‘Biggest threat’ could end Trump for good
A few short months ago, Donald Trump was one of the most powerful people on the planet.
But today, he's not only lost the presidency - but his stranglehold on his own party is also slipping fast.
And while the 74-year-old might boast about triumphantly making a comeback in 2024, a nightmare scenario is on the cards that would see him become all but irrelevant as he simultaneously faces potentially crushing legal battles.
That's according to US political commentator and author Spencer Critchley, who told news.com.au that while Donald Trump was still the de facto leader of the Republican Party with the backing of diehard MAGA fanatics, those days are numbered.
Mr Critchley, a former communications consultant for Barack Obama's presidential campaigns and the author of Patriots of Two Nations: Why Trump Was Inevitable and What Happens Next, said both Mr Trump and his party were headed for a "stunning collapse" in the wake of the January 6 Capitol insurrection.
"It has been described as the Republican Party engaging in a murder-suicide pact, because they are attempting to murder American democracy while attempting political suicide," he said.
"Not since the Civil War has a major political party suffered such a complete moral collapse … our elected officials collaborated in an insurrection and attempted to overthrow democracy, and our own president attempted to overthrow democracy, and came close to succeeding.
"Not only did (some Republicans) collaborate with him in his attempt, since then they've helped him get away with it by refusing to vote for impeachment in the Senate."
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Mr Critchley said many Republicans were still refusing to accept the election was legitimately won by Joe Biden following Mr Trump's repeated, baseless allegations the presidency was "stolen" from him due to widespread voter fraud.
"The Republican Party has become a pariah organisation because it has stepped outside the bounds of our civil society, and they seem to think they will get away with it," he said.
However, he said while it was "alarming that tens of millions of Americans still think this is OK", they are a "shrinking minority".
"The party is shedding members at a rapid rate while Joe Biden is enjoying a very, very high approval rating for a new president," he said, adding that the Republican Party seemed to have lost its "ideological centre" of late with the powers that be primarily concerned with power over policy.
"The fact that (Trump) does appear to remain their leader is the clearest sign yet that the party has completely collapsed morally," he said.
SNUBBED BY DIEHARDS
Meanwhile, Mr Trump's personal support also seems to be waning.
Mr Critchley explained that while a highly publicised straw poll of Republican supporters at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference saw 55 per cent name Mr Trump as their preferred next presidential nominee, it was actually a "weak result".
"The CPAC poll would have been disappointing to Trump because it represents the hardest of hardcore Trump supporters … so 55 per cent is really a weak result," he said.
"I think he will remain as de facto leader until he suffers a defeat so convincing they give up on him, not because they suddenly discover a conscience but because they will abandon ship.
"It's scary he has as much political strength as he has, but it is declining, and history shows things do not work out well for demagogues - they seem unbeatable until they collapse.
"He is headed for a terrible collapse and so is the party that's sticking to him - it's stunning to watch."
But Mr Critchley said the father-of-five was facing an even bigger crisis than a loss of popularity.
"Trump's biggest threat when it comes to running in 2024 is he is facing a very long list of criminal charges, so he will undoubtedly be very busy in court," he said.
"It's all catching up with the Trumps, and that's their number one stumbling block."
The former president is facing six major legal hurdles so far, including a "9/11-type commission" into the Capitol riot, a criminal investigation into his loans and lawsuits from women who accused him of sexual assault.
During his presidency, Mr Trump's lawyers repeatedly invoked immunity and executive privilege to keep him from having to testify - but now he is once again a private citizen, he's suddenly far more vulnerable.
PROOF OF TRUMP'S DOWNFALL
A recent article from The Guardian revealed that might be on the cards sooner than many expect, with reporter David Smith describing the eerily silent scenes at the Trump International Hotel.
While the complex was once "like a second White House for the MAGA crowd", it was now "reeling from a huge loss of income and prestige" and was "proof of how quickly the city is moving on without" Mr Trump.
"For four years its opulent lobby thronged with diplomats, lobbyists and Trump family members. It was one of the few places in the US capital where 'Make America Great Again' hats were bountiful," Mr Smith wrote.
"But one recent afternoon it seemed more reminiscent of the haunted hotel in Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining."
FANS ABANDON SHIP
Mr Critchley said another major issue for Mr Trump was recent reports relating to the use of his Save America political action committee.
When he lost the November election, Mr Trump swiftly began pressuring supporters to donate to his legal fund in a bid to overturn the results - although most donations went to his PAC and not directly to his legal fees.
However, the Associated Press explained at the time that "unlike candidate campaign accounts, leadership PACs can also be tapped to pay for personal expenses" and have "long been abused" and "can legally be used to pay for lavish - and questionable - expenses".
Earlier this month, Mr Trump stepped up his calls for donations directly to his own PAC, sparking renewed claims he was taking advantage of his supporters to suit his own agenda.
Quite the strategy: co-opt a political party, transform it in your image, then...drop it like a rock to cut out the middle man btw your acolytes and your bank account https://t.co/kEAjFFLiue— Steven Mazie (@stevenmazie) March 9, 2021
Mr Critchley said it was "hilariously obvious" that it was an attempt to cling to power and profit at the same time, but said over time, many supporters would likely "wake up" to their mistake.
"Eventually, reality wins and if nothing else happens, I believe Trump's popularity will continue to decline until he becomes less and less politically viable, and at a certain point Republicans will wake up and abandon ship," he said.
Originally published as 'Biggest threat' could end Trump for good