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Editorial: Trump indictment a political minefield

The Detroit News, The Detroit News on

Published in Political News

Indicting a former president on criminal charges is an extremely serious matter. The charges brought against former President Donald Trump Thursday by the district attorney in Manhattan mark the first time that a past commander in chief has ever been indicted with a crime.

District Attorney Alvin Bragg has placed himself in an extraordinarily perilous position. He has two challenges now ahead of him.

He must make the iron clad case against Trump for fraudulently accounting for hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign, and he must convince the American public — particularly those who are intensely loyal to the former president — that this is not a political hit job, and that Trump is being treated like anyone else who may have committed such an offense.

As for the case against Trump, we are not informed enough yet to determine whether the indictment has merit. However, we do know that in most situations the offense Trump is accused of would be a misdemeanor, and in that case the statute of limitations would have expired.

Bragg had to stretch the case against Trump into a felony to still be able to bring him to court.

Is he motivated by politics or justice? That will be the biggest question as this extraordinary case moves forward.

What we know in that regard is that Bragg has exhibited animosity toward Trump. He campaigned on this case and two of his deputies resigned citing the lack of progress in bringing charges against the former president.

Convincing Trump Republicans that this isn’t one more attempt to bring him down is a tall order. They’ve already witnessed the bogus Russian collusion claims that fueled the first impeachment effort against him. There’s no denying that from day one of his presidency that Democrats have been trying to bring him down by any means necessary.

So, Bragg’s case must be solid.

 

Of course, the greatest risk here is the damage it will do to the national fabric. This has the potential to further rip the country apart.

There was a reason Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon shortly after he replaced the disgraced Nixon in the White House. He wanted to spare the nation the bitter and destructive spectacle of seeing a former president hauled into court and handcuffed and placed on trial.

Obviously, what Trump did in paying off Daniels to keep her from talking publicly about their alleged affair speaks volumes about Trump’s character. But voters knew going into the 2020 election about the payoff, and many discounted it.

And yet, it may have been one of the many things that contributed to his defeat.

That’s how the process should work. Trying to drive Trump off the stage with politically motivated criminal cases, if that’s what this turns out to be, helps further the ongoing erosion of confidence in our political process.

No matter how you feel about Trump, that is not something to be celebrating.

A felony charge, or even a felony conviction will not disqualify Trump from the ballot in 2024. But it may rally enough of his supporters to assure he wins the GOP nomination and remains an ongoing cancer on the body politic.


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