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How much do voters care about Donald Trump's legal troubles?


Former President Donald Trump's trial over hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign begins next month. How much are voters concerned about the presumptive GOP nominee's many lawsuits, and what impact might a conviction in this case have on Trump's chances of winning the presidency? Political campaign strategist Rina Shah joins us to discuss. She's a Republican and identifies as a Never Trumper, going back to the 2016 convention. Welcome, Rina.

RINA SHAH: Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. So if Trump is convicted in the hush money trial, what do you think the political fallout might be?

SHAH: I believe it would be intense because this is the one trial that is distinct in nature. It is the one that I think could have the greatest impact on public perception, as well as the outcome of the election. If we see a convicted felon in the former president of the United States, that does stand to change the minds of many Republicans who have stood by him and given him the support that feels as if it's been unshaken for the past four years. But there is a larger swath of Republicans out there that have proven in these early primaries, and certainly in the thick of primary season while candidate Nikki Haley was still there, that they may want someone else. And so, again, the result of what happens in this criminal hush money case, again, to me, is very different than what could take place in Georgia, Florida or even here within the District of Columbia.

FADEL: What makes this one so distinctive compared to the cases around classified documents or the election, January 6?

SHAH: Simply put, this one has less complications and drama around it. Now, yes, it does involve a former pornography actress. But if you're looking down at what just happened in Atlanta with the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, from January up until just last week, we saw her essentially be put on trial. So again, this was a case in which it became rather disheartening for a lot of those folks who felt that this was a strong case - again, racketeering charges brought by that DA against Trump. That trial will continue. Everything there, Fani Willis is saying, is untouched and they're still ready to go. But the public perception there has been somewhat changed.

And again, also in Florida, when you're looking at classified documents, we just saw special counsel Hur on Capitol Hill talking about the classified documents and Joe Biden. So there's a little bit of whataboutism in that case. And then, of course, the January 6 case and the former president's involvement in that case and essentially the events of January 6, the riot on Capitol Hill, there are a lot of Republicans who still feel that he should not be held accountable in that case. So to me, those three have more complicating factors than the one in New York, which is a bit more straightforward and hits the public consciousness a little more straightforwardly.

FADEL: I mean, I'm just listening to you rattle off all these cases. Of course, we know these are all going on, but Trump is set to become the first president in U.S. history to stand trial on criminal charges. What do you make of this situation the country has found itself in?

SHAH: It's a bit shocking to the system. And any political expert who says they know what's going to happen from here on out simply is not telling the truth, because we are in a territory in which we've never had to navigate through. We've never seen two presumptive nominees for the presidency have such circumstances surround them. And of course, when we talk about the Republican nominee, it is a completely different ballgame. The current president is in nowhere the same universe as the former president, Trump, because this is the only president in modern history - we have no comparison. You can't even draw a comparison to Nixon here. So constitutionally speaking, I think Republicans find themselves in a really tough predicament. And I believe we find ourselves closer to a brokered convention the minute that Trump sees a conviction.

FADEL: That's political strategist and former congressional senior advisor Rina Shah. Thank you, Rina.

SHAH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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