On Thursday, March 20th, 2023, former President Trump was indicted by a grand jury in New York – facing, as reported by CNN, “more than 30 counts related to business fraud”. While scarce details have been revealed about the case, the first-ever indictment of a former president on criminal charges are sure to have wide-ranging political ramifications in the coming weeks and months.
The details of this case is peculiar. It is critical to understand that Trump is being tried under New York state law – with a Manhattan grand jury voting for his indictment, and the district attorney overseeing the case being Alvin Bragg, a Democrat. Furthermore, as Politico states, while under state law, “disguising such payments in corporate records… [would] typically only [be a] misdemeanor”, with the prosecution arguing that the falsification of the business records was done in order to cover up a second crime – “in this case… the use of the funds to advance Trump’s presidential campaign allegedly in violation of campaign finance laws” – he was indicted on felony charges. While his supporters may rail against the fact that he was indicted in a state court, with a column in the Washington Post claiming that “New York’s entire judicial process is controlled by Democrats who could lose their positions in party primaries”, the fact of the matter is that there was sufficient evidence for a non-partisan grand jury – comprised of normal, every-day working people – to indict him on felony charges.
Nonetheless, the unprecedented nature of his indictment raises several uncomfortable constitutional and legal issues. First, with Trump announcing his intentions to run for the next presidential election, whether he remains free will be “up to the state-court judge assigned to Trump’s case”, although there is “no legal impediment to stop him from… campaigning while facing criminal charges – or even if he were jailed”. More significantly, if he wins the 2024 presidential elections, there will undoubtedly be a significant constitutional issue whether a state court could prevent someone from serving in federal office. Whatever way these issues are resolved, the indictment of a former president on felony charges is a sad day for America – yet, one which presents an opportunity to firmly state that democracy remains as strong as ever; that anyone, even a former president, is beholden under the laws and regulations which govern America. Above all, Trump’s indictment is a chance – a chance to demonstrate that the rule of law reigns supreme, unheeding of attempts to interfere with and undermine the idea of judicial independence. America is not a “Third World country”, as Rep. Stefanik claims, nor is it an “unprecedented abuse of power” to indict someone on felony charges after a thorough investigation and a fair trial by jury – these irresponsible and baseless claims do nothing but challenge the people’s faith in the judicial system, which is detrimental to the functioning of society.
Trump’s indictment has far-reaching political consequences. Interestingly, Republicans have responded to this news in broadly two ways – either condemning it as an “abuse of power” (House Speaker Kevin McCarthy), or keeping silent about the issue, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his deputy, John Thune. This divide in GOP leadership underscores the declining influence of Trump and Trumpism in the Republican Party. While those like McCarthy who owes their positions to his influence and patronage (“he was a great influence to make that all happen”) will continue to support Trump, as will those who do not wish to alienate his supporters (Ron DeSantis – the Governor of Florida – to be Trump’s main rival for the 2024 Republican nomination, condemned the “weaponization of the legal system”), others will not be so resolute in his defense. Indeed, as mentioned before, senior Senate Republicans such as Mitch McConnell and John Thune have not yet released any statement of support (with Thune stating that he hoped that they would have “other options” in the 2024 election), while moderates like Don Bacon and Lisa Murkowski have affirmed their “trust [in] the system”. Regardless of the outcome of Trump’s trial, the Republican Party of today is clearly not as united as they seek to portray themselves as, with dissent already showing with the bombastic and baseless claims of some representatives. Overall, one thing is certain – that Trump’s legacy as a great polarizing figure will continue, and that his indictment will have massive implications, even beyond the 2024 presidential elections.
Written by Lyndon ChenShare this: