Trump indictment signals "weaponizing of legal system" to become norm in US

The Trump show has again turned into a historical scene in the US

Chinese observers opined that although it is too early to predict the indictment's impact on Trump's road to the White House, the drama has opened the norm of "weaponizing legal affairs" in the US, which will certainly usher in a more toxic trend in US' already chaotic political circle. 

Not only the unprecedented indictment against a former president is turning the White House into Cheong Wa Dae, or the Blue House presidential building of South Korea , it also revealed rifts of two different types of economies in the US. Experts warn that such lethal conflicts will bring catastrophic consequences for the country. 

In a grievance-filled speech on Tuesday night from the ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump lashed out not just at Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney who has brought the case, but also at prosecutors investigating him across the country from Georgia to Washington. "Our country is going to hell," he said.

He has launched a blistering attack on "election interference at a scale never seen before" in the US, casting himself as a victim of political persecution after he became the first former president to face criminal charges.

Trump's appearance capped a day of drama that started in New York when he was arraigned in a Manhattan courthouse and pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison, though the actual sentence will likely be far less than that if he is convicted on any or all counts, Fox News reported.

The incident is a little bit of both the "politicalization of legal affairs" and the "legalization of political affairs." For the Democrats, they are trying to pressure for the legal punishment for Trump via political means, thus to deprive Trump the candidacy of US president,  Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

If Trump is found to be guilty before the 2024 election, although it won't block his way to the election (as US president must be at least 35 years of age, be a natural born citizen, and must have lived in the US for at least 14 years), it will still exert a huge impact on his political career, as Americans are not likely to choose someone behind bar as their president, Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times  on Wednesday.

US media CBS quoted legal experts as saying that Trump's conviction is far from assured, saying it will not be easy for Manhattan prosecutors to prove the former president committed a felony.

Yet Li predicted that the sensational courtroom drama of Trump won't be concluded easily. For Trump, the show could save him a lot of election campaign fees, as it will drum up his fans to vote, said Li.

As Trump is a (former) president who has made so many firsts in US history, the indictment won't be the last time he makes history, said the expert, noting that the show opened another "Pandora's box" of political melee in the US before the election. 

Trump has raised more than $4 million in the 24 hours after news of his indictment in Manhattan became public, according to figures released by his campaign on Friday, NBC news reported. The Trump campaign said that more than 25 percent of the donations came from first-time donors to the former president, "further solidifying President Trump's status as the clear frontrunner in the Republican primary."

To some extent, the upcoming 2024 election will again become one that is "pro or against Trump," said experts. They also noted that the first Republican nominating contests are nearly one year away, so it's impossible to judge how GOP primary voters and a national electorate might react to any indictment of the ex-president.

Toxic trend

Lü said that the Trump indictment signals that the legal system is being used as a weapon in the US political arena. "The weaponization of the legal system used to be rare in US top political field. However, when the two parties' tussle becomes unsolvable via normal procedure, weaponizing legal affairs will become frequent,'' said Lü.

As Trump faces arraignment in a New York courtroom, US President Joe Biden has so far remained silent on Trump's indictment despite having been asked about it several times. But some Democrats openly expressed their??? excitement over Trump's indictment. 

"The indictment of a former president is unprecedented. But so too is the unlawful conduct in which Trump has been engaged," tweeted Democratic Representative Adam Schiff , who served as lead impeachment manager during Trump's first impeachment trial, the Hill reported.

Lü warned that when the weaponization of the legal system becomes the norm, Democrats are also likely to face similar courtroom dramas as Trump has. 

The Trump indictment show signals not only the deeply running fissure imbedded in the Democratic and Republican parties, but also a deterioration of US politics, said Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China.

He said that it is not simply fissures among political parties, but also rifts between US capital groups, which means that Trump-represented entity and local capitals are facing onslaught of virtual and global capitals. 

Jin believed the scuffle between different kinds of capitals is more lethal for the US, citing American civil war, which bred out because of the conflicts between the commercial and manufacturing economy in the North and the agricultural economy in the South.

"The entire Trump indictment drama may offer us a lens into deeper understanding of US politics, and make our US policies more effective," said Jin. 

Photo: Former US president Donald Trump (center) appears in court at the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on April 4, 2023. Trump was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, prosecutors said. The usually vocal Trump was mostly silent through the routine proceedings — except to tell Judge Juan Merchan in a firm voice: "Not guilty." © AFP.

Source: The Global Times.

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