Wednesday, June 12, 2024

What will happen to Trump now that he’s been indicted? What will happen to us?

Donald Trump indictment,
Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to deliver remarks June 10, 2023 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

So what will happen now that Donald Trump has been indicted on 37 federal counts? Well, no one is quite sure. The government’s case seems strong — they have photos of classified documents at Trump’s Florida home and a recording of Trump talking about those documents. That seems devastating. Plus the federal government rarely loses at trial — a Pew study found fewer than 1% of people who were charged federally went to trial and won their cases. Federal prosecutors have a 99.6% conviction rate. It sounds like Trump is in a horrendous position.

But if anyone has a chance to beat the feds, it’s Trump. Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over the case, is a Trump appointee who last year, according to the New York Times, “shocked legal experts across ideological lines last year by intervening in the investigation and issuing rulings favorable to Mr. Trump.” She was later rebuked by a conservative appeals court. Can we trust a Trump appointee to fairly preside over a Trump trial? I don’t think so. 

But let’s say this trial goes the way that most federal trials go, with a conviction. Will Trump be imprisoned? Again, we do not know. Does the Department of Justice have the will to imprison a former president? I don’t know. Elie Mystal, a great legal writer, says these charges, “could very well land Trump in jail, should he be convicted.” I’m not ready to share his confidence that the DOJ has the resolve to send a former president to prison. I’m also not sure about Cannon. “A trial judge has a lot of power, including the tactical nuke of “Rule 29,” Mystal says, which allows a trial judge to ignore a jury verdict as a matter of law. That means, technically, that Trump could be tried and convicted by a jury, and Cannon could just say “no” and order him freed. However, I think it is unlikely that Cannon would go that far. But either way, we, as a nation, have a potentially bigger problem.

It’s possible that the 2024 presidential election will push this trial aside. The case could easily be delayed until after the trial, and it’s possible that this is exactly what should happen. Stepping back from our antipathy about Trump, I think most would agree that a presidential election should not be influenced by a trial. Doing that could lead to far bigger issues. Citizens should not think the government somehow used its power to keep a major party nominee from becoming president. In countries that we look down on, it’s not uncommon for political opponents to be silenced by a sham trial. That is not what’s happening to Trump, but our justice system generally seeks to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. So it may make sense for our democracy to hold off on trying him until after the election. That could set up a scenario where Trump must win the election or end up going to prison. I love the idea of Trump going to prison, but any outcome here could lead to deeper ramifications for the country.

It’s impossible to have a democracy without people trusting the institutions that make democracy function. If people don’t trust that our elections are fair, then we have a problem. Also, if people don’t think that the justice system is fair then we have a problem. Of course, we already have this problem — lots of people don’t think our election system is fair and believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. They are wrong, but they continue to think that and having millions of people assert that our voting system is corrupt is bad for our democracy. We also already have lots of people who think our justice system is unfair and racist and classist. They are right, but this case could deepen that feeling in a way that’s dangerous for the country. 

If Trump is convicted and somehow punished, it could fuel the notion that the justice system is being used to erase one of President Biden’s main political opponents. But if Trump or Judge Cannon can hold off on starting the trial until after the Republican convention and Trump wins the Republican nomination, this would become even more complicated. Would the DOJ try, convict and imprison one of the two major nominees for the presidency? I doubt it. But if Trump somehow escapes justice because of the political process, it would be painful to see him prove once again that he’s above the law. That could rock many people’s faith in our justice system. So this trial could plunge America further into the division that already plagues us no matter what happens. 

Sometimes I think that the Devil himself could not have come up with someone better than Trump to help destroy American democracy.


Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s.” He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. Please download theGrio mobile apps today! 


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