Voices: Trump has lived a life of corruption. Accountability is finally on its way

Trump boarding a plane in Florida to take him to a rally in Waco, Texas  (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Trump boarding a plane in Florida to take him to a rally in Waco, Texas (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
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Donald Trump can add another historic first to his list of disgraces. The twice-impeached former president is now the first president, former or current, to be indicted. Accountability has finally come.

While there was plenty of anticipation for an upcoming Trump indictment due to Trump’s claims, it still shocked many. An audible gasp could be heard on Fox News as they broke the news. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman reported that the news of the Manhattan Grand Jury indictment surprised Trump and his team at Mar-a-Lago. Even after all the noise they made about a looming arrest, the Trump team apparently thought the upcoming month-long grand jury pause meant no indictment was imminent. They were wrong.

The indictment is still under seal so we don’t have the details yet, but there is now speculation of whether this goes beyond the expected Stormy Daniels hush money charges. CNN has reported that the Manhattan Grand Jury has indicted Trump on 34 counts "related to falsifying business records." This could be related to anotherr eport that the Manhattan DA asked about the National Enquirer’s hush money payment to Karen McDougal on Trump’s behalf. Also, this news coming on the heels of former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to his role in a Trump Organization tax fraud case, cutting ties with Trump’s attorneys raises questions of whether he may be cooperating.

Whatever the scope of the charges might be, the takeaway is the same. Donald Trump is finally facing his first dose of real accountability. From his fraudulent business career to his wannabe authoritarian presidency, Trump has lived a life of corruption. The notorious con man pushed the bounds of human indecency, violated laws, and tested America’s democratic guardrails. In spite of numerous criminal investigations and civil lawsuits, Trump has evaded accountability through political protection or settling away issues with cash. Not this time.

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is currently negotiating Trump’s "surrender" to authorities ahead of his arraignment, which is reported to take place next week. Trump will be fingerprinted and could be handcuffed. It’s been said that Trump would revel in this arrest and would love to be handcuffed so he can play victim, fundraise, and rally his base. But his response to this indictment has given the opposite energy: fear.

Trump frantically released multiple statements on his social network claiming "thugs" and "monsters" have just "INDICATED" him (he still can’t spell), and that this is election interference. The irony of the January 6 insurrection-inciter and 2016 hush-money-payer Trump accusing anyone of election interference is unreal. Trump’s posts were filled with hypocritical attacks claiming the rule of law is being undermined. As expected, the Republican Party has responded in kind.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) responded by doubling down on his promise to investigate DA Bragg. McCarthy accused Bragg of weaponizing the justice system. This is an interesting accusation given the fact Kevin McCarthy was once infamous for his gaffe admission that Republicans weaponized the Benghazi Committee to target Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 election. Some Republicans have gone even further, with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) calling for DA Bragg to be thrown in jail.

Speaker McCarthy immediately weaponizing the House GOP majority to undermine legitimate criminal investigations into Donald Trump, is a signal of the Republican Party’s continued loyalty to Trump. While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has taken a different approach than McCarthy, the broader Republican Party remains largely behind the former President as he continues to remain a frontrunner in the 2024 GOP primary. Even one of Trump’s potential 2024 GOP primary rivals, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, defended him. DeSantis sent a tweet calling the indictment "un-American" and proclaiming he won’t cooperate with any extradition requests for Trump from the Manhattan DA if they arise.

Many have predicted that this will help Trump’s 2024 prospects. Sure, this could fire up his base of support but let’s be real here. A reported 34-count criminal indictment with other looming legal liability won’t guarantee a GOP primary win, and certainly won’t help him in a general election. A recent Quinnipiac University national poll found that a majority of Americans think an indictment should disqualify Trump from office. This could actually provide an on-ramp for Trump alternatives to try and claim the "Trumpism without the criminality" mantle. This will only get worse for Trump because this is just the beginning.

There are multiple other criminal investigations into Donald Trump’s corrupt conduct, including the Georgia grand jury probe into Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election and the DOJ’s Special Counsel probe into Trump’s theft of classified documents.

This is an important development in American history. This is a step toward holding all Americans to the same legal standards. We’ll soon see the substance of the charges and what future charges look like and analyze them on a case-by-case basis. Trump deserves his day in court like all Americans have a right to. We’ll see how a jury of his peers judge him. But I think I can speak for a lot of Americans when I say that we’re just happy to finally see Trump potentially face the music for the decades of blatant corruption we’ve all witnessed. All we want is equal justice under the law. Consequences for actions that any average American would be easily imprisoned for.

I think the sentiment of a member of the now "Exonerated Five" Yusef Salaam, who Trump falsely accused of rape and called for his execution in a full-page New York Times ad in 1989, is being felt by many amid this news. Salaam released a one-word sentence in response to the news of Trump’s indictment: "Karma."