I’m Ryan Lizza. This is Playbook Deep Dive. Trump was just indicted a few hours ago, and I’ve collected three of the best journalists in the POLITICO newsroom to break down the immediate questions of what Trump’s indictment means. I’ve got Jonathan Martin, our politics bureau chief, got Meridith McGraw, who covers Trump for POLITICO. And I’ve got Erica Orden, who is new to POLITICO and is one of the best legal reporters out there. All three of them have been breaking news on this story. We’re all on deadline, all working on stories and working on Playbook for tomorrow. We wanted to give you all an initial first rough cut of what some of the top people at POLITICO are thinking about this story. If you’re a Deep Dive listener, this is going to be your Deep Dive episode for the week. Let’s get started. Last night, I was on OnlyFans watching a Stormy Daniels Q&A. Like, that’s the sort of where we are. It was actually so boring. I actually turned it off. It was PG for the period I was watching. That’s a very long way of saying, did anyone else get dragged into doing that last night? And to do this, to stay abreast of this story? Or was I the only one that was asked to do that? It was fascinating for a little bit. It’s a perfect segue way, Erica, to the other characters in this legal drama. I saw Stormy put out a statement. I believe Michael Cohen was immediately on cable news against I believe from what? From what I understand, the wishes of Alvin Bragg, who says, I understand, has told Lanny Davis and Michael Cohen to, you know, to stay the hell off the airwaves. But he was immediately taking a victory lap. Who are the other? You know, this is, of course, the O.G. Trump story that is like the most tabloid, the most sensationalistic, the most kind of, you know, how Trump has, like, dragged us all into the tabloid world over the last near decade now. Who are the characters in terms of like the actual legal drama that you’re curious about in terms of whether this is a more expansive case than what we originally thought or not? And if that’s, you know, that there aren’t interesting answers there, just tell us generally what the big legal questions are that are on your mind. Well, I mean, in terms of the characters, yes, you’re right that this is all sort of a throwback to 2016-2018 period. But, you know, one of the people who’s testified twice, I believe, in front of this grand jury and who is central to this whole episode and who I believe has never spoken publicly about it is David Pecker. And so if there’s any chance that he ends up testifying at a trial or ends up speaking about his side of the story, I would be very intrigued to hear that. As you know, as someone who, you know, he was extremely close to Donald Trump and that’s how he got involved in this hush money payment to begin with. That’s someone I would really like to hear from at some point if there’s an opportunity to do that. But in terms of the sort of the legal questions that are going to come up here, there’s quite a number. But I think the biggest one is, you know, I mentioned that the indictment is sealed. We don’t know what the counts are yet, but there’s a lot of questions about how the district attorney, Alvin Bragg, constructed these charges and whether they will survive in court, because if they are what we think they’re going to be, they’re a largely untested legal theory. And Trump’s lawyers, of course, will try their hardest to fight them and given that they’re untested, there’s just a lot of questions about how they’ll survive. So that’s probably the biggest issue here. But then, of course, we will run into all sorts of questions about the sort of scheduling of legal proceedings and a potential trial for someone who is a presidential candidate. And that is likely to be very, very complicated. So. Meridith, same question for you in terms of what if in the coming days, like what should we be writing about? What should we be thinking about? What are the stories, what are the threads that you’re going to be pulling on? In terms of the Trump world and the 2024 race? Well, I think it’s sort of what I mentioned before. You know, Trump has survived a lot of insane moments, if you will, before political moments – I’m thinking Access Hollywood –, he’s now the leading Republican candidate for president, even after everything that happened on January 6. He’s often called “Teflon Don.” I am curious to see if, once again, how he might be able to wiggle out of this or not, and how he’s just going to try to spin this whole situation to his own political benefit, whether it’s fundraising or even just like how he shapes his political legacy in a way. I think Jonathan, mentioned earlier that people are rallying around Trump, Republicans are. But also what does this mean for how the party just thinks about the electability question in 2024? How big of an impact does that have? And then as somebody who’s worked in TV before and who knows that he is so acutely aware of the visuals around all of this, you know, is he going to be just holding his head high with handcuffs on as he faces this? I’m sure he’s thinking about this