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Why Trump had a difficult year in 2022, and why 2023 may not be much better

Former President Donald Trump must be feeling like this is the year that never ends, as his actions appear to be catching up with him in public, painful, and costly ways.

Trump is notorious for avoiding accountability, but in the second half of 2022, he’s been put under the microscope in a way that complicates things for the 2024 contender.

The FBI searched his Florida resort and seized classified documents. His company was found to have committed criminal tax fraud. House Democrats released documents related to his tax returns, and they are expected to release his actual returns before handing over the committee gavel to Republicans, who won a smaller-than-expected majority under Trump’s influence. Many of Trump’s supporters lost key Senate races, costing Republicans a majority in that chamber.

The former president has been cleared of all charges. However, the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to oversee two Trump-related investigations: the hoarding of documents at Mar-a-Lago and the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

Trump has railed against the House committee investigating the January 6 insurgency, and his most ardent supporters attempted to obstruct it, but it’s difficult to dismiss its damning 800-page detailed report, which details his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and his role in inciting rioters to attack the Capitol.

And, while the committee’s criminal referrals of Trump to the Justice Department are largely symbolic, the former president must still await the outcome of the DOJ’s own twin investigations.

Meanwhile, there’s no indication that the former president, who launched his third nonconsecutive presidential bid last month, has done much to clear the GOP field, with other candidates weighing their options over the holidays.

A series of setbacks
The ongoing end-of-year revelations eroding Trump’s power include both large developments, such as the January 6 committee report, and smaller details.

The inconvenient truth is hidden in court documents: even his most ardent Fox News supporters knew his 2020 election fantasy was false.

Sean Hannity, a Fox News commentator, admitted he didn’t “for one second” believe the fraud allegations he helped push.

It may be nice for Fox viewers to hear that from Hannity, but according to the New York Times, the admission came off the air and in a deposition as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the conservative network.

According to text messages, Hannity was in constant contact with Trump’s then-chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in the days leading up to January 6.

The fact that conservative elites in Trump’s inner circle were aware of the truth adds context to their efforts to persuade Republican lawmakers to pass new election security laws in key states.

The Real Tax Situation
House Democrats’ release of Trump’s tax returns without his consent confirmed what anyone could have predicted: he paid no federal income tax in a year when he was president.

Even in years when he paid about $1 million in federal taxes, his rate, a little more than 4%, was comparable to the bottom half of American taxpayers.

The special tax rules for real estate tycoons, which Congress has refused to address, help explain why Trump’s tax bill looks so different from that of regular wage-earners. However, the end result is that the former president appears to be a tax evader.

Trump defied convention by refusing to release any of his personal tax returns in 2016. However, his team immediately attempted to weaponize the disclosure of his information. “If this injustice can happen to President Trump, it can happen to anyone,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said last week.

Republicans’ popularity is declining.
Trump made certain that his presence was felt during the 2022 midterm elections, but after Republicans failed to secure a “red wave,” some members of his party blamed him for the party’s poor performance.

He must now contend with polls like the one conducted by CNN earlier this month, which revealed that the majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents want the party to nominate someone other than Trump in 2024. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is their top choice for a replacement. According to the CNN poll, the Republican governor, who was re-elected with a landslide last month, had much higher favorability ratings among Republicans than Trump.

That’s bad news for a man who jumped ahead of the Republican field in 2024 and launched another presidential bid at the exact moment he appeared politically weak.

Even some of his most ardent supporters are growing tired of his antics. The $99 Trump-themed digital trading cards were released at the wrong time in the NFT market, drawing scorn even from his most ardent supporters.

“I can’t do this any longer,” said Stephen Bannon, the former adviser who was sentenced to four months in prison for contempt of Congress after ignoring a January 6 committee subpoena. (He is appealing his conviction.)

The year 2023 may not be much better.
Many of the issues that plagued Trump in 2022 will not be resolved with the start of the new year, and may even worsen.

His company, which was convicted of tax evasion in late 2022, will face civil charges from the New York attorney general in 2023.

On the issue of election tampering, Trump must be concerned about more than just Special Counsel Jack Smith. CNN reported earlier this month that an Atlanta-area special grand jury investigating Trump and his associates’ efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia has already begun writing its final report. This will allow the panel to recommend whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should seek indictments.

While Trump hopes to return to the White House, one of the final bipartisan efforts lawmakers agreed on this month was an update to the Electoral Count Act, which makes it clear that attempts like Trump’s after 2020 – to exploit antiquated language in federal election law and undermine the Electoral College – will not be repeated.

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