Last Tuesday (13), Donald Trump, former president of the United States, surrendered to justice in Miami. He faces 37 charges for allegedly committing seven federal crimes related to confidential documents that he took, after the end of his term and illegally, to his residence in Mar-a-Lago. But now what are the possible consequences for him?
Benjamin Toll, a political scientist at Wilkes University, explains that this is a more serious case than the one that led to Trump’s first indictment in New York in early April. “There are more serious ramifications to the things Trump is being accused of doing in this case. The penalties are certainly greater if he is convicted than compared to the last indictment related to Stormy Daniels “, said the political scientist.
Moments before arriving at the federal court in Miami, Trump posted on his Truth Social profile – the social network he created after being banned from Twitter – that the process is nothing more than a witch hunt. According to the former president, he is being persecuted by the federal government, for fear of the Democrats that he will return to the White House in the election next year. Polls, however, show Biden an even bigger lead over the Republican compared to 2020.
Even so, the pro-Trump demonstrators, outside the court, repeated the discourse of the politicization of the process. To the Brazil in facta protester from Fort Lauderdale, in the greater Miami area, stated that “this case is a smokescreen to hide all the corruption of the Biden administration”.
For Benjamin Toll, this is a symptom that, for Trump supporters, the indictment will not have a major political impact. “Most people who support Trump will not read the indictment. They won’t spend the time reading about the things he’s being accused of. And they’re hearing another version of events, they’re getting other information about what this case is about,” says Toll. The political scientist concludes, saying that “politically, I don’t think Trump will be hurt by this.”
A survey by Reuters with the Ipsos institute revealed that 62% of Americans believe in the accusations that Trump would have illegally kept confidential documents. The difference between Democrats and Republicans, however, is stark. Among Democrats, 95% believe the accusations. Among Republicans, only 35%. Some analysts believe the tables could be turned in the course of the process, but so far the hard core of support for the former president appears to be unshakable.
Still in front of the court, and even if outnumbered, anti-Trump demonstrators were not hopeful. Contrary to popular belief, the republican did not have to take a picture of his file or even return his passport.
An indignant protester stated that “if it were an ordinary person, with a hundred or so confidential documents at home, they would be arrested”. Another protester, Domenic Santana, vented: “They should have arrested him a long time ago. But he is a graduate and a master. He doesn’t need lawyers, he knows the way he’s going to do it. He’s already saying that this is political, that the Democrats are going to lose and that’s why they want to attack him. He already has everything coldly calculated.”
Judge appointed by Trump will lead the process
During his four-year term, Trump appointed 226 federal judges. A high number considering he only served one term. Barack Obama, who was president for 8 years, nominated just 94 more than Trump. For the appellate courts, those that have the final word in most cases, Trump appointed 54 judges in 4 years, against Obama’s 55 in 8. Currently, according to a Pew Research Center survey, 28% of federal judges in exercise were appointed by Trump.
In the case of the documents, a judge appointed by Donald Trump, Aileen Cannon, was drawn to lead the case. She was nominated in 2020 and has been working in Miami federal court ever since. The lottery, not surprisingly, raised questions about the impartiality of the trial. “I think legally the judge is probably going to judge with her own bias in mind to some extent, but she still needs to follow the law,” Benjamin said.
The political scientist explains that this is a sensitive judgment, and that the government will keep an eye on each of the judge’s decisions. She will need to follow the legal process to the letter, as the Department of Justice must appeal any and all decisions they deem to be irregular. “If the government believes she is not following the law, they can appeal any decision she makes. They’ll be watching closely to make sure she’s not judging with their bias,” concludes Toll.
Change of tone among internal adversaries
The indictment may not shake Trump’s solid base of support, the former president’s hard core, but it has certainly already changed the way in which opponents and some former allies behave towards him. During the New York indictment, all other primary candidates sided with Trump, saying it was a politically motivated accusation. The result was Trump rising in the polls. But now, the tactic seems to be different.
Mike Pence, Trump’s deputy in his administration and now his competitor in the Republican Party primary, gave a tough speech after the Justice Department’s disclosure of the accusations. He stated that “this indictment contains serious allegations” and that he could not defend Trump. Pence even went so far as to say that the documents “could have fallen into the wrong hands, even if unintentionally, putting national security and the men and women of the armed forces at risk.” It is worth remembering that issues such as national security and veterans are of great importance to the republican base.
Other candidates, such as Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, also made tougher comments about the second indictment. But none of them as strong as those of Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey, who is also running for the party’s seat. In a CNN briefing, Christie said the allegations were “very tight, very detailed, an indictment with a lot of evidence” and that it revealed “horrific conduct [do ex-presidente]”.
Even former allies who worked in the Trump administration have started to jump ship. Bill Barr, who served as US Attorney General during the Republican’s four years, spoke to the FOX News that Trump says the process would be a witch hunt is “ridiculous”.
Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director during the Trump administration, who now supports Chris Christie, said in an interview with News Nation that he believes Trump will withdraw from the candidacy, due to “being stressed about the indictment”. The Republican, however, denies it and claims that he will be elected president next year. At least in the Republican primary, Trump remains the favorite.
What are the accusations against Trump?
He will face a total of 37 counts related to seven different federal crimes:
– 31 counts of Willful Withholding of National Defense Information – for having unauthorized possession of classified documents dealing with US national defense. Each charge concerns each of the documents.
– One indictment for Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice – for current in collusion with advisor Waltine Nauta to obstruct justice.
– One charge of Withholding Document or Record – for having misled a lawyer into believing that all documents had been returned.
– One charge of Corrupt Document Concealment or Recording – for hiding boxes of the lawyer’s own documents in order to make it impossible for him to comply with the determinations of a subpoena ordered by a federal grand jury.
– One charge for Document Concealment in a Federal Investigation – on the grounds that the concealment was intended to influence the course of a federal investigation.
– One count of Scheme Concealment – for withholding information from the grand jury that he still had classified documents in his possession.
– One charge of False Declaration and Representation – for the false statements given by the lawyer to the FBI, since Trump himself would have deceived the lawyer into believing that all documents would have been returned.
Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho