Donald Trump, at the height of his race for the White House in 2016, said he could shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue and not lose support.  

He didn’t have to gun anybody down, but he was right – nothing he did from that point on, or said in debates or hypothetical locker rooms derailed his bid to become President.  

And so four years of chaos ensued as someone once disregarded as nothing more than a tangerine Twitter machine took over the levers of government of the most powerful country in the world.  

Children were imprisoned on the US-Mexico border. North Korea was saluted. Environmental protections were scrapped. Walls were built, kind of, and the supreme court was packed with right-wing judges who will rule over American law for years to come. He also suggested you could cure Covid by injecting bleach 

As a side note, a tide of illiberal thought and speech was unleashed which divided the US in ways not seen since the Civil War. 

And then it all came crashing down, and his supporters stormed the US Congress in an apparent attempt to overturn the sacred democratic principles on which the country has been built.  

The Herald: Rioters storm the Capitol building 

One would think there’s no coming back from that. Yet this week a poll found that Trump is leading over President Joe Biden in the race to be the next President.  

An election is just a year away. This is extremely strange.  

Things have not gone smoothly for ex-President Trump. Not for him the retreat to the Presidential library (reading … may not be his strong suit in any case) and a restful retirement.

The Orange One has rarely been out of the limelight since losing office. And despite his pathological need for publicity, hardly any of it has been on his own terms.

READ MORE: New York trial begins into Trump business dealings

To say Trump is enmeshed in legal troubles is to do a disservice to both meshes and the entire judicial system.  

If it’s a metaphor you want, his courtroom travails are more akin to being wrapped head-to-foot in anchor chains and encrusted in concrete by a disciplined legion of lawyers and sundry judiciary staff.  

There is a very distinct possibility he could see jail time. And people – serious people, with important jobs like politicians and newspaper columnists - are actually debating whether he could be President from prison.  

The jury’s still out on that one. But the fact it’s on the cards and he’s still standing anywhere near a campaign platform is remarkable, in a macabre sort of way. 

The Herald: A President in a penitentiary? 

The charge sheet is as long as one of his rambling monologues from the rallies he uses to stir up support. 

Mr Trump, 77, faces 91 allegations across four criminal cases, two filed in federal court in Washington and Florida and two in state courts in New York and Georgia. 

The cases are related to his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, allegations he mishandled classified documents and hush money payments made to hide claims of extramarital affairs. Either one could lead to a spell behind bars, and these will likely play out as campaign season gets underway next year.  

Politics aside, the real estate mogul is also in hot water over his business dealings. This week he was back in court defending fraud allegations in New York that he over-inflated the value of his properties when seeking loans.  

Millions of dollars changed hands on these estimates, and the issue strikes at the very heart of Trump’s persona.  

On one hand, he stands to lose a considerable chunk of real estate, with buildings such as Trump Tower mentioned in the lawsuit. Estimates have put the value of the properties which could be seized at $750m, enough to give any plutocrat sleepless nights.  

But more directly, the case undermines Trump’s carefully constructed image as a savvy businessman, by demonstrating that his empire was built on a web of lies.  

The Herald: Trump heads to court

Already called to court, alongside his sons Eric and Donald Jnr, Trump has been his usual bullish self, vigorously defending his wealth and business, tangling from the witness stand with the judge overseeing the civil fraud trial and denouncing a lawsuit accusing him of dramatically inflating his net worth as a “political witch hunt”. 

Mr Trump’s long-awaited testimony this week about property valuations and financial statements was punctuated by personal jabs at a judge he said was biased against him and at the state attorney general, whom he derided as a “political hack”. 

He proudly boasted of his real estate business — “I’m worth billions of dollars more than the financial statements” — and disputed claims that he had deceived banks and insurers. 

“This is the opposite of fraud,” he declared. Referring to New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat whose office brought the case, he said: “The fraud is her.” 

READ MORE:  'Compare me to the alternative' Biden’s presidency is put to the test

Remember, this is a man running to essential be Ms James' boss and the upholder of the statutes, mechanisms and values which underpin her office.  

Normally, this is the sort of thing which would derail a candidate. Yet Mr Trump remains head and shoulders above the others running to be the Republican Party’s nominee for next year’s election – even though he has not taken part in any debates.  

The Herald:

Once thought of as his main challenger, Florida Governor Ron Desantis said this week "Donald Trump said we'd get tired of winning. I'm sick of Republicans losing."

But losing is something he’d probably better get used to, with time running out on anyone to catch up with Trump. 

And so we return to this week's poll, which found the former President narrowly leading Joe Biden by 49 per cent to 45 per cent among registered voters. 

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News organisation CNN, who conducted the shockwave ballot, said that “Biden’s reelection chances are buffeted by deeply negative approval ratings, a stagnant sense that things are going poorly in the United States, diminished support among key voter blocs, and a widespread sense that he is not up for the job.” 

In contrast, Trump is picking up support because he is perceived to have the “stamina and sharpness to serve”, though just a third of those surveyed thought he would "respect the rule of law". They are still ok with that.  

The Herald: Joe Biden

So should we brace for a second Trump Presidency? Maybe. But maybe not. Pouring cold water on the data, veteran pollsters 538 say such early surveys are “not very useful".  

Neither party has officially picked its nominee, and there is a lot of ground to cover before the election. Campaigns have barely begun and anything could happen: “These polls are little more than hypothetical exercises,” they wrote.  

“Given how often early polls have misled us in the past, it would still be risky to place your faith in them this far in advance.” 

And there is one wild card still in play. The overturning of America’s hallowed Roe vs Wade ruling on abortion, by those self-same Trump-picked judges last year -  long after he left office - has galvanised left-leaning US voters and led to a string of victories for the Democrats at state level, when the Republicans expected to win.  

Prophesised red waves have not materialised, and it seems that this issue is focusing minds when it comes to the ballot box. And they aren’t casting votes for Trump's party.  

So despite his apparent edge over Joe Biden, his contempt for judges in the courtroom and the judiciary at large, Trump may be about run headfirst into one law he can’t disparage; the law of unintended consequences.