Twice impeached, and now twice indicted.
Donald Trump's mounting legal problems overwhelmed the 2024 campaign once again after he became the first former president indicted on federal criminal charges for his handling of more than 300 classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate.
Much like the separate case in New York, which accused Trump of falsifying business records for hush money payments to an adult film actress, most of the Republican presidential candidates jockeying for the nomination defended him against what they cast as an unfair—and politically motivated—indictment.
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The GOP primary did see some major names enter this week with former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Christie joining, along with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.
With the field nearly set, the question is who, if anyone, can wrest the nomination from Trump's hands?
Conservatives are't the only one seeing more candidates vying to be on the 2024 ballot.
Harvard-educated philosopher Cornel West, a well-known progressive activist and public intellectual, is running for president under the People’s Party banner. The long-shot bid from a far-left contender is bound to aggravate Democrats and President Joe Biden, who faces a handful of quixotical campaigns that are polling better than expected.
And the Supreme Court surprised many legal observers, particularly on the progressive side, when it ruled against Alabama in a challenge to its recently redrawn congressional districts that could hold ramifications for next year's election.
The justices also issued a ruling in a bizarre case that refereed a fight between distiller Jack Daniel's and a company that — kid you not—makes a poop-themed dog toys.
Trump indictment redux
The Justice Department's special counsel laid out a stunning round of allegations against Trump, which total at 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information under the Espionage Act.
He is accused of not just keeping and hiding the documents, however. Trump is also alleged to have show sensitive materials, including top secrets; U.S. nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the U.S. and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack.
The former president allegedly acknowledged knowing the documents were classified, saying "this is still a secret," according to the indictment.
As it happened in late March after a New York grand jury indicted Trump over hush money payments, he is claiming the investigation is election interference and, without evidence, suggested that the Biden administration and Democrats are targeting him via the legal system.
"I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!" Trump said in a statement.
Legal experts say the charges alleging the mishandling of classified documents could be the most straightforward case but just like before, most of his top 2024 rivals are cornered into defending the former president, who remains popular among the GOP base.
"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," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is Trump's chief rival, said in a tweet Thursday.
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?
— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantis) June 9, 2023
Candidates further down in the polls, however, argue Trump's multiple courtroom dramas are a distraction, and should be a disqualification in him being the GOP's top choice for 2024.
"While Donald Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the ongoing criminal proceedings will be a major distraction," said former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. "This reaffirms the need for Donald Trump to respect the office and end his campaign."
Can anyone else win the 2024 GOP primary?
Coupled with this new federal indictment, the 2024 campaign saw heavy-hitters such as Pence and Christie coming into the race, bringing the number of Trump challengers to nearly a dozen.
With the Republican field mostly set, what remains foggy is which of these contenders is best positioned to take down the bombastic former president, who has kept a decisive lead in every major poll.
The challengers have varying styles and strategies with some mimicking Trump, some sharpening their attacks and others looking to fly above the circus with a more optimistic outlook.
Maybe Trump's legal woes will be his most formidable foe, but GOP observers say it is going to be impossible for others to avoid an eventual confrontation with the front-runner.
"To be successful, a non-Trump candidate will need to confront him and speak to the concerns of voters who are drawn to Trump but also be easily distinguishable from him on morals, ethics, behavior and comportment," Republican strategist Liz Mair told USA TODAY.
Cornel West running to the Democrat's left
Philosopher Cornel West is looking to "reintroduce America to the best of itself" through a Hail Mary presidential bid that is quickly being denounced by some progressive writers.
The author came out swinging at Republicans and Democrats, saying in his announcement video “neither political party wants to tell the truth” about many U.S. institutions, such as tech giants and the Defense Department.
West has long had a beef with the Democrats, who he challenges aren't progressive enough, and has often supported more progressive candidates in primaries or backed left-leaning outsiders, such as Jill Stein, during the 2016 contest.
But whatever critics might think about West and his chances, he told USA TODAY in an interview that his intentions are to stay in the race until Election Day.
“I can’t be dogmatic. I can’t just foreclose the future,” West said. “But right now, I’m fundamentally committed to going to the end and trying to show the American people that the two-party system has become now a real impediment for focusing on the plight of poor and working people."
A supreme surprise in Alabama voting rights case
The Supreme Court shocked many when it rendered a 5-4 decision in favor of voting rights activists who argued Alabama lawmakers were diluting Black political power.
Led by Chief Justice John Roberts, who joined by the court's three-justice liberal wing and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the high court upheld a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which had been weakened in recent years.
Roberts said Alabama's argument that mapmakers must be "entirely 'blind' to race has no footing" in the court's earlier decisions. States shouldn't let race be the primary factor in deciding how to draw congressional boundaries, he said, but it should be considered.
What this means for Alabama, which is 27% Black, is legislators will have to redraw the map it used in the 2022 midterm election that will likely create a new congressional district made up of a majority of African American voters.
The ruling could have ramifications in other southern states where there is just one majority-minority district, and that might change the dynamics of key congressional races in 2024.
SCOTUS: You're no Jack Daniel's
The justices did all agree on one thing, however. Don't mess with Jack Daniel's.
In a 9-0 ruling, the high court sided with the distiller against VIP Products, a dog toy, which sold a parody item shaped like the famous whiskey bottle.
VIP Products argued the toy is a joke protected by the First Amendment, but Jack Daniel's Properties claimed it could confuse consumers in a case that raised legitimate questions about a company’s ability to protect a brand against humorous knockoffs.
A lower court ruled with the dog toy company, but the justices didn't bite.
"This case is about dog toys and whiskey," Justice Elena Kagan wrote, "two items seldom appearing in the same sentence."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Week in politics: Trump indicted again; SCOTUS surprise in Alabama