Trump’s Indictments (And What They Mean)

Trump’s Indictments (And What They Mean)

By: David Seddon

August 28th, 2023

On the 30th of March, 2023, a federal jury voted to indict former US President Donald Trump in a case involving him, allegedly, falsifying business records to pay an adult film star hush money during his 2020 presidential election. Since then, two more indictments for separate, alleged, crimes have been served to him, and, at time of writing, it looks like there are even more on their way.  

An indictment, it should be noted, is not a verdict, but instead just a sign that a federal jury feels there’s enough suspicion to warrant a trial, in a sense. To quote a blog post on Belen Law Firm’s blog, “An indictment is a ‘formal accusation of a criminal offense.’“ Just because someone has been indicted, it doesn’t mean that one can jump to conclusions. Still, though, even this is extraordinary, as no other US president has even been indicted before, and the indictments are serious.

As previously mentioned, the first indictment centers around a case of falsifying business records. The second indictment centers around him not returning classified documents after leaving office. Now, having classified documents in his personal possession is, perhaps strangely, not that unusual for a US politician; however, in this case he seemed uncooperative or unwilling to return it to the government. Still, neither charge has been as potentially damning as the third indictment.

Trump’s third indictment centers around the events of January 6th, 2020. It formally charges him with trying to actively overturn the results of the election. This is the most serious allegation, as the United States of America was built on a foundation of democracy. To illegally fight to overturn a lawful election is to go against a core American principle.

The closest parallel to this situation that’s happened in US history was the Watergate scandal. The scandal centered around a robbery where the thieves were stealing info that then president, Richard Nixon, planned to use to his advantage in his reelection campaign. What’s important is that as more of the conspiracy was being uncovered, he obstructed the government investigation, even going so far as to try and pit the CIA against the FBI, who were the ones investigating it. 

In the aftermath, as what happened came to light, republicans started to turn against Nixon, in an attempt to save their own political careers. It still took a long time for the members of his party to call for his impeachment, but it happened. Though when Nixon’s vice-president, Gerald Ford, took office, he quickly pardoned the former president. 

It’s hard to see the same thing happening today, though. Even as Trump’s polling numbers dipped slightly after the indictments started coming out, they seem as strong as ever, currently. This might change as these charges go forward. Nixon still had a lot of support until the weight of the evidence compelled his party to turn against him. There isn’t any promise of history repeating itself here though.

Right now many Republican politicians are split on whether or not they’ll continue to support Trump if he’s found guilty of federal crimes. Even if he is found guilty, there’s nothing stopping convicted felons from serving in an elected office, the one exception being if they’re convicted of insurrection or rebellion. This might make the third indictment the most important and the hearing is scheduled to start on the 28th of this month. 

As an aside, it is worth noting that in 48 states, being convicted of a felony permanently or temporarily removes one’s right to vote. The fact that, aside from a few specific charges, those same felony charges do not affect one’s ability to be elected president is, at the least, somewhat puzzling. 

Looking over everything, it’s clear to see that we’re in an unprecedented time period. It’s unclear what’s going to happen going forward, and what, if anything, it’ll mean. This makes it all the more important to stay up to date with what’s happening now. 

David Seddon is a senior undergraduate student with a major in professional and public writing and a minor in Chinese. A big fan of fantasy and sci-fi, David can often be found playing games, reading books or working on his own self-published books in his free time.