For the first time in American history, a former President has been indicted


In an unprecedented upcoming trial, former President Donald Trump is facing 34 charges of falsifying business records. Normally, this would only be a misdemeanor. However, prosecutors are going to argue that this crime was done in an effort to cover up another, unspecified crime, that would escalate the charges to felonies. All of these charges are over a hush money payment made to the adult performer Stephanie “Stormy” Daniels to conceal Trump’s affair with her. 

The former President took to Truth Social to respond publicly to the charges, saying, “These Thugs and Radical Left Monsters have just INDICATED the 45th President of the United States of America…THIS IS AN ATTACK ON OUR COUNTRY THE LIKES OF WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE…IT IS LIKEWISE A CONTINUING ATTACK ON OUR ONCE FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS. THE USA IS NOW A THIRD WORLD NATION A NATION IN SERIOUS DECLINE. SO SAD!”

The former President has pleaded not guilty and denies the affair with Daniels to this day, although his former lawyer Micheal Cohen has already faced criminal penalties over the hush money payment. 

The political and legal implications of this trial are enormous, and represent a break from the longstanding tradition of not charging former Presidents with crimes. To understand what this all means, Editors Wes McGovern and Jay Skidmore weigh in.

Wes’ Take

The response to the indictment has almost been as interesting as the imputation itself. Anti-Trump proponents have hailed the charges, but not on the basis of justice, rather because they view the ordeal as the end for Trump’s 2024 campaign. Though this just won’t be what happens. Trump absolutely can run from jail, and it has been done before. 

In fact, when news broke about the New York grand jury voting to pursue charges, there was a wave of conservatives who took to the internet to affirm their unwavering support for Trump. Of these, many who claimed to be on the fence about voting for DeSantis or Trump, said that the charges sealed the Trump deal. All of this was evident in Trump’s soar in polling following the arraignment.

These developments underscore the hypocrisy in the Republican party. For the party that touts themselves as the party of law and order, Republicans need to learn the basic principles of law; if you break the law, you face the consequences. Just because a president hasn’t been indicted historically, doesn’t make Trump a martyr at the hands of political prosecution. 

The clear contrast in reactions highlights the hyper-partisanship present in this trial. Although there is certainly a criminal element to the trial, the two opposing parties are focused on making sure he can’t run and “justice for a martyr,” respectively. 

Had this trial been about Trump’s involvement in the January 6 riots, the reactions would’ve been much different. There would be a genuine concern with trying to achieve justice and promote accountability. Many Republicans would not rally behind Trump, and instead try to distance themselves from defending the extreme actors of the GOP. 

The truth of the matter is that this particular lawsuit is more about political theater than anything else. Stormy Daniels won’t benefit from the suit, instead she’s been ordered to pay a mountain of legal fees to Trump after a defamation case fell through. No sort of election finance reform will come from the ordeal, and Trump has only gained support. 

While it is nice to see an attempt for accountability with Trump, until we start seeing charges for January 6 or theft of classified documents, nothing will change. 

Jay’s Take

For once, the President is not entirely above the law.

What’s notable about Trump isn’t that he’s a criminal, that’s not unusual for someone as powerful as him. What makes Trump exceptional is just how blatant his lawbreaking is. Trump has always seemed out of place as the President, where other politicians would be civil and polite, Trump gave mocking nicknames to other world leaders. 

Trump was similarly chaotic in seemingly almost everything he did as a politician, and this was his biggest selling point. To his supporters, Trump was the ultimate outsider. At the same time, despite leaning into this image heavily, Trump now expects to be treated like any other political elite. 

From Nixon being pardoned for Watergate, to Bush never being held accountable for Iraq, criminality is to some extent tolerated from former Presidents. Trump now wants to be treated the same way, this is what he means when he says “I never thought anything like this could happen in America.” 

Trump’s problem is that he is too reckless to have his criminality overlooked by the system broadly. Other Presidents instruct others to do their lawbreaking for them, or carry out their criminality through their office directly. Trump doesn’t seem to understand or care about these nuances. When Trump feared he would lose Georgia in 2020, he called a Georgia election official directly and asked him directly to “find” him the votes needed for Trump to win the state. Trump also led his supporters in attempted coup, a significant step beyond the types of lawbreaking that would be tolerated from a President. 

Presidents can usually get away with breaking international law as commander in chief of the military. Former President George Bush, as well as higher level members of his administration, have been convicted of breaking international law for their actions in Iraq by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission, but this conviction is yet to impact their lives in any meaningful way. 

International law doesn’t have an enforcement mechanism more powerful than the United States. Because of that, US President’s don’t have a way of being prosecuted under international law in a way that will actually be impactful. This is why Bush got away with invading Iraq, Obama was able to kill civilians with drone strikes, and Trump was able to get away with a wide variety of offenses, including the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soliemani. 

When you look at the crimes that Trump committed abroad as commander in chief, his narrative of persecution completely collapses. Far from being a targeted outsider, as President, Trump was able to commit a spree of crimes that would be completely unimaginable to most Americans. 

Trump’s indictment is not a sign that democracy is in decay, nor a sign that Trump is being persecuted. Instead, the lesson to be learned here is that Trump just isn’t careful enough to get away with everything. He is a career criminal, and he certainly acted like it throughout his time as a politician. Trump is simply too loud, dumb and blatant in his crimes to be held above the law like his peers.