Trump indictment. A political boost or a setback?
The indictment of President Trump by a Florida grand jury should put to rest the claims by his enemies that he always gets away with bad behavior – even criminal behavior. Au contraire. In most instances in which Trump is brought to court, he does not fair well. You will recall that he had to shut down his foundation and pay a fine. He had to shut down Trump U. and pay a fine. His company was convicted and fined for tax fraud. He was recently fined after a jury found him liable in a sexual assault verdict. He as been indicted in New York City for violation of campaign finance laws.
And now he has been indicted on 37 criminal counts – violating seven laws — in the so-called “documents case” by a federal grand jury convened by Special Counsel Jack Smith. And the odds makers are betting that Trump will be indicted in Georgia– and there is still the January 6th case being investigated by Smith.
This is by far Trump’s most serious case. It is a federal case … a criminal case … and comes with potential significant jail time if he is convicted.
The case is not only a potential threat to Trump’s campaign for a second non-consecutive term but will create an enormous emotional response from the American people – on both sides. (Although not the level of violence being promoted in leftwing reporting.) We like to believe that we live under the rule-of-law and that no man is exempt. If Trump has acted illegally, he should suffer the consequences. That is the position of his detractors.
But there is another side to the issue. Has he really broken the law? Are all the charges legitimate? Or … have prosecutors targeted Trump and weaponized the FBI and Department of Justice against him – as he contends? Did Smith overcharge, knowing he could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich – as the expression goes? Are their mitigating circumstances unique to this case?
Whether Trump earned his indictment or is being persecuted by prosecutorial abuse has been pretty much decided by the American people – depending on which side you are on. It is almost impossible to find anyone without a firm opinion,
Those opinions are locked in even though we do not know all the details of the indictment – and have not seen the evidence or heard the testimony that will come out in the trial. But it can be said that the optics are not good in terms of the prosecution.
We have a Department of Justice headed by President Biden’s own people indicting a former President and presidential candidate of the opposite party in the early stages of a presidential election. We are not comfortable having one political party using the prosecutorial offices they control to indict a currently leading opponent. It certainly gives the appearance of politics. And the claims that the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Special Counsel operate oblivious to the political biases is nonsense.
On the other hand, the indictment and public record do not comport with Trump’s claims of innocence in the court-of-public-opinion. His credibility has been hurt by his own statements and actions – and the testimony of others. From what we have learned so far, the case against Trump is rather strong. But there are legitimate defense arguments to be made in favor of Trump.
Both sides understand that the indictment – warranted or not – will further divide the nation and intensify the emotions. Trump has expressed hopes that the public would rise up in his defense – and his enemies express fear of a public and violent response. (Actually, it is easy to believe that Trump’s enemies would actually like to see violence in the streets to justify their predictions.)
The immediate question is whether this indictment – or even an eventual conviction – will help or hurt Trump’s bid for a second term. He does appear that the more they subject Trump to a law enforcement gangbang, the more support he shows in the polls. Many Republican voters appear to have come to a belief that Trump is being railroaded. Others may be giving him a “vote” in the political polls even if they do not intend to vote for him in the primaries or on Election Day 2024.
It is an anathema to the American people to put a President in jail. It smacks of third world autocrats. Truth be known, many people do not want to see our leaders putting opponents in jail even if those opponents are technically guilty of some non-violent white-collar process crimes. Perhaps it is because we the people believe that an aggressive prosecutor could indict and even convict Mother Theresa of some legal transgression.
Before we can know the answer to the political questions, we will have to wait and see how these various cases unfold – and what is the final outcome for Trump. There is a lot of road between now and November of 2024. The unknown impact of Trump’s legal problems – and other unforeseen events – make it impossible to predict the future – this time more than ever.
What can be said is that the presidential election of 2024 will be like no other contest in American history. It could be a competition between a jailbird and a doddering old man. God help us.
So, there ‘tis.