By: Suraj Shah and Shane Masterson July 27, 2023
On April 4, 2023, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced the indictment of former president Donald Trump. The 34-count felony indictment stems from claims that Trump falsified business records to hide information regarding an alleged sexual encounter with adult entertainer Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. Though the charge of the falsification of business records is classified as a misdemeanor, if Trump had paid hush money to Stormy Daniels using campaign funds rather than his own personal funds, the charge can be elevated to felony status.
Moreover, Trump was found liable in a civil trial in May for sexual abuse and defamation against a woman by the name of E. Jean Carroll. This marks the first time a former president has been found liable for sexual abuse. However, many question the credibility of E. Jean Carroll as a witness. Though she did file charges against Trump for rape, she stated on air with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper that “the word rape carries so many sexual connotations. This [referring to her supposed experience with Trump] was not — this was not sexual. [...] I think most people think of rape as being sexy.” Critics point out that this is a strange way to describe rape, a violent sexual encounter. In addition, the jury oddly did not find Trump liable for rape but liable for sexual assault, likely due to the strict definition of first-degree rape in New York. Trump was ordered to pay $5 million in damages.
The latest news about charges facing Trump appeared in June, when he was indicted for the second time on 37 criminal charges for allegedly obstructing justice and illegally storing dozens of classified documents at his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.
A former president has never been indicted by the federal government before but Trump has been indicted twice.
Trump can still run in the 2024 presidential race even if he is convicted, and these charges could even be beneficial for Trump’s campaign. Through these indictments, Trump has been able to paint a narrative that the elites have weaponized the Department of Justice to prosecute him. Other candidates must also focus on Trump’s campaign rather than their own campaigns since much of the Republican base still supports the former president. All of these factors allow Trump to stay prominent in the news cycle.
Supporters of the second indictment and Special Counsel Jack Smith state that there must be one standard of justice in this country for everyone, regardless of how wealthy or politically influential one is. However, critics claim that this standard has not been applied fairly, since Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Mike Pence have all been found to have had classified documents unlawfully stored in various places yet were not prosecuted.
Critics especially compare this second indictment to Clinton’s alleged storing of dozens of classified documents in her home on a private server and usage of a code called BleachBit to remove them (allegedly after she realized that these actions may fall under investigation). These classified emails were then found on the laptop of Anthony Weiner (a former congressman who was jailed for inappropriate conversations with a minor). James Comey, former head of the FBI, stated in 2016 about the Clinton emails,
“We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. [...] She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account. [...] Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
Still, defenders of the second indictment claim that it cannot be compared to Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of documents since she did not have criminal intent with regards to the classified information, nor did her mishandling reach the same magnitude as Trump’s.
Donald Trump is one of the most controversial presidents in American history. He has been involved in a myriad of lawsuits, faced criminal charges, been impeached twice, and now has been indicted twice. Before reaching conclusions about the former president and whether he is guilty of the recent charges brought forth, citizens should research the evidence in full while also keeping in mind that there must be only one standard of justice in a country built on equality under the law.