A short but historic day back in Washington DC for Donald Trump

Another historic day in the US as Donald Trump pled not guilty to yet another round of criminal charges, ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers reports

So where are we after an historic day in which the 45th US president appeared in court accused of trying to overturn the last election?

Well, this was just the first procedural hearing. It was rich in symbolism but thin on content. Trump entered a not guilty plea. We know the next date is 28th August, when we may get some idea of the timetable of this trial.

The US Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith has said he is seeking a swift trial, but I think this optimistic. Team Trump are past masters at delay and it is in their interests to kick the can down the road as far as they can.

Right now, Trump is riding high in the polls against all his Republican rivals and is raising serious cash for his campaign. He is also able to create an important narrative: martyrdom.

Some of the language he has used in recent social media posts are almost religious in their messaging. “I am being arrested for you” he wrote yesterday. It is almost as if he is asking his supporters to believe their sins are being absolved by his sacrifice.

The constant claim of persecution and victimhood is resonating with his base. In some senses, why would Trump want this legal process to end? It’s getting him wall to wall coverage and choking out the voices of his rivals who can’t get their message through.

Donald Trump (right) next to his lawyer Todd Blanche (left), next to Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith (seated far left). Credit: Dana Verkouteren/AP

If he can keep the legal plates spinning while also spinning the campaign plates, he appears to be unassailable in his bid for the Republican nomination.

And look what is happening to his nearest rival Ron DeSantis. DeSantis's poll rating is in decline, falling below 15% in the latest soundings. The other candidates are all woefully behind.

The only thing which seems like it can derail the Trump train is a conviction. But even that isn’t guaranteed to stop his momentum. There is nothing in America's constitution to stop him campaigning from prison. And he could conceivably pardon himself if he won.

Buckle up for one of the most acrimonious and fascinating presidential races in living memory. It’s going to be quite a ride.

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