Former President Donald Trump continues to have a huge clout in the Republican party Image Credit: NYT

Donald Trump just loves controversy. And controversy loves him back. The former president is busy fighting multilayered legal battles. But it seems very hard to get rid of the man who has recently proven that he still wields a huge and probably disproportionate influence on the Republican Party.

The footages of the FBI agents raiding his Florida resort home, Mar-a-Lago, to recover more than a dozen boxes of sensitive documents he had kept, against the law, after he left the White House in January 2021, would have been expected to slam the door shut on any chance the man may have of a political comeback. But not Trump.

The man has had one of the poorest records as a president in recent memory. He alienated America’s allies, almost disbanded Nato, withdrew his country out of the Climate Chance agreement and was instrumental in fomenting the racial divide that continues to threaten America’s social fabric.

He tried illegally to overturn the 2020 elections, won by Joe Biden, and is accused of orchestrating the January 6, 2021 storming of the Congress by white supremacy and far right groups, which left many police officers dead and shook the political foundations of the world’s sole superpower. He continues to refuse to accept blame for the attack on the Capitol. And many of the Republicans, including senior members of the party, agree with him.

The latest Trump’s brush with the law, concealing hundreds of classified pages of secret files, has bizarrely found many Republicans defending the former president

Transfer of classified documents

He then illegally transferred dozens of boxes of classified documents from the White House to his Florida home, shortly before leaving office.

According to the National Archives, which is the usual place to store these documents, and the national intelligence agencies, the documents contain top secrets correspondence with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and other papers that, according to the Justice Department, “appear to contain national defence information,” protected by the Espionage Act. He thus faces potential criminal charges. But even such explosive images of FBI agents raiding the home of the country’s former leader have not swayed his supporters.

A little known candidate, endorsed by Trump, recently defeated incumbent congresswoman Liz Cheney, the senior Republican famous for criticising the former president, in the party’s primary polls, for this year’s midterm election. Trump commented that Republican voters sent Liz Cheney to “political oblivion”. The humiliating defeat of one of the Republican Party’s rising stars surely shows the overwhelming influence Trump has among the party’s members despite his outlandish behaviour and legal troubles. His supporters talk of him running for the 2024 presidential elections!

Weirdly invincible

Donald Trump just seems weirdly invincible. As if he is made of Teflon, nothing seems to stick on him. Two famous Americans were described as Teflon people. One was a president and the other an organised crime boss.

Democratic congressman Pat Schroeder, now retired, coined the term ‘Teflon President’ in 1983 to describe then-President Ronald Reagan, considered one of America’s greatest leaders in the 20th century. “He has been perfecting the Teflon-coated presidency: He sees to it that nothing sticks to him.” In an interview years later, the Congressman said she thought of Reagan while was frying eggs in a Teflon, or non-stick pan.

True enough; Reagan was so charismatic and popular that he could do no wrong, even the supposedly damaging revelations of the Iran-Contra affair, in which some of his close aides, such as Oliver North, were indicted and convicted by Congress. (Former President Bill Clinton was also described as ‘Teflonish’ following his acquittal by the Senate of the Monica Lewinsky affair.)

The other Teflon personality was John Gotti, the notorious boss of the Gambino crime family in New York City, America’s most powerful and criminal outfit, from 1985 to 2002. He died of cancer in a federal prison hospital in Missouri. He was called the ‘Teflon Don’ because of his ability to escape prosecution for years despite the FBI’s best efforts to pile evidence against him, until his deputy Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, finally testified against him in 1991.

I doubt historians will ever associate Trump with a Reagan-like legacy. He is more kind of Gotti’s ‘Teflonism’. The inner circle of the former president for a time seemed a tightly controlled syndicate, similar to Gotti’s family rather than the usual public servants of the White House.

Brush with the law

The latest Trump’s brush with the law, concealing hundreds of classified pages of secret files, has bizarrely found many Republicans defending the former president, claiming he has the right to declassify those documents, henceforth, he has the right to keep them in his Florida home. One wonders what Trump has on these people that makes them stick with him even though he is clearly in defiance of the law, political traditions and basically common sense.

Will he run for the White House in 2024? Probably not. But he will certainly find many supporters if he did. He is as Teflonish as John Gotti. And as sleazy as Clinton, whose nickname by the way was ‘the Comeback Kid’. The only certain thing today is that the Trump saga is in season one.