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David Fahrenthold explains why we’re still talking about Donald Trump

Former U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in the Hyatt Regency on Feb. 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

It turns out the people who worship Donald Trump and people who despise Donald Trump have one thing in common: They get mad because we’re still talking about Donald Trump. But Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold says there’s a good reason why.

Fahrenthold: Evidence that Trump ‘used the government to pay himself’

“For me, there’s two reasons why,” he said on Seattle’s Morning News. “One is that he’s still basically the central figure of the Republican Party. If you want to talk about the Republican Party — one of our two biggest parties — it’s about Trump now. They haven’t figured out a way to get past him, and they don’t want a way past him. He’s not elected anything anymore, he doesn’t have any government power, but he wields a huge amount of political power in that party.”

“The other one is that there may be some big legal proceedings against Trump,” he added. “We’ve never had a president put on trial, ever. And so if Trump is headed that way either in a civil trial or a criminal trial, it’s a big deal — I want to make sure we’re on top of it.”

There are three main criminal investigations involving Trump: One in Georgia about his attempts to overturn the election; one in Washington, D.C. about his incitement of the Jan. 6 riot; and one in which the Manhattan District Attorney is looking at Trump’s financial practices.

“[The Manhattan] one, from all we hear, is going to be months and months before there’s any sort of decision on that,” Fahrenthold said. “If there’s a deadline, it’s when the Manhattan DA leaves office at the end of this year. So I don’t think any decision is going come soon.”

While KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross pointed out that people typically “run away like rats from a sinking ship” when a politician gets in as much trouble as Trump has been in, it seems like he’s been able to hang on to his supporters, actually drawing people to visit him at Mar-a-Lago. Is that to deliberately spend money there?

“The biggest reason they go there is because he doesn’t leave,” Fahrenthold said. “He’s the central figure in this party, but he basically never leaves his house — he doesn’t leave his house except to go play golf at one of his courses. And so if you want to see Trump, and get your picture with him, and have some face time with him, you go there.”

“So not everybody pays, some people just show up and have a meeting with him, but a lot of people are paying — they’re paying to rent the ballroom, rent one of the side rooms to have a big fundraiser there. And you understand the logic, if you’re going into a Republican primary and either you’re an incumbent or maybe you’re somebody who is trying to knock off an incumbent, you need Trump’s stamp. The best way to get it is to go pay him some money and rent out one of his ballrooms and hope he drops by.”

Fahrenthold says Trump hasn’t ruled out a run for president in 2024, but he says that Trump also hasn’t expressed any real vision for what comes next.

“If you’re aiming at an audience of beyond the Republican faithful — in 2016, people forget, he had a platform. He wanted to build the wall, he wanted to stop immigration from certain groups. It wasn’t a platform a lot of people liked, but it was a platform, it was a vision of the future. And now he’s exclusively about the past and punishing people who were in his own party, who he feels like didn’t help him steal the election.”

“So if you’re aiming at a general election audience in 2024, he doesn’t have very much of an agenda or a promise about how the world would change,” he added.

If the nomination was held today, Fahrenthold thinks Trump would win it. If he decides not to run, he thinks the next nominee will probably be whoever showed loyalty to him.

“If Trump really doesn’t run, probably the primary will be about loyalty to Trump — who is most loyal, who would serve Trump’s agenda, who loves Trump the most — that’s what it would be today. Maybe there’ll be some huge figure that’s not Trump that will appear in the next year,” Fahrenthold said. “But if it was held today, it would just be about either Trump, or if he’s gone, who sucks up to him the most.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM, and on your smart speaker as well. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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