in a very cinematic way. You know, maybe he asks for the perp walk. We keep hearing that there is likely to be a perp walk. Right. Is that still correct, Erica? Yeah, that’s still correct. They could handcuff him, he’ll have to go to the DA’s office to surrender and to be fingerprinted and sort of all those normal procedures. There is a possibility that they would handcuff him between when they walk him from the DA’s office to the court, they’re in the same building. So, it’s not necessarily true that he would be seen doing that, but he could be. It’s state court. So there are cameras allowed, unlike federal court. It’s possible you could see him in handcuffs. Possible. Got it. I think he would relish that. Jonathan, when you’re talking to Republicans over the coming days, what are you going to be asking them? And then two, I like how you framed this as the pre-Trump and post-Trump Republican Party and there’s still plenty of members of the pre-Trump party. Mitch McConnell, I’m sure Mitch McConnell is very happy today. Right? He still hates Trump. Some of the people, some of the people that you put in the post-Trump Republican Party, are they also privately saying, ‘all right, thank God someone’s finally going to take care of this guy?’ You know, everyone’s been praying for the meteor to strike for years now. I think there are plenty of people in the post-Trump Republican Party who are being honest. They think this is all politically motivated. They love him. They’re sticking with him. What’s the private stream of thought? Although, those things can be true. I think there’s plenty of Republicans in high office who think this is bogus, who don’t think this is on the level, but on truth serum would say, yeah, if this is going to make it that much easier for us to like toss him overboard and nominate somebody else next year to beat Biden, we’re all for it. Yeah, the level of cynicism, Ryan, is profound here among Republicans when it comes to Trump. There are some true believers, don’t get me wrong. But, the amount of high level Republicans who are desperate to get Trump off the stage is a very large number and they will say what they have to say about this. Some of them will even mean it. But you can be damn sure that the vast majority of them are not going to shed any tears tonight as they put their head on the pillow because they’ll think this just adds more baggage to Trump, it’s tawdry. The details are obviously cringe-worthy and it’s just going to make the American voter recoil from our party. So, if it helps us get somebody else in ’24, we’re for it. They’ll never say it out loud. But you and I know that to be true. Alright. One thing I want to ask you guys as we sit here? I’ve been trying to keep up with everything. I’ve seen some of the responses. Are there any major Republicans out there who have not weighed in yet that might have something interesting to say? Top of mind to me is Chris Christie. I haven’t seen if he’s responded or not. Have any of you? You know, I thought Don Bacon, who was the congressman from Nebraska, he has that Omaha base district, which is really competitive every two years and he’s kind of a center right Republican, problem solver, caucus type guy. And he was very restrained earlier today when he was asked about this. He said, ‘I believe in the rule of law. I think we have checks and balances and I trust the system.’ That is not embracing Trump as somebody who Ryan stepped back. This is going to be an explosion here. Actually being honest on the level in his on the record statement. Imagine that happening tonight. But that clearly is where he is. Erica, you hit on one of the most important things in all of this is this complicated legal theory that is being untested. I guess, the better word, untested legal theory that Alvin Bragg is using. Tell me if I’m getting any of this wrong. But what we think is going to be in this indictment is, hey, you categorized these payments as business expenses or legal expenses that’s falsifying your business records and in New York state, that’s a misdemeanor. And in New York State, if you do it to cover up or commit a crime, it’s a felony. But nobody quite knows if that word crime also accounts just for state crimes or federal crimes. Yeah. I mean, that’s basically it. Yeah. The question is, is the DA’s office going to hinge it on the federal crime of a campaign finance violation? You know, it’s not really clear. It’s not really clear. So, all of this has been speculative. There really hasn’t been any concrete reporting on exactly what they were planning to put into the indictment. As far as charges go, so. But that’s at least when Mark Pomerantz, the former prosecutor in that office who resigned because he thought the investigation was dead – that was the way that he was looking at the case when he was there in the 2021, 2022 period. Yes, that’s true. But it’s also the case that they were looking and in theory, they still are looking at a broader case than just this hush money part of it. Well, this indictment is expected to focus on the hush money issue. That said, again, we haven’t seen the indictment. So, yes, it