Now is the time to be accountable for Donald Trump, a beacon of impunity for decades of suspicious behavior.
So decided a New York grand jury which has been interested for several weeks in the Stormy Daniels case, named after the porn actress who received a few days before the 2016 presidential election a sum of money in exchange of his silence on an alleged sexual relationship with the future president of the United States.
It is a historic indictment – never before has a US president or former president been charged with a crime – whose repercussions for the democracy of a country that has long boasted of being a model could be deep. Before his long-awaited indictment, Donald Trump was ahead in the polls of all his official or virtual competitors in the race for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election.
The former president denies having sex with Stormy Daniels in July 2006 on the sidelines of a celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. He also denies any role in the payment of an amount to silence her.
According to one of his lawyers, he should appear in court in New York on Tuesday, a moment that will expose the United States to unpublished images, those of one of the successors of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan in front of fingerprinted and photographed, like all formally charged defendants.
The New York Times was the first news outlet to report the grand jury’s decision to indict the 45th president. The actual indictment is still under seal and is expected to be officially announced in the coming days by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose career is also on the line in the explosive case that has put New York City police on edge. Thursday night alert.
At this time, the charges that will be brought against Donald Trump are still unknown. That said, the former president could be charged with falsifying business records in order to pass off the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, for attorney fees. This tampering could also be linked to a violation of the Election Finances Act.
Predictably, Donald Trump reacted with unchecked anger (and a plethora of capital letters) on his Truth Social platform to the indictment he predicted would be announced more than a year ago. week.
“This is an attack on our country on an unprecedented scale,” he fumed after slamming the “radical left thugs and monsters” who indicted him.
Donald Trump’s campaign team later released a more tempered statement from the candidate. The latter denounced “political persecution and electoral interference at the highest level in history”.
“The Democrats lied, cheated and stole in their obsession to try and take down Trump, but now they’ve done the unthinkable,” he added before calling the Manhattan prosecutor a “disgrace” and predicting that this “witch hunt will massively backfire on Joe Biden”.
This New York indictment may well be only the first in a series of clashes between Donald Trump and American justice. The former president is the subject of three other criminal investigations, two of which relate to his efforts to invalidate the results of the 2020 presidential election. One of these investigations is led by the Department of Justice, the other by Fulton County District Attorney, Georgia.
The third investigation, also led by the Department of Justice, concerns the transfer of presidential files, including hundreds of confidential documents, from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s private club in Florida, after the end of his presidency. In each of these investigations, the former president has good reason to fear indictment.
President Biden has not commented on the indictment of his former and possibly future rival. But many elected members of his party did not fail to do so.
“If we want to be a nation [governed by] laws, we have to apply the law equally and to everyone, regardless of position,” said California Rep. Adam Schiff, a key player in the first of the two congressional impeachments of Donald Trump.
“No one is above the law,” said Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal.
Every elected Republican who spoke vigorously defended Donald Trump and condemned the Manhattan prosecutor.
“He caused irreparable damage to our country by trying to interfere in our presidential election,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said, referring to the New York prosecutor. “The American people will not tolerate this injustice and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account. »
South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told The Washington Post that Donald Trump “was very calm” in a phone interview following the announcement of his indictment, even though he was “upset and disappointed “.
According to the senator, the former president told him, “They are using the law as a weapon against me. »
Lindsey Graham says she replied, “You’re right. On examination, I think this case will sag like a cheap suit. »
Donald Trump’s indictment is the culmination of a New York story that began on August 21, 2018. On that day, Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty in federal court to various crimes, including violating federal campaign finance laws. He swore he paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels at Donald Trump’s request following the release of an Access Hollywood video in which the Republican candidate bragged that he could assault women with impunity.
A federal court decided not to indict Donald Trump in the case, under a Justice Department directive that a sitting president cannot be criminally prosecuted.
Last summer, Alvin Bragg revived this business that his predecessor, Cyrus Vance, had dropped.
An indictment will not prevent Donald Trump from pursuing his third presidential campaign. But what effect will it have on this campaign?
“I think it may energize his supporters, but he won’t win over others,” replied Robert Shapiro, a political scientist at Columbia University. “I think this possible indictment is not as significant as the possible charges stemming from the January 6th attack [on the Capitol] and especially his attempt to influence the presidential election in Georgia in 2020.”