Aviva Fried with AFP // photo credit: 06:55, June 14, 2023Donald Trump is once again in torment in front of the American justice since his indictment last week, following the prosecution of the federal justice. Among the many charges against him, the former president of the United States is accused of illegally keeping secrets of the White House.
He was already calling him a "villain monster." Since his indictment, Donald Trump has further intensified his attacks on the Department of Justice, at the risk of undermining Americans' confidence in the rule of law. Accused of illegally keeping White House secrets, the 76-year-old billionaire is the first former US president prosecuted by federal justice. The Republican is also the main rival for the 2024 election of his Democratic successor Joe Biden. "It puts the country in a very risky situation," said Edward Foley, a professor at Ohio University.
"Ministry of Injustice"
For this expert in electoral law, there is an "inevitable" tension between two basic democratic principles: "no one is above the law" and "the government must not use its power against its opponents". To avoid this pitfall, Justice Minister Merrick Garland, who oversees the federal judiciary, has taken care to entrust the case to a special prosecutor known for his rigour, Jack Smith, and President Biden refrains from commenting. Nevertheless, Donald Trump poses as a victim of a "Ministry of Injustice", "corrupt" and in the pay of the "radical left".
"When you arrest your main political opponent, we are no longer in a democracy," he repeated Tuesday night during a speech to his supporters. As during his crusade against his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, his grievances hit the nail on the head with his electoral base: according to a You Gov poll, 76% of Republican voters believe that the prosecution of Donald Trump is "politically motivated".
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"It's classic Trump," said Thomas Holbrook, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin. "It helps him rally his supporters," raise money and divert attention from the heavy charges against him. In passing, this shelling "erodes public confidence in the neutrality of the Department of Justice and the FBI," said Shirley Anne Warshaw, a political scientist who has written extensively on U.S. presidents. For her, however, the impact remains limited. "The department is only losing the support of Trump supporters," she said.
"Most Americans think Trump shouldn't have taken these documents with him and kept them in his Mar-a-Lago playground." Thomas Holbrook even thinks that the American left, very critical of the courts since their reshuffle by Donald Trump, could be reassured by these prosecutions.
"What will make the difference" in the long run will not be the attitude of Donald Trump, who "will continue to make his accusations", but that of "the Republican elites", said Mary Stuckey, professor of communication at Penn University. Some figures have distanced themselves from the former president. Bill Barr, who was his attorney general, called the indictment "damning." "If only half of this is true, then (Trump) is toast," he said Sunday.
These voices remain isolated in the party for the time being. On the contrary, Donald Trump's most loyal allies are multiplying inflammatory remarks. The unsuccessful candidate for governor of Arizona, Kari Lake, pointed out that Donald Trump's supporters had their "NRA membership card", the powerful gun lobby. The elected Andy Biggs evoked "a situation of war". These remarks raise fears of a new wave of violence, as when hundreds of supporters of the former president stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 to try to block the certification of Joe Biden's victory.
"Donald Trump has a base of fanatics who would do anything to protect him," Warshaw said. The police are very aware of the risk of violent action, "says Mary Stuckey, referring to the large police device deployed in Miami, around the federal court where the real estate mogul appeared Tuesday. Thanks to their vigilance, "we may be able to avoid violence in the short term," she hopes. "But there is no doubt that Trump will continue to push his supporters to act."