June 20, 2024

Everything you need to know about the Trump indictment

When Trump announced his coming arrest on March 18 to his Truth Social network, it provoked outrage in his base and confusion from others.

His indictment would not come until April 4.

Now, nearly month later, the former president is the first to be tried after his unprecedented indictment, consisting of 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. 

The charges range from a series of allegations regarding the actions of the Trump Organization from February 14 to December 5, 2017. The allegations are primarily related to Trump’s attempt to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels, an adult actress formerly involved with Trump. 

The indictment is largely connected to Trump’s dealings with Michael Cohen, the former Trump attorney convicted on charges of federal tax evasion and campaign finance fraud.    

The judge overseeing the trial has blocked news cameras, opting only to allow still photographs, likely out of concern of a media trial. 

The district attorney behind the indictment is Alvin Bragg, who had previously refused to go through with prosecuting Trump on accusations of misrepresenting his level of wealth. However, a reexamination of the evidence regarding the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels had generated new prospects for the arrest of the former president.

The ongoing legal proceedings have, of course, generated pushback from conservatives. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely considered the most significant potential rival to Trump for a 2024 Republican primary, tweeted that he would not allow the former president to be extradited to New York for trial. 

The governor has no power to prevent this, but such a declaration shows a deep loyalty to Trump, as well as a potential willingness by the GOP to disrupt the practices of the justice system for their own purposes, decrying trials of their allies as political in nature.

The labeling of the trial as a political persecution is a persistent right wing talking point, including from Trump himself– an ironic remark given his earlier political statements. It also speaks to the rhetoric of governmental functions as a weaponized political process, ultimately undermining the legitimacy of the American state. 

It is worth noting that DeSantis and Trump also labeled Bragg as “Soros-Backed.” The claim is unsubstantiated and also invokes anti-semitic stereotypes by invoking Hungarian-American Jewish billionaire George Soros, who runs the Open Society Foundation. Soros is involved in American politics, but is accused by right wingers of seeking to destroy the United States, and is also labeled as the leader of Antifa (which does not exist as a national organization) and Black Lives Matter. Neither of these claims are true. 

His name is often invoked by far right ideologues to subtly spread conspiracy theories of Jewish manipulation of Western society, a notion pioneered by nazi theories of Judeo-Bolshevism, which claimed that communist revolutions in Europe were a plot for dominance by Jewish actors. 

What the indictment has shown so far is an emergence of extremist rhetoric and a question of what implication this will have for future American politics.

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