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Trump Arraignment: Never Good Sign When Politicians Prosecuted on Trumped Up Charges in a Democracy

© AFP 2023 / ED JONESFormer US President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower in New York on April 3, 2023.
Former US President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower in New York on April 3, 2023. - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.04.2023
Donald Trump’s arraignment at a Manhattan court house has turned into a media circus, with legacy media coverage of the former president higher now than at any other time since 2021. The Manhattan DA’s case is weak and speculative, but may nonetheless level a severe blow against Trump and America’s political system, says historian Nicholas Waddy.
Throngs of journalists have surrounded Trump’s properties in Florida and New York, including Trump Tower and the Manhattan criminal court where he’ll be arraigned Tuesday afternoon. Thousands of pro- and anti-Trump protesters have also gathered outside the courthouse, chanting slogans and unfurling banners and American flags.
The criminal case against Trump is historic: he is the first former president in America’s 230+ year history to be charged with a felony, or more precisely, 34 felonies, related to the alleged illegal use of campaign funds in 2016 to pay hush money to former adult film star Stormy Daniels over an alleged affair. Trump denies any wrongdoing, accusing his “horseface” accuser of “blackmail” and charging Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan prosecutor investigating him, of continuing a political “witch-hunt” that began with Russiagate.
“It's fairly clear that Alvin Bragg is pursuing a prosecution-in-search-of-a-crime, meaning that he and his associates desperately want to ‘get Trump,’ and they have doggedly pursued a weak and speculative case, based mostly on the testimony of a discredited and self-interested informant, to that end,” Dr. Waddy, an associate professor of history at SUNY Alfred, told Sputnik.
Former President Donald Trump sits at the defense table with his defense team in a Manhattan court, - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.04.2023
LIVE UPDATES: Trump Pleads Not Guilty to 34 Counts of Falsifying Business Records in First Degree
That said, there are simply too many details in the case that the public still doesn’t know, including the evidence Bragg has on Trump.

“Can it be proven that the payment to Stormy Daniels was ordered by Trump? Can it be proven that the purpose of it was to advance Trump's political interests (versus to save his marriage)? Did Trump himself control the relevant ‘business records’? Would half the businessmen in America (or more) be ‘guilty’ of the same ‘crime’, and therefore does the law itself make much sense? We simply don't yet know whether the charges have even a shred of substance to them,” the scholar stressed.

Waddy believes that at its core, the attack on Trump seems to be part of a death by a thousand cuts strategy pursued by Democrats – with the Daniels case possibly just the first case of many against both Trump and other conservatives. “When combined with” Democrats “new enthusiasm for censorship and cancel culture, it becomes highly questionable whether ‘democracy’ will survive this onslaught,” the professor fears.
Although the Daniels prosecution is a “risky move,” since it ended up backfiring and strengthening Trump in the short term, when “coupled with all the other prosecutions and lines of attack,” it could lead to a situation where Trump “bleed[s] to death” as a viable political candidate.
“[Republicans] believe that Democrats want Trump to be the Republican nominee in 2024, but they want him to be so damaged as a candidate that he has no chance against someone like Biden. They may get their wish. Even if all the charges that [liberal] prosecutors pursue against Trump are weak and come to naught, this does not mean that the cumulative political effect won’t be severe. Already, half the country is primed to believe any negative statement about Trump, no matter how fanciful. People who think like that are relieved that Trump is being prosecuted and look forward to his incarceration. Simply put, Democrats and progressives have persecuted Trump obsessively since 2015, and the voters haven’t yet punished them for doing so. There is a possibility that they never will.”
 Former US President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference 2022 (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.04.2023
'Crazy' Trump Indictment is 'Shiny Object' to Distract From Biden Admin Woes

Ominous Sign

Ultimately, Dr. Waddy warned that “it is never a good sign when major political figures in a democracy are prosecuted, much less convicted…Trump is an active candidate for the presidency, and possibly even the favorite to win in 2024, so it is clear that some Democrats and progressives see the justice system as a convenient way to hobble their main adversary. They are not shy about saying so.”
Simultaneously, he added, politicians and “members of the protected classes” with the "correct" political allegiance seem to be given a pass.
That would explain the lack of prosecutions of Hillary Clinton over her campaign’s use of campaign funds to sponsor the Steele opposition dossier against Trump, or based on the evidence gleaned from Hunter Biden’s laptop linking the president’s son to criminal activity ranging from drug use to suspected pay-to-play payoffs and the funding of biolabs in Ukraine.
Former US president Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower in New York on April 3, 2023. - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.04.2023
Everything You Need to Know About Trump's Arraignment

2024 Still a Long Way Away

Clemson University political science Professor David Woodard says polling regarding Trump's popularity among Republicans, and the "temporary boost" the candidate could receive amid the partisan attack against him, is no guarantee of him being a shoe-in in the 2024 primaries.
"You should expect Republicans to support him in this moment of a seemingly partisan attack, but that does not mean that they will rally to his cause when they actually have to choose him from among several candidates in a primary. You would expect partisans to support anyone from their party when a perceived indictment is seen as a threat, but that does not mean that an election victory is inevitable. This is a temporary boost for Trump, but it will not last in the heat of a political campaign with opponents," Woodard said in an interview.
The academic suggested the only way the Democrats could ensure Trump's victory, not just in the primaries, but in the general election, was if prosecutors were stupid enough to have him do a perp walk in handcuffs for the cameras.
"If Trump comes in handcuffed to court, it is a public relations disaster for the prosecution and the Democrats. Trump is the ultimate Broadway star, and he knows that a 'picture is worth a thousand words.' If he is in handcuffs at the behest of a Democratic prosecutor, he is in position to outstrip each of his opponents in the upcoming GOP primary. The Democrats want to run against Trump, but they know that by exposing him in handcuffs they destroy their chances of beating him in the 2024 election. Every casual voter understands that such a picture rallies the sidelines to the former president," Woodard said.

But If Trump Plays His Cards Right...

Timothy Hagle, political science professor at the University of Iowa, says that unless there are "more substantive" charges than the ones we know about, the master showman will be certain to use other examples of politicized allegations against him to his advantage to weave a narrative of persecution, with the task made easier by the fact that some other past attempts to "damage" Trump proved false.
Furthermore, Hagle told Sputnik, "the problem for this prosecutor is that the assumed charges are rather minor. They would be, in fact, misdemeanors. In addition, the statute of limitations has run on them, so he shouldn’t be able to bring them anyway. What he has apparently done is to connect the alleged falsification to another crime, likely something to do with campaign spending, which would increase the falsification from a misdemeanor to a felony. There’s still an argument that the statute of limitations had run, but we’ll have to wait to see what the prosecutor is arguing. Regardless, it would be a tenuous argument. It’s made even more problematic because both the US Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission looked at the campaign spending angle and did not pursue it. The New York prosecutor also has no authority to prosecute federal crimes, so it all seems to be very political."
Ultimately, the University of Iowa professor believes that if Trump plays his cards right, he could ride the case against him all the way to victory in the primaries.

"If there isn’t anything more substantive in the charges, it could very well help him long term as well. Other Republican candidates may be reluctant to criticize Trump for fear that they are seen as endorsing the political attacks on him. At the very least, it will be more difficult for them to make the argument that they might be a better choice than Trump," Hagle said. On the other hand, "if there is something more substantive to the charges it won’t stop Trump from continuing his campaign, but it might make it easier for other candidates to suggest that it might be better to have someone else be the Republican nominee," the academic summed up.

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