is possible that it contains charges related to other conduct. But it is also true that they could indict on other conduct in another indictment. I’m not saying that that’s going to happen, but it could happen. And their investigation has been quite a bit broader than just this hush money conduct. So, when Pomerantz wrote his book and all of his discussions or as he has recounted them, all of his discussions with Bragg and with his former fellow prosecutor, Carrie Dunn, most of those were pertaining to a bigger mix of potential crimes than just related to this hush money conduct. One other thought here is and this is for anyone who thinks they have a window into this and I know this is a very difficult question, but like a lot of things in American politics that are historic, we’ve been talking about this for so long, and it has been so telegraphed that, frankly, when it happened tonight, you know, I was surprised because my understanding was that the grand jury was going on vacation. But in a lot of ways, I wasn’t really surprised. Sometimes I feel like in the media we have to like reinject the historicism of these things to remind everyone what a big deal it is. On the other hand, we’ve been talking about it for so long, these investigations have been swirling for so long, it’s not really surprising. Does anyone think that Alvin Bragg doing this emboldens the other prosecutors, especially, of course, Jack Smith, who has a much more serious case that he’s looking at? But does it create a domino effect? Does it make some of these other prosecutors think like, ‘Yeah, all right, he did it. He’s still standing. This this can happen in the justice system, you know, you can go after a former president if there’s an indictable offense.’ Well, look, I haven’t covered these other investigations or these other cases. But, I think there is something to the sort of unprecedented nature of taking that step and being the first person to indict a former president. It is a line that hadn’t been crossed yet. I don’t think, you know, for example, like this hush money issue was investigated by SDNY, by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office for a long time. And they did look at Trump’s role in this episode and they were prevented by the OLC opinion from indicting him. But they did examine his role. And I think and I know from reporting on that investigation that they did consider whether setting the OLC, opinion aside, whether they could have and indicted him. I think it does matter to prosecutors’ offices whether anyone has taken this step. I think that’s all well said. I totally agree with you. One other name we haven’t mentioned and well, sort of wrap things up here, Meridith and Jonathan. Joe Biden. How does Biden White House deal with this? Does he, does he stay silent, does he put out a statement in support of democracy working? He’s a big pro-democracy guy. What does he do? I don’t think he says anything about some kind of violence or, you know, some sort of actual attack on the building itself or members of the DA’s office, which is remarkable to even say out loud. But I think short of that, he stays quiet. And I think he’ll bite his tongue or at least limit his Biden-esque comments the best he can. Well, of course, in private, if the entire assumption of the Biden apparatus is that Trump is going to be the nominee. He’s the face of the Republican Party. Their entire word for the opposition party, ‘MAGA Republicans’ is oriented around Donald Trump. So, yes, they’re counting on this, to continue to define the opposition. Like I said earlier, every day that the story is about the other guys is a great day for Joe Biden and the Democrats because the voters are voting for not the other guys. Right. And that’s what Biden’s counting on in ’24. That’s what got him elected in ’20. That’s what helped to save the Senate ’22 and that’s what they’re hoping for next year. I think this is impossible for us to get at. But there is a sort of Shakespearean side drama here with Joe Biden’s own son being under a similar cloud and waiting to figure out, is his son going to be indicted, what’s going to happen? And, you know, just as Erica was talking about the political nature of when something is a close call, then that’s when politics can enter into a prosecutor’s mind. I do wonder – if you’re Joe Biden and you’re thinking, ‘God, are they going to indict Hunter Biden for, X, Y or Z?’ Does this now make it more likely? Less likely? Superficially, I would say, more likely, right? If you’re that prosecutor and you’re under all this pressure and if we have a justice system where people are thinking, ‘Well, you know, they went after Trump for that, I can’t just bury the Hunter charge now’ – I know prosecutors don’t exactly think like that, but if you’re Joe Biden, you’re probably thinking like the person you care a lot about… How does this affect his case? Let’s leave it there. Thank you guys for doing this on such short notice. I know you’re all probably on deadline. At least, I’m on deadline, so I got to jump off and I really appreciate heeding the call. I’ll talk to y’all soon.