If you thought a trial could force Trump off the campaign trail, you thought wrong

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Donald Trump’s campaign trail will largely be confined to the corridors of a Manhattan courthouse for the next six weeks. But his advisers and allies are preparing ways to attempt to drive coverage on his own terms throughout the proceedings.

During the course of the trial, Trump will make use of his private plane and social media reach, a Trump campaign official said, while taking “full advantage” of having Wednesdays and weekends off from court. But even on some court days, Trump will hold both in-person and virtual events, said the official, who was granted anonymity to speak freely.

And with the trial being held in Trump’s native New York City, the campaign is aiming to paint a contrast between problems affecting its residents, particularly a surge of immigrants there illegally, and the Democratic-controlled government’s decision to pour resources into prosecuting Trump, the campaign official said.

Trump’s campaign has sent talking points to surrogates, calling on them to label the proceedings as “the Biden trial.” His team expects conservative allies and elected officials to defend Trump on the airwaves even more frequently while he is tied up in court, while his fundraising machine will be ramped up to rake in donations.

An aide to one Trump surrogate, who was granted anonymity to speak freely, said they’re expecting to increase the number of television appearances in the coming weeks.

The Trump campaign has sought repeatedly to delay the trial, with a senior adviser last year describing the myriad cases against him as “a scheduling nightmare.” And the drumbeat coverage of the prosecution of him in New York is unlikely to be flattering.

But if the past week is a preview, it won’t stop Trump, a master of generating coverage, from continuing to do so between stints sitting in a courtroom chair.

On Monday, competing with a solar eclipse, Trump upended the news cycle for days with an announcement on social media that he was not calling for a national abortion ban. On Wednesday — the only weekday that Trump will not be in court in each of the coming weeks, while that day is reserved by the judge for other business — he raised money in Atlanta and appeared there before a bank of television cameras. And Saturday, he will hold a rally in Pennsylvania.

Trump could follow a similar schedule while standing trial next week on charges that he falsified business records to conceal a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. And while in court each day, he’ll have at the ready a gaggle of cameras outside the chambers.

Dave Carney, a veteran Republican strategist, said the trial will give Trump a platform to talk about anything he wants “when he goes outside the courthouse and every camera in the country is there carrying it live.”

“And on the weekends,” Carney added, “he gets to rally the troops.”

One person close to the campaign and granted anonymity to speak freely said to expect impromptu stops on the sidelines of Trump’s trial and when cameras are eager to get a shot of him outside the courtroom — with the caveat that Trump has a massive security footprint in a city that can be logistically difficult to maneuver.

The trial is forcing some operational adjustments by his campaign, including keeping his Boeing 757 on standby. But even before the trial, Trump had cut back on rallies to save money, and the ones he did hold were often on the weekends to maximize attendance.

“It'll take a few days away here and there, but this coming Saturday, he’s going to be in Pennsylvania. He will be in plenty of places, and he’ll be everywhere he needs to be in the next six weeks,” said David Urban, who served as an adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“Nobody's out campaigning every day anyhow, regardless, and it's still early on, right?” he added. “We're not in September. I think it would have been a lot more deleterious at that point than it is now.”

During weekdays, Republicans view the courtroom as a convenient backdrop for a key part of his grievance-filled 2024 campaign message — that Trump is the victim of politically motivated prosecutors. Trump has welcomed cameras and reporters to cover his entrance and departure from courthouses, where he rails against any number of topics, from the case at hand to President Joe Biden.

“Crooked Joe Biden and the Democrats’ failing election interference strategy is to try and keep President Trump away from campaigning by confining him to a courtroom,” Trump spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said in a statement to POLITICO, calling it a “Biden Trial” and a “Democrat-orchestrated witch hunt” involving “the least credible witnesses on the planet.”

“President Trump will continue to fight for truth in the courtroom and to share his winning message on the campaign trail,” Leavitt said.

Trump is notoriously undisciplined, and for all the campaign’s planning, there is a risk of him going off message and creating problems for himself — whether legally or for the campaign. Trump is already subject to a gag order from the judge overseeing the trial.

Steve Bannon, a former Trump White House adviser and the “War Room” host, said there’s a “thin line” for Trump “about being a victim — people want to see a leader.”

But he said, "His trial can galvanize the nation if President Trump plays it smartly — it could be positive in ways we can't imagine.”

He said, "This is going to be massive. It’s going to be the centerpiece of his campaign.”

Bannon’s “War Room” show will be airing from New York starting Monday, with guests that include Trump ally Mike Davis from the Article III Project, a judicial advocacy group.

“Trump is doing an excellent job of staying on message and staying on the message that this is lawfare and election interference,” Davis said. “Let Trump be Trump and Susie [Wiles] and Chris [LaCivita] can control the rest.”

Jason Osborne, a senior strategist for Ben Carson’s 2016 presidential campaign, said the court proceedings offer “free media for him to be able to say whatever he wants, and to continue to maintain his innocence no matter which trial it is.”

It’s unclear who at this point, Osborne mused, will change their mind about Trump based on the outcome of the Bragg trial — the salacious details of which were played out in the news media years ago.

“He has been able to masterfully change the conversation, and I don’t know if folks necessarily believe him as much as they are just tired of it, and don’t want to deal with it,” Osborne said of Trump’s legal saga.

“Everyone’s probably going to be sitting there thinking, ‘Yeah, he’s probably guilty of it, but does it change my mind when I go into the voting booth? Am I voting on that issue or my pocketbook?’ And that’s the struggle, I think, Biden’s going to have.”

The Biden team also believes Trump’s upcoming trial will serve as a helpful contrast in the race, according to a campaign official granted anonymity to speak freely, with the president in the coming weeks remaining focused on talking about issues that impact voters, while Trump will likely be frequently talking about himself and his criminal case.

And while Trump will face time and location constraints in the courtroom, Biden is expected to continue making weekday stops in battleground states throughout the trial.

But at this stage in the campaign, Osborne said, Trump likely wouldn’t have been holding many weeknight rallies anyway — something that is usually reserved for the late stages of the race.

His focus will be on firing up his base — and his fundraising — in other ways, and Trump likely won’t have a hard time doing that with all the news coverage he’ll be receiving during the trial.

“It’s a unique thing that most candidates don’t have,” Carney said of Trump’s earned media abilities. “They’ve got to go out and do something to generate coverage. Even the president has a hard time generating coverage when he goes somewhere — he doesn’t get coverage as well as Trump does.”