Pundits Weigh In on Latest Trump Indictment

Lying isn't criminal, argues one defender
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2023 10:30 AM CDT
6 Takes on Trump's Most Serious Indictment Yet
A woman protests as she holds a banner outside federal court on Tuesday in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

There have been very different reactions to the third criminal case against Donald Trump from the left and from the right. But if Democrats and Republicans can agree on one thing, it's that the indictment related to Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election include the most serious charges yet against the former president. So what do they mean for Trump, his election campaign, and the country at large? Six takes:

  • While Trump's team has argued the "persecutions" of the former president resemble the actions of "authoritarian, dictatorial regimes," New York Times' chief White House correspondent Peter Baker argues it's Trump's alleged actions that raise "the kind of specter more familiar in countries with histories of coups and juntas and dictators." The key question, according to Baker: "Can a sitting president spread lies about an election and try to employ the authority of the government to overturn the will of the voters without consequence?" The answer, he writes, "will define the future of American democracy."
  • If even half the claims in the indictment are true, "Donald Trump should never be elected to anything ever again," writes conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson. But "I do not see how bad character, lying, and immorality is criminal." He argues the "central weakness" in the prosecution's case is the argument that Trump knew his claims of "outcome-determinative fraud" were false because many people inside and outside of his campaign told him so. But others told Trump there had been widespread election fraud, and "Trump gets to discern who he believes is true," Erickson writes.

  • At Slate, former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut counters that argument, referencing testimony from multiple people who heard Trump admit that he lost the 2020 election. Aftergut adds that details in the indictment point to the likelihood of a trial before the next presidential election. "Virtually every fact cited in the indictment goes to all four charges, elegantly simplifying the government's task of proving each," Aftergut writes. Also key is what's missing from the indictment—namely, charges related to the Capitol insurrection, which "could easily have delayed the trial" that Aftergut says appears likely to result in Trump's conviction.
  • "He may be brought to justice via this prosecution. But that act alone won't protect the constitutional order," writes David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, noting that tens of millions of Americans—two-thirds of Republicans, according to one recent poll—continue to believe President Biden stole the election by fraud. "They have been under a Trump trance" and "this latest indictment will confirm their irrational beliefs" that the former president is "the target of a corrupt and nefarious cabal aiming to destroy the country," Corn writes, concluding that "these Americans are threats to the American project."

  • "The risks of charging Trump include inflaming even more distrust of what his allies will claim is a partisan 'weaponized' Justice Department; injecting more turmoil into an already inflamed and divided electorate; and, most frightening, unleashing a punitive cycle of prosecuting political opponents," writes Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. But it's worth those risks, Marcus adds, because "if Trump's behavior is allowed to stand ... the message to future presidents seeking to retain power at all costs would be: The coast is clear ... You can get away with murder in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and insurrection in the very halls of democracy."
  • Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal editorial board worries about where this will lead. The theory that Trump conspired to defraud the US in taking action on a lie "potentially criminalizes many kinds of actions and statements by a President that a prosecutor deems to be false" and "makes any future election challenges, however valid, legally vulnerable to a partisan prosecutor," it writes. "And it might have criminalized the actions by Al Gore and George W. Bush to contest the Florida election result in 2000."
(More Donald Trump stories.)

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