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Is Trump still a powerful and popular Republican leader?

Trump's company is facing unprecedented legal pressure in New York

donald-trump-2-ap File photo of former US President Donald Trump at a World Series baseball game in 2019 | AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

Republican lawmakers travelled to Texas to cheer former President Donald Trump as he paid a visit to the southern border Wednesday and hammered the Biden administration for its immigration policies amid a decades-high spike in border crossings.

 Trump, who was joined by more than two dozen House members, also continued to spread lies about the 2020 election as he participated in a border briefing and visited the wall he championed in a trip that was strikingly similar to the many he'd taken here while president.

 “Biden is destroying our country. And it all started with a fake election,” Trump railed as he stood at the border, an American flag hoisted by a crane waving above him.

 Trump has persisted in falsely claiming he won in November, even though state and federal elected officials, his attorney general and numerous judges have said there is no evidence of the mass voter fraud he alleges.

 Coming fresh off his first rally since leaving the White House, the visit underscored the extent to which Republicans, both nationally and in the states, continue to embrace Trump as the leader of their party.

 And it demonstrated anew how much the Republican Party has taken up Trump's signature issue of immigration as the party looks to recapture control of Congress in next year's midterm elections.

 Trump was invited to South Texas by the state's governor, Greg Abbott, who is up for re-election next year and is considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate.

 “This is Biden's fault because President Biden is not continuing what President Trump began,” Abbot said on the immigration issue. Democrats have long criticized the wall as a symbolic waste of money that does nothing to address the root causes of migration.

 The trip came as Trump was facing new and unprecedented legal pressure in New York. His company and long time finance chief have been indicted on charges stemming from a New York investigation into the former president's business dealings, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The charges remain sealed but are expected to be revealed Thursday.

 Trump did not respond to shouted questions about the charges or the deadly Capitol insurrection on January 6, when his supporters stormed the building to try to stop the certification of Democrat Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election. 

Former vice president Mike Pence had, on June 4 said that he would never see eye-to-eye with Trump on Capitol riots. This was a rare departure by Pence, who has rallied behind Trump through his presidency. 

The former president still seems to hold considerable clout in the Republican party, despite being the only president to be impeached twice. The fact that only seven Republican senators voted for Trump’s conviction is indicative of the power he still holds in the Republican party. “It’s hard to imagine Republicans winning national elections without Trump supporters anytime soon,” Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and aide to Senator Marco Rubio during his 2016 presidential primary race against Trump told Reuters.

“The party is facing a real Catch 22: it can’t win with Trump but it’s obvious it can’t win without him either,” Conant said.

Trump, on March 1, at his first public outing since exiting the White House, hinted at running for the presidency in 2024.

While addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, he repeated claims that he won the November elections and lambasted Republicans who voted against him in the latest impeachment trial. 

“We're in a struggle for the survival of America as we know it,” Trump said. “This is a terrible, terrible, painful struggle,” Trump had said at the event.

Trump, who returned to the campaign trail on June 27, saw support turnout for him in hordes, complete with flags, hats and t-shirts that proclaiming Donald Trump the true winner of the 2020 election – or the man to beat in 2024. The Guardian reported that it was a carnival-like atmosphere in Ohio. The former president still seems to be able to hold the field and keep followers taking in every word he says. Even as daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner seem to have distanced themselves from Trump and his constant complaints, Trump still seems to be attracting a sizeable number of followers. 

Audacious commentary still seems to be Trump’s go-to tool while addressing the public. The former president, on June 6, while speaking in Greenville North Carolina, criticised infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump also said that China should pay $10 trillion in repatriation to the US and the world for its handling of the virus and that the world should cancel its debts to Beijing, adding that he was right about the virus coming from the Wuhan lab.  

Facebook might be upholding its decision to suspend Trump’s account and his blog may have been taken down after being functional for less than a month, but on March 22, Trump announced that he plans to launch his own social media platform in two or three months.

Trump may have left the building, but Trumpism may not fade away for a long time to come.

--With PTI inputs

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