Even if pronounced guilty, Mr Trump will not be disqualified from being a candidate, which he already is
History was made in the United States as Mr Donald Trump became the first President to be arraigned on criminal charges, his fingerprints recorded, but spared by the authorities of his mugshot being taken as is one of the most recognisable persons on the planet. The courthouse scenes were not marked by the former President’s flamboyance, with the rhetoric flowing only outside the court premises, in the ballroom of his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida where he said “America is going to hell”.
It is a watershed moment in US history where no President, dead or alive, has been put in the dock. The jury is still out on whether this is a step too far for America, especially considering Richard Nixon was pardoned by a successor and Bill Clinton cut a deal after perjuring himself in testimony. And we must go back a long time in history to find that the serving President Ulysses S. Grant’s speedy horses got him a traffic ticket and he paid a $20 fine.
The principle that the move, initiated by Manhattan’s first Black lead prosecutor, upholds is that no one is above the law, not even those avowedly the world’s most powerful when holding office at the White House. The prosecutor, Alvin L. Bragg, a Democrat, enunciated the first principle of any free country when he said, “Everyone stands equal under the law. No amount of money and no amount of power changes that.”
The legal accosting of Mr Trump certainly enhances democracy even if the arrest and subsequent bail to one who had held the highest office in the land based on electoral college votes was bound to be criticised vehemently, particularly in these politically polarised times. Sadly, in Mr Trump’s cavalier style that had marked his presidency too, he once again incited violence and civil unrest by prophesying “death and destruction” on social media, forcing the criminal court judge to rebuke him.
Regardless of the outcome in cases — including even more serious ones to do with undermining an election and mishandling secret government documents than financial skulduggery which in the real estate mogul Mr Trump’s case was anyway suspected — that may stretch well into 2024 before any verdict is delivered, it is already clear that Mr Trump will milk the victim card for all it is worth in his bid to be elected once again as the US President.
Even if pronounced guilty, Mr Trump will not be disqualified from being a candidate, which he already is and with the best chance of being elected, more than his Republican colleague Ron DeSantis. Mr Trump has overtaken the Florida governor in popularity polls thanks to prosecutors charging him on 34 felony counts, principally to do with orchestrating a hush-money scheme to smoothen his path to the presidency and then as President covering up those dubious tracks.
No stranger to facing legal challenges to his presidency, Mr Trump survived two impeachment trials and a special counsel inquiry, but stands on shaky legal ground in the hush-money affair as well as in two other serious lines of enquiry. In the mind of the American public, he has been thought guilty for inciting the Capitol Hill insurrection, the most violent symbol of hate against the Establishment, shaking the very founding principles of democracy, and in the world’s oldest at that. Mr Trump is at a crossroads while democracy may have taken the correct turn in charging him.