Former US President Donald Trump has been indicted today. We spoke with the USSC's Senior Non-resident Fellow Bruce Wolpe to get his take on this unfolding moment in US political history.
Bruce, how significant is this in US political history?
This is unprecedented and we are in uncharted political territory. It is highly likely Richard Nixon may well have been indicted after he resigned from the presidency in August 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandals, but Nixon was pardoned by his successor, President Gerald Ford, a month later for any crimes he may have committed as president. In the case of Trump, in the wake of his two impeachments and the gravity of the multiple investigations he is under, particularly for the January 6 insurrection, the mishandling of classified documents and the attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, what is being tested here is the principle that no one is above or beyond the rule of law.
Is it likely that the former president would serve any time in jail?
It is entirely conceivable that, if he is duly convicted in a criminal trial, that he could indeed serve a jail sentence, and the same applies if other indictments are handed down. What is clear is that Trump will likely have extended time in a courtroom over the next 18 months, at the expense of his campaigning. We have never seen a viable candidate for the presidency engaged in a criminal trial as he seeks the highest elected office. This will be an extraordinary spectacle.