Experts: New Trump Charges Politically Motivated and Undermine US Institutions
© AP Photo / Chris O'MearaFormer President Donald Trump leaves the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Courthouse, Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in Miami. Trump appeared in federal court Tuesday on dozens of felony charges accusing him of illegally hoarding classified documents and thwarting the Justice Department's efforts to get the records back.
© AP Photo / Chris O'Meara
MOSCOW (Sputnik), Kirill Krasilnikov - The latest criminal charges brought against former US President Donald Trump are politically motivated and will have a detrimental effect on US institutions, experts opined in comments to Sputnik.
On Thursday, the former president pleaded not guilty to four criminal charges brought against him by Special Counsel Jack Smith for allegedly attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 US presidential election. Trump is facing one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, one count of obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and one count of conspiracy against rights.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and argued that the most recent indictment against him is the latest attempt by the "Biden crime family" and the US Justice Department to interfere in the 2024 presidential election.
"In my view the indictment is a disappointingly political act and will not increase confidence in the independence of the Justice Department. These are not happy days for faith in our legal institutions, but perhaps the courts can set things right," Stephen Presser, the Raoul Berger professor of legal history emeritus at Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law, said.
He noted that the case against Trump might rest on shaky legal grounds. For one thing, the use of fraud statutes against politicians has been rejected by the Supreme Court in a unanimous 2016 ruling, which overturned a corruption conviction against a former Republican governor of Virginia, Robert McDonnell. Interestingly enough, that case was also prosecuted by Jack Smith.
"There are other weaknesses in this indictment (it may run afoul of the First Amendment) and it is quite possible that the trial judge, or the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will throw it out. Should the question go to the Supreme Court, however, I do think that Court would rule against the prosecution," Presser explained.
Political analyst Keith Preston also thinks that the former president's troubles with the law do not strengthen the country's institutions.
"I am sure the legal situations involving former President Trump are having the effect of further undermining the legitimacy of US institutions. Conservatives feel their side is being persecuted and many other people feel the political system is falling to dysfunction and chaos," Preston said.
At the same time, the expert does not think that the charges against Trump aimed at purging him from politics because in that case he would be charged with offenses precluding him from holding office.
"If the regime really wanted to eliminate Trump, they would charge him with treason/insurrection, rendering him ineligible to hold office if convicted. The broader US ruling class wants to retain a weakened Trump as an opposition leader, likely to block someone more radical from emerging," Preston stated.
Trump has been indicted three times already during this presidential election cycle, which has not prevented him from remaining the GOP's leading candidate, according to the polling data compiled by Real Clear Politics. According to the website, he is running neck and neck with the current president, Joe Biden.
"An issue in the election will be which party is viewed as less extreme by voters. Perceived extremists on the Republican side fared poorly in the 2022 mid-terms, largely due to the overemphasis on claims the 2020 election was 'stolen.' The Democrats are taking a similar risk creating a perception that [they] are overly focused on J6 [January 6 events], which will have been nearly four years in the past by the time of the election," Preston noted.
Paul Gottfried, the editor-in-chief of "Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture" and Raffensperger professor of humanities emeritus at Elizabethtown College, is skeptical that the January 6 charges will have any effect one way or the other.
"I doubt that the GOP will benefit in electoral support from the questionable indictments that Smith, who like [US Attorney General Merrick] Garland is a political puppet, is now bringing against Trump," Gottfried said, while also suggesting that the charges against Trump are aimed at drawing attention away from reports about the alleged corruption in the Biden family.