I apologize for the delay. I know, it’s irresponsible that I’ve waited to comment on Donald Trump’s indictment until after I knew what it contains. And now that it’s unsealed, there’s not much to add after all these weeks of hyped-up prognosticating. Except: time to calm down.
Much has been made of how “unprecedented” it is for a former president to be indicted. But that should not obscure that there is also continuity with the past: Former American presidents have faced the prospect of criminal charges, and the leaders of other major democracies were placed on trial. Presidents sometimes commit crimes, and in a democracy, they are not above the law.
What’s truly novel and unsettling about Trump’s case is how he is deploying the same semi-encoded rhetoric he used to induce the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Much as he blamed Mike Pence for the Capitol assault, Trump now claims on social media that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg would be responsible for any violence that Trump induces. As he wrote in a March 24, 1:08 a.m. post on his Truth Social company’s platform:
What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country? Why & who would so such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely [sic] hates the USA!
In another post, he railed against Bragg: “He would rather indict an innocent man and create years of hatred, chaos, and turmoil, than give him his well deserved ‘freedom.’ The whole Country sees what is going on, and they’re not going to take it anymore. They’ve had enough!”
The repetition of how “unprecedented” the Trump indictment is will help Trump once again portray himself as the victim, first of a plot to steal the presidency from him, and now of a supposedly political prosecution. “Take our nation back,” he posted on social media, echoing the bombast that helped incite his ardent supporters toward their seditious attack on the Capitol.