Donald Trump speaks to the media outside Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday
Donald Trump speaks to the media outside Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday © Getty Images

This is an onsite version of the US Election Countdown newsletter. You can read the previous edition here. Sign up for free here to get it on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Email us at

One thing to start: Stormy Daniels, the porn actor at the centre of Donald Trump’s “hush money” case, is expected to testify today. Check for updates throughout the day.

Good morning and welcome to US Election Countdown. In today’s newsletter we cover:

  • A jail threat for Trump

  • Nancy Pelosi on “kitchen table” economics

  • Who’s winning the election right now?

Welcome to your latest recap of Law & Order: Presidential. The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s Manhattan “hush money” trial has threatened to jail the Republican frontrunner should he continue to harass witnesses and jurors online and via the press. [Free to read]

Justice Juan Merchan thinks the $10,000 in fines he’s already ordered Trump to pay aren’t enough to keep the ex-president from violating a court-issued gag order.

“Going forward, this court will have to consider jail sanction,” Merchan told Trump in court yesterday after finding him in criminal contempt for a 10th time. A defendant held in criminal contempt can go to jail for 30 days.

Trump seemed ready to pick up the gauntlet the judge threw down, suggesting on his way out of court that he’d be willing to risk getting locked up:

Our constitution is much more important than jail. It’s not even close. I’ll give that sacrifice any day.

The Republican has used his legal battles to fire up his base and fundraise. Trump’s biggest surge in small donor contributions (those worth $200 or less) came after surrendering to Atlanta authorities on felony charges over his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. His campaign brought in $4.3mn from 85,000 donations on mugs and T-shirts featuring Trump’s mugshot. Now imagine the merch opportunities if Trump goes to jail.

“There are many reasons why incarceration is truly the last resort for me,” Merchan said. “The magnitude of the decision is not lost on me.”

Yesterday’s trial featured witness testimony from two long-time Trump Organization employees, and comes on the heels of former aide Hope Hicks’s appearance on the stand on Friday. Stay tuned for today’s proceedings.

Campaign clips: the latest election headlines

Behind the scenes

Video description

FT editor Roula Khalaf interviews former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at the FT Weekend Festival in Washington

FT editor Roula Khalaf interviews former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at the FT Weekend Festival in Washington © FT Live

I was at the FT Weekend Festival here in Washington on Saturday and went to see our editor Roula Khalaf in conversation with congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House. Naturally, they talked about the election.

Pelosi said that the Democratic party had “made a decision to save our democracy” in 2024 and that Biden “not only will, he must win this election”.

She also stressed that economic issues were important for voters as the president has struggled to convince them that the economy is doing well, as people feel the weight of inflation. As Pelosi said:

The kitchen table is the power table in America because that’s where people make their decisions on how to pay the tuition, save for pension, pay the rent and pay their bills.

Voters, she continued, “have to feel that somebody cares and is acting on their behalf”. It remains to be seen if Democrats can convince voters that Biden is this person.


We’re now less than six months away from election day — so who is winning?

It’s an extremely tight race.

Trump has a slight polling lead of 0.8 percentage points, according to FiveThirtyEight’s national survey averages, though that edge is firmly within the margin of error.

When you zoom out a bit, this razor-thin edge for Trump is shocking when you consider his record-low approval rating of 29 per cent when he left the White House in 2021, just weeks after his supporters stormed the Capitol to try to overturn his electoral loss.

Despite the events of January 6, more registered US voters now think Biden’s presidency is a failure compared with Trump’s: 55 per cent of respondents said Trump’s term was successful versus 39 per cent who said the same of Biden’s, a recent CNN poll found.

The president’s approval rating dropped to 35 per cent last month from 54 per cent when his term began, according to Pew Research.

Notably, Trump is ahead of Biden in seven key swing states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Back in 2020, a mere 43,000 votes decided the election (155mn were cast), making every vote in those seven states crucial.


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