The Indictment of a Former President: An Overview


From his highly controversial presidency, reelection loss, and spectacular fall from public eye in the wake of January 6, former President Donald Trump has surged back into national news with his historic indictment by a Manhattan Grand Jury, the first president to ever be charged with criminal offenses.

What exactly is a grand jury? As opposed to a regular jury, a grand jury meets in secret to determine the validity of the prosecution’s charges and decide whether a formal indictment is necessary or not. In this case, the grand jury in Manhattan met for several weeks in secrecy, all facts of the case kept hidden from the public—which is standard practice—until on April 4, 2023, the jury voted and an indictment was issued. Trump appeared in court days later and pleaded not guilty to thirty-four counts of felony business fraud.

The case in question involves a “hush money” payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels to cover up an affair prior to the 2016 election, with allegations that Trump knowingly falsified business records to disguise his mismanagement of campaign funds. While non-disclosure agreements are perfectly legal, falsifying business records with intent to defraud is not, which appears to be the angle that the prosecution is taking—although it is impossible to know for certain as the case is still unfolding and new information is still being released.

What is certain is Trump and his allies opinions on the indictment. One of his attorneys, Joe Tacopina, said outside the courthouse, “Today’s unsealing of the indictment shows that the rule of law died in this country.” Many others, including groups whose relations with Trump have cooled or have always been decidedly frosty, have unexpectedly rallied to Trump’s defense in the wake of the announcement. Fox News, which has been on uncertain ground with the ex-president in recent months, hastened to express their statements on the issue, with notable media personality and news anchor Tucker Carlson echoing Tacopina’s words: “The rule of law is suspended tonight… What you’re seeing now is lawlessness—the question is who can stop it?” Many prominent Republicans have publicly insisted that the case is politically motivated rather than any pursuit of justice. On the other hand, many Democrats have expressed trust in the judicial system for the case to proceed as it will. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an official statement, “Mr. Trump is subject to the same laws as every American. He will be able to avail himself of the legal system and a jury, not politics, to determine his fate according to the facts and the law.”

On both sides of the political spectrum, there is a consensus that this indictment will have long-reaching ramifications on American society. Some Republican committee leaders have suggested the possibility of introducing legislation to protect former presidents from “politically motivated prosecutions” as a result of the unprecedented nature of this indictment. Many Democrats, in opposition, have praised the event as a novel extension of the legal system. Moderates on each side of the party line have asked for restraint and calm from their colleagues and the American public, such as Representative Jared Golden: “Our legal system is built upon the principle of innocence until proven guilty, and we should let the process play out without bias or political interference.” Currently, the Biden Administration has provided no comment.

Former President Trump has already appeared in court and appealed the charges. So, how will the case proceed from here? It is highly likely that this will play out as any other criminal trial would, excusing the obvious historical significance and political weight. Trump and his attorneys will have the opportunity to argue his case in a fair courtroom, as any other American would, and arrangements will be made between the NYC police department and the Secret Service to ensure his protection throughout the trial. Besides this, there is a wealth of uncertainty surrounding the case and how it will proceed—regardless, the political storm this case has sparked only seems to be growing, and the as yet unforeseen consequences of the arraignment will be far-reaching in the months to come.

Categories: News

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s