The announcement last Thursday that former President Donald Trump had been indicted immediately plunged the United States into wholly uncharted waters. For the first time in our country’s 247-year history, a former commander in chief will face criminal charges after leaving office. I will not debate the merits of the case against Trump or the motivations of the prosecutors pursuing it. Whether or not Trump is guilty does not change the profound consequences of this indictment that will reverberate in our political system forever. Just or not, this indictment opens a new and bloodier chapter in American politics.
A sign of the trouble to come is the fact that the reaction on the Hill has mostly split along partisan lines. Although Senate Republican leadership has been unusually mute, House Republicans have taken to Twitter to overwhelmingly rally around Trump. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise called the indictment “one of the clearest examples of extremist Democrats weaponizing government to attack their political opponents.” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy ominously warned that “the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.” Two pro-impeachment senators, including a Democrat, Joe Manchin, thought Trump was being targeted by the law. The fact that the leadership of a major political party believes that the Trump indictment is a political weapon indicates Republicans will have fewer scruples about taking revenge in a similar fashion. Hunter Biden’s problems may take on a new significance in the aftermath of a Trump prosecution. A Republican administration, or even another Trump one, could seek to exact revenge on Democrats by targeting them or their families on trumped (no pun intended) up charges.
Moreover, to the significant portion of the American electorate that believes the U.S. government has been taken over by a cabal of pedophiles, the state’s prosecution of Trump will take on apocalyptic proportions, pushing an already violent demographic even further. Alvin Bragg, the New York District Attorney pursuing this case, has already received death threats, one coming in an envelope with a mysterious powder, although it was non-hazardous. The same kind of people that conspired to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, stormed the Capitol or beat Paul Pelosi with a hammer might seek to take matters into their own hands. Trump, it seems, has implicitly encouraged this, making a campaign stop at Waco, Texas — the site of a 51-day standoff between religious cultists and the federal government which is now a tourist attraction for the far-right movement. Those who are already skeptical of the government and strong supporters of Trump are likely to become more extreme. Domestic terrorism, already an issue, is likely to become worse.
The ideas of justice, accountability and the equal applicability of the law are fundamental to our Constitution. Justice must be done. Trump, in all likelihood, committed a wrongdoing that for anyone else would result in serious punishment. I fear, however, that justice for Trump will not come cheap. For those who believe that prosecution of Trump is necessary, be prepared to accept the consequences.