Donald Trump’s Democrat enemies are gambling with the future of America

President Donald Trump delivers an update on the so-called Operation Warp Speed program in an address from the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 13, 2020. - Carlos Barria/REUTERS
President Donald Trump delivers an update on the so-called Operation Warp Speed program in an address from the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 13, 2020. - Carlos Barria/REUTERS
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Weeks of speculation finally came to an end on Thursday. That was when the news finally landed that former president Donald Trump is indeed going to be indicted and made to show up in a New York court. The precise number of counts against him is not yet known, but it is thought to be upwards of 30.

Since the news had initially been trailed by Trump himself, it didn’t come as a surprise. Yet for many Americans, it still came as a shock. The indictment of a former president is an escalation of the US political divide that will cause consternation far beyond Trump’s base.

The morning after the announcement, I happened to be in Washington DC at a meeting with Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, among others. Pence has had his own disagreements with his former boss – not least over the ratification of the 2020 election. But on Friday morning, he was clearly outraged by the news that had just landed.

“The unprecedented indictment of a former president of the United States for a campaign finance issue is an outrage,” he said, adding that most Americans would see it as “nothing short of a political prosecution.”

Whatever people think of Trump, his former vice president is right. There is considerable resentment over what many see as a political prosecution. Even those Americans who have never been fans of the former president worry where exactly all this leads.

Certainly the indictment is unprecedented. And it is almost certainly political. The New York district attorney who has brought the case – Alvin Bragg – is a notoriously Leftist DA who has made it clear for a long time that building a case against the former president is more important than, for instance, tackling rocketing crime in New York. He seems to have been beavering away particularly hard at this indictment ever since a former colleague of his claimed in a book that Bragg had “dropped the ball” on Trump.

Whatever the back-story, Trump’s Democrat political opponents have not been able to restrain their jubilation. California Democrat Adam Schiff led efforts to impeach Trump over a totally different matter in 2020. After last week’s news, he crowed that “the indictment of a former president is unprecedented. But so too is the unlawful conduct in which Trump has been engaged.” Which may be something that Schiff would like to believe, but is not something that is actually true.

In a revealing slip of the tongue, former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, announced on social media that no one is above the law but that Trump does at least have “the right to a trial to prove innocence”. Of course in America, as in Britain, people are meant to be innocent until proven guilty. Only when it comes to Donald Trump does it seem like this principle is inverted.

But nobody can be surprised at that. After all, from the moment he won the 2016 election, Trump has been put through similar legal means. Ever since that seismic shock occurred, Democrats began to cook up and propagate false claims about Russian collusion. They attempted to impeach Trump multiple times while he was in office. Inquiries and special prosecutors all failed to find the evidence that Trump’s opponents in the media and in Washington so hoped for. Each time their runs at him failed, Trump seemed only to grow.

Yet now they seem to believe that a tool to get him has finally been found. And it is essentially a campaign-finance issue. The fact that the charge relates to an alleged hush-money payment to an adult film actress is a boon for Trump’s opponents because they hope that it will embarrass the former president. They forget that Trump himself is essentially unembarrassable. He is the man who killed embarrassment in American public life.

In any case, Bragg and his colleagues better hope that their case is stronger than it is rumoured to be. It is said to rely on the testimony of Trump’s notoriously unreliable former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. Will a jury trust Cohen’s word? Will they be willing to find unanimously against Trump? Anything is possible, but meantime the drama in New York will have far greater-reaching repercussions on the wider American stage.

Many Republicans fear that the persecution of the former president will not take him out of the presidential race but will in fact propel him into it. It certainly risks sucking up all the oxygen on the Republican side, forcing all of Trump’s competitors to talk about him while every single one of them is desperate to move beyond him.

This, in the end, may be the deeper political play going on here. With their politicisation of the justice system, the Democrats may be hoping that Trump is indeed the Republican nominee in 2024. And that he will then lose to them at that election.

It is a risk, certainly. But not so nearly as great a risk as the one that Trump’s opponents have taken: which is to make peace with the idea that it is acceptable in America for the law to be used as politics waged by other means. As someone once said, a person willing to use any stick to beat their opponents may find that they have picked up a boomerang. We shall see who this stick ends up knocking out.

Douglas Murray’s latest book is ‘The War on the West’