Former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, will take questions from New Hampshire Republicans and undeclared voters in a CNN town hall Wednesday as myriad legal issues loom over his 2024 White House bid.
The town hall moderated by “CNN This Morning” anchor Kaitlan Collins at Saint Anselm College – Trump’s first appearance on CNN since 2016 – comes as unprecedented legal clouds hang over the former president and he seeks to become only the second commander in chief ever elected to two nonconsecutive terms.
He will face voters the day after a Manhattan federal jury found the former president sexually abused E. Jean Carroll in a luxury department store dressing room in 1996 and awarded her $5 million for battery and defamation. Trump has denied all wrongdoing and called the verdict in the civil case a “total disgrace.”
Last month in New York, he pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Trump also faces potential legal peril in both Washington, DC – where a special counsel is leading a pair of investigations – and in Georgia, where the Fulton County district attorney plans to announce charges this summer from the investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election in the Peach State.
Still, the twice-impeached former president has repeatedly said that any charges will not stop him from running for president, dismissing all of the investigations as politically motivated witch hunts. That’s a view many GOP voters share, according to recent surveys. Nearly 70% of Republican primary voters in a recent NBC News poll said investigations into the former president “are politically motivated” and that “no other candidate is like him, we must support him.”
While a handful of rivals have entered the Republican presidential primary – and Trump’s biggest potential rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has not yet officially launched a bid – Trump has maintained a healthy lead in early GOP primary polling. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Sunday, 43% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents named Trump unprompted when asked who they would like to see the party nominate in 2024, compared with 20% naming DeSantis, and 2% or less naming any other candidate.
Trump’s participation in the town hall is indicative of a broader campaign strategy to try to expand his appeal beyond conservative media viewers, CNN’s Kristen Holmes reported earlier Wednesday. He’s surrounded himself with a more organized team and has been making smaller retail politics stops while scaling back larger rallies – signs of a more traditional campaign than his 2016 and 2020 operations. He lost that 2020 race by about 7 million votes, although he continues to falsely claim it was stolen from him.
There have been warning signs for the GOP that the obsession with the 2020 election isn’t palatable beyond the base. Many of Trump’s handpicked candidates who embraced his election lies in swing states lost in last year’s midterm elections. And his advisers acknowledge he still has work to do to engage with Republican voters outside of his loyal base of supporters, multiple sources told CNN.
Beyond New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status, it’s also home to many swing voters. This is Trump’s third trip to the Granite State since launching his campaign last fall. He handily won the primaries there in 2016 and 2020 before losing the state in both general elections. Wednesday’s live town hall audience will be made up of Republicans and undeclared voters who plan to vote in the GOP primary.