Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to note Republicans are walking a fine line on former President Trump’s possible indictment.
If former President Trump is indicted this week, the White House is expected to employ a simple strategy: Get out of the way.
As a Trump indictment over the alleged Stormy Daniels hush-money scheme looms from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the White House has publicly been mum.
Privately, aides and allies said that was an intentional strategy to let the news speak for itself while pointing to the importance of accountability and rule of law.
“The White House doesn’t have to do much here,” said one Biden ally who is close to the president’s team. “They need to acknowledge that it’s a serious legal matter and then leave it up to the courts.”
Allies to President Biden say they are aware that Trump’s team will inevitably turn the indictment into a political issue, suggesting that Bragg, a Democrat with connections to the president, is conducting another “witch hunt.”
Indeed, Trump and his supporters have already been doing so, and their effort went into hyperdrive on Saturday when the former president claimed to his followers on Truth Social that he expected to be arrested on Tuesday.
On Sunday, Trump took to the social media platform again and accused Biden of having “stuffed” the district attorney’s office that is probing the case with officials from Department of Justice.
“Biden wants to pretend he has nothing to do with the Manhattan D.A.’s Assault on Democracy when, in fact, he has ‘stuffed’ the D.A.’s Office with Department of Injustice people, including one top DOJ operative from D.C,” Trump wrote on the site without mentioning to whom he was referring.
He also took aim at Bragg, who he said is “taking his orders from D.C.”
Democrats say Biden should not feel compelled to “get in the mud,” as one major Democratic donor put it.
The president can create a contrast with Trump by keeping his head down as the news around the indictment ensues.
“It’s the right thing to do, the opposite of what Trump would have done, and presents the split screen of Trump’s crimes with Biden delivering for the American people,” said Democratic strategist Josh Schwerin. “There is nothing Trump wants more than to have more reason to falsely claim that his legal troubles are a political attack rather than the rule of law.”
At the White House briefing on Monday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre refrained from speaking about Trump’s case, citing “an ongoing investigation.
“We do not comment on any ongoing investigations from here,” Jean-Pierre said. “We’ve been very consistent on that.”
Ultimately, Democrats and Biden’s team hope the get-out-of-way strategy will accomplish another goal: It will divide Republicans ahead of a pivotal GOP primary race, in which Trump faces competition from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to run for the White House, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who is already in the race.
Former Vice President Mike Pence and others are also expected to join the GOP primary.
“Republicans are going to be split — some will defend Trump, others will seek his base without embracing him,” said Basil Smikle, the former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party who serves as the director of the Public Policy Program at Hunter College. “Both present a good foil for Democrats and Biden.”
So far, Republicans have walked a fine line on the possible indictment.
On Monday, DeSantis held a press conference where he attacked Bragg, calling him a “Soros-funded prosecutor” while accusing him of “weaponizing” the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
But at the same time, the governor, who did not mention Trump by name, slapped the former president when he said he doesn’t “know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair.”
“I can’t speak to that,” DeSantis added pointedly.
Democrats expect that tone to continue from the Florida governor — and other Republican rivals — as the presidential race heats up.
In that scenario, they say, Biden comes out on top.
“It makes the GOP nomination battle more contentious, which is good for Biden,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon.
In addition, Bannon argued Trump’s potential indictment and trial could galvanize Republicans behind Trump, “who is a lesser threat to Biden than a candidate like DeSantis.”
While allies expect Biden to largely take a do-nothing approach on the potential indictment, allies cautioned that the strategy could change if protests turn violent, as they did during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“They’re not going to talk about it unless they have to talk about it,” the ally said.
–Updated at 10:47 a.m.