President Trump is following a well-worn strategy in recent days, presenting himself as the victim of oppression and taking shots at political adversaries — a “counterpuncher” approach that his allies say plays to his base while rallying like-minded Americans behind him.
The strategy, familiar to those who have paid close attention to the president’s behavior over the past two years, is rooted in Trump’s belief that the legal system and the media have unfairly targeted him, his associates, and his family.
It was on full-display on Monday following the indictments of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and another aide, Rick Gates. Despite the charges, the president sought to turn the tables and paint himself as the wronged party.
“Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus. . . ?” he tweeted late Monday morning, setting the tone for the rest of the day.
The Trump strategy is in many ways counterintuitive behavior for a president who has faced criminal charges, but it often works to rally Trump’s base and to create a narrative of victimization that makes him look more sympathetic.
It also wards off detractors and gives the president an opportunity to paint himself as a persecuted figure fighting a much stronger opponent — a tried-and-true tactic for a president under pressure.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, sought to downplay the significance of his father’s response, saying in a tweet Monday night that the president’s strategy was nothing new.
“For those asking, the [counterpunch] strategy is one the [president] has used since the day he came down the escalator to announce his run,” he wrote. “It won then and it will win now.”