Former President Donald Trump has said that he is going to be indicted on Tuesday in New York City on charges related to hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, who has said she had an affair with Trump.
The Daniels case, which already landed a former Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, in prison, is one of many investigations into Trump that are ongoing. In Georgia, prosecutors are investigating the former president’s efforts to overturn his loss in the 2020 election. They are considering racketeering and conspiracy charges, CNN reported on Monday.
A special counsel is also investigating Trump’s handling of classified information.
As these investigations move forward, and an indictment in New York may be forthcoming, numerous Republicans are rushing to the former president’s defense. Beyond the usual complaints that any investigations of Trump are politically motivated witch hunts, many defenders of Trump have repeated an odd warning.
“Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with political retribution. Today it’s Trump — tomorrow it may be you,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, said via Twitter on Sunday.
“If they can come for Trump, they will come for you,” Rep. Andy Biggs, a Republican from Arizona tweeted on Saturday. “This type of stuff only occurs in third world authoritarian nations.”
Blackburn, Biggs and others who have shared similar warnings have it backwards.
People who are not prominent, powerful or well connected are prosecuted for crimes like those Trump may be charged with, as well as for far lesser crimes. In other words, the judicial system already comes from people who are not insulated through wealth and political connections. It should also come for people like Trump if they have in fact committed crimes, which is what juries and judges will decide.
That is a cornerstone of America’s democracy and judicial system – that no one is above the law.
This is one of the many things that separates the U.S. and other functioning democracies from third-world authoritarian nations.
Coupled with the violence we saw at the U.S. Capitol two years ago, this is also why encouragements from Trump and others to protest a potential indictment are a concern. Of course, people can peacefully protest judicial actions they think are unjust. But, given the actions of Trump and some of his supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, there is good reason to be very worried that such protests could turn violent. That must not happen again, and why calls from Republican leaders for peaceful disagreement are important.
Trump has long fed the grievances of people who feel left behind and harmed by the political, economic and social changes in the U.S. Many of those grievances are well placed, but attacking legitimate investigations into potential wrongdoing is misplaced and, often, counterproductive.
If Trump is in fact indicted Tuesday, it would be one more step in the long and necessarily deliberative process of determining if, and how broadly, he may have broken the laws of this country. That process – which will take a long time and likely involve many twists and turns – is a central part of our judicial system. That system was founded on the belief in equal justice for all, no matter who they are and what office they have held. It is one thing that sets us apart from authoritarian countries.