Unsealing of Trump indictment prompts speculation, criticism

 June 11, 2023

The historic and highly controversial federal indictment against former President Donald Trump was unsealed this week, as the Associated Press reports, and speculation continues as to precisely what impact it will have on the 2024 election.

Though Trump himself has pledged to remain in the race notwithstanding his latest legal battle, the overall effect of the charges – for him personally and for the presidential election more broadly – are currently the subject of much debate.

Charges unveiled

As NPR explains, the indictment contains a total of 37 counts involving alleged offenses including unlawful retention of defense information, obstruction, false statements, and conspiracy.

The charges stem from discoveries made during an FBI raid of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate last summer following a continued back-and-forth between the former president and the National Archives over the return of certain disputed materials.

Special Counsel Jack Smith, whose team produced the indictment against Trump, issued a statement defending the decision to prosecute, saying, “Our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States, and they must be enforced.”

Perhaps most staggering, in terms of the potential jeopardy in which Trump finds himself, the indictment documents indicate that each of the counts against the former president brings the possibility of a $250,000 fine and maximum prison terms ranging between five and 20 years.

“Whole new ballgame”

In the wake of the indictment's unsealing, Fox News contributor and Georgetown University Law professor Jonathan Turley declared the developments a “whole new ballgame” and substantially different from Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg's prosecution of Trump, which he deemed “political.”

During an appearance on the network's America Reports, Turley opined of the charging document, “It is an extremely damning indictment.”

“There are indictments that are sometimes called narrative or speaking indictments. These are indictments that are really meant to make a point as to the depth of the evidence. There are some indictments that are just bare bones. This is not,” Turley emphasized.

The constitutional law expert went on, “The special counsel knew that there would be a lot of people who were going to allege that the Department of Justice was acting in a biased or politically motivated way. This is clearly an indictment that was drafted to answer those questions. It's overwhelming in details.”

Impact unclear

Announcing his own indictment before the DOJ had a chance to do so, Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform last week that he would face charges “seemingly over the Boxes Hoax, even though Joe Biden has 1850 Boxes at the University of Delaware, additional Boxes in Chinatown, D.C., with even more Boxes at the University of Pennsylvania, and documents strewn all over his garage floor where he parks his Corvette, and which is 'secured' by only a garage door that is paper thin, and open much of the time.”

The double standard articulated by the former president likely prompted him to make abundantly clear in recent days that he would not be chased from the electoral arena by this or any other legal challenge. When asked if there are “any circumstances under which you could see yourself dropping out of the 2024 presidential election,” the GOP primary frontrunner said flatly, “No. None whatsoever,” in what was surely music to the ears of his millions of supporters.

The former president is not the only one who seems to believe that his most fervent fans will be unaffected by the latest attempt to take him out, with Republican strategist Mike Dennehy saying, as Politico noted, “Trump's base of support believes that the DOJ is so corrupt so they will stick with Trump regardless of the specific charges.

Though Turley and other legal commentators have suggested that the new charges against Trump are on a different plane from challenges he has faced in the past, the former president has already defied expectations and survived two impeachments and a host of other allegations, and to lend premature credence to the DOJ's allegations and supposed evidence against him is an error many have previously lived to regret.

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