nearly blew a lead in Iowa bigger than Trump’s lead now.

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world:

On Sunday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that an impeachment inquiry into President Biden is “a natural step forward” for House Republicans.

President Biden plans to request funding from Congress to develop a new coronavirus vaccine, as scientists track rising cases and hospitalizations again.

A member of the board of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) resigned Friday and urged the board to look into additional allegations of sexual misconduct against Chairman Matt Schlapp, the Washington Post reports.

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