Donald Trump’s prosecution has propelled him back into the electoral game
Donald Trump’s 25-minute speech delivered at his Mar-a-Lago compound on Wednesday, following his indictment on felony charges in New York, marks his dramatic return to the center of American politics.
After languishing in the doldrums for the past few years, Trump is now back in the game with a vengeance – thanks to the decision by New York Attorney General Alvin Bragg to charge him with 34 counts of falsifying business records. Bragg’s controversial decision to prosecute Trump may well turn out to be one of the most consequential misjudgements by a public official in recent American history.
Trump’s speech on Wednesday was a bravura performance. In apocalyptic tones – “our country is going to hell” – Trump painted a picture of a corrupt, crime-ridden and weak America, foolishly promoting a dangerous and unnecessary conflict in Ukraine, hurtling towards self-destruction. The US, Trump asserted, is a “failing nation … a nation in decline.”
Trump himself is at the center of this grim prognosis proclaiming himself as the only politician who can “save our country.” In order to prevent this, he claimed, the elites responsible for America’s current state of decline, including the Democrats, the FBI, the Department of Justice, George Soros, Facebook and Twitter, have now conspired to use a corrupt legal system to thwart his reelection. “They can’t beat us at the ballot box so they try and beat us through the law,” he said.
It is hardly surprising that Trump should turn his destructive ire upon the American legal system. He has always held contempt for the rule of law. Who can forget his boasting of having stacked the Supreme Court and his subsequent denunciation of his own appointees when they refused to legally sanction his claim that the 2020 election had been stolen? But in this speech, he went further than he has ever gone before.
As to the charges brought by Attorney General Bragg, Trump claimed that “there is no case” and that Bragg – who he branded “a criminal” – knew that there was no case. He described the judge presiding over the case as a “Trump hating judge with a Trump hating wife… whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris.” According to the former President, the entire prosecution is something “right out of the old Soviet Union.”
However, Trump’s denunciation of the legal system did not end there. He described the seizure of documents from Mar-a-Lago by the FBI as “illegal” and part of a campaign of “persecution” and “harassment” against him and his family.
The former president dismissed the investigation into alleged fraudulent practices by Trump’s businesses in New York as “a persecution not an investigation” and accused Attorney General Leticia James of being a “racist in reverse” and a tool of the Democrats.
Trump went on to describe the Attorney General in Atlanta who is currently investigating him in relation to alleged electoral fraud during the 2020 election as a “racist Democrat Attorney General.”
Bragg’s prosecution, the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago and the other pending investigations, are, according to Trump, all aspects of a vast legal conspiracy – “our justice system has become lawless” – designed to destroy his prospects of being re-elected President in 2024.
It is a measure of America’s irreversible decline as a functioning liberal democracy that a person who publicly expresses such views could be a serious candidate for the Presidency. Trump’s encouragement of the January 6 riots and his persistent attempts to overturn the 2020 election result proved that he had absolute contempt for the democratic process. This week’s speech proves that he has a similar contempt for the legal system and rule of law. No previous American president – not even Richard Nixon in his darkest days – would have even thought of behaving in such a manner.
Two other aspects of Trump’s speech are noteworthy. He repeated his standard critique of Joe Biden and the Democrats as having destroyed America and reduced it to a global laughing stock – focusing on illegal immigration, increasing crime in large cities, inflation and the weakening of the military. He described the Biden family as “criminals and crooks” and made much of Hunter Biden’s various transgressions and the fact that he had not been prosecuted.
More importantly, Trump strongly criticized America’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. He claims the conflict would never have occurred if he had been President, and he asserted that Biden was running the risk of provoking an “all out nuclear war.” He also blamed Biden for having brought about a rapprochement between Russia and China that has weakened America’s position globally.
There is no doubt that Trump’s prospects of winning the Republican nomination and winning the Presidential election in 2024 have been energized by the Bragg prosecution.
Polls this week show that Trump has a commanding lead over Ron DeSantis as the preferred Republican Presidential nominee, with other candidates, including Mike Pence and Nikki Haley, having failed to gain virtually any support whatsoever. It is now clear that the primary will be a two-horse race.
Trump’s lead over DeSantis can be expected to widen, especially if the Bragg prosecution fails. And a bungled prosecution could very well catapult Trump into the White House in 2024.
It is important to note, that prosecutors must prove that Trump personally falsified various documents with the intention to defraud. Staff who’ve worked with him before say he has an aversion to putting anything in writing, so proving that he was personally responsible for the falsification of documents, and that he had the requisite intention, will not be an easy task. Many legal experts, including Trump’s opponents, have expressed doubts as to whether Bragg’s prosecution will result in a conviction.
It will be interesting to see if Trump seeks to delay the Bragg prosecution or to have it expedited. In either case, he will use the prosecution to turbocharge his campaigns for the Republican nomination and the presidency, and any additional prosecutions that may be brought against him will likely be used to similar effect.
It is also relevant to note that the Bragg prosecution involves essentially trivial matters. After all, has no American President ever misused campaign funds in the past? This is far less serious, for example, than the alleged electoral fraud in Georgia in which Trump was personally involved, as his infamous telephone conversation with the Georgia Secretary of State shows. Trump would be in far graver difficulties if he had been prosecuted in relation to this matter or his involvement in the January 6 riots.
It is easy to dismiss the Mar-a-Lago speech as the conspiracy-ridden ravings of a demagogue. That, however, would be to seriously underestimate Trump’s appeal to a substantial and growing portion of the American electorate – namely all those that have been left behind by globalization. He also personifies many of the grosser aspects of American popular culture, and this makes his political rhetoric extraordinarily effective in contemporary America.
It must also be conceded that, stripped of its conspiracy theory underpinnings, much of Trump’s critique of Biden and contemporary America is essentially correct – and the fact that Trump is clearly incapable of solving the problems he draws attention to does not invalidate his criticisms.
This is especially so in relation to Trump’s opposition to Biden’s fervent commitment to perpetuating the conflict in Ukraine. Popular support for Biden’s continued aid to Ukraine is decreasing, and Trump’s promise to end the conflict will no doubt attract large numbers of new voters to his cause.
Trump’s energy, belief in his own cause, and campaigning ability stand in stark contrast to Biden – who is becoming progressively more fragile and looks like a doddering politician going through the motions. Anyone who doubts this should compare Trump’s Mar-a-Lago speech with Biden’s unimpressive speech delivered after the recent Nashville school shooting.
Whatever happens next year, the apparently terminal decline that has beset America in recent decades – so graphically and not inaccurately described by Trump this week – is certain to endure.
Trump’s continuing attacks on the basic institutions that underlie American liberal democracy will no doubt intensify over the coming months and can only further weaken those already fragile bodies, and his campaign for the presidency will only increasingly divide and coarsen American politics and society.
Donald Trump was correct to describe America as “a nation in decline” this week, but he omitted to say that the most obvious and egregious symptom of that irreversible decline is none other than Trump himself.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.