Trump indictment lacks integrity

The theatrics of the indictment demonstrate the need for leaders with more integrity


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

After Donald Trump was indicted, he surrendered and was arraigned at a Manhattan courthouse, an event which received ample media coverage.

Isaac Anthony

An indictment of former President Donald Trump has been sought since at least June 16, 2015, when Trump first announced his presidential campaign, and certainly since Jan. 20, 2017, the date of his inauguration. After six years of pontificating, his political opponents in Washington, D.C., across the country and in the media, have finally reaped their reward — Trump in a courtroom facing criminal charges. 

However, this indictment undermines the rule of law and is diverting public discourse from bigger issues in our government. Through the momentous indictment and the media’s encouragement of the spectacle surrounding it, we have been bickering over questions of political fallout rather than asking why those we elect do not have more integrity from the start. 

The issue centers on current Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. When he ran for the office in 2021, indicting Trump was a campaign promise. While he recently fulfilled his campaign promise, something to which most people holding a political office position cannot attest, he did so in a manner that raises questions about his motives. 

After a year of meticulous effort, the only charges Bragg brought forth were Trump’s misdemeanors which, in a questionable legal justification, were increased to state felonies to try to outmaneuver the complication of the two-year statute of limitations. The alleged misdemeanors were 34 counts of falsifying business records. However, Bragg was able to use New York law to raise those misdemeanors to felonies because, the indictment alleges, Trump tried to cover up these misdemeanors. This contrasts to the 52% of Manhattan felonies Bragg reduced to misdemeanors on his first day in office. This legal maneuver has varied support. There needs to be proof that Trump himself intentionally tried to cover up the misdemeanor, which Bragg has yet to announce. Additionally, that felony charge has a statute of limitations of only five years. While a case can be made to extend that time, it seems as if Bragg is grasping at straws.

 It should be noted that the previous district attorney of Manhattan, Cyrus Vance, Jr., and President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice, have had five years and two years, respectively, to prosecute this case, and both elected not to do so. This begs the question of Bragg’s motivation — is Bragg interested in justice or raising his national profile?

It is easy to understand Bragg’s mindset for the latter. Being in the Democratic stronghold of New York City and hearing the constant rhetoric from the media, Bragg may be focused on a limited constituency and may only have their thoughts in mind instead of the whole republic, which this indictment affects. The media has loudly proclaimed that the Trump win in 2016 was not legitimate, broadcasted for months through two impeachment trials and even broadcasted about non-issues such as the scandal of Trump getting an extra scoop of ice cream. The figures show the reason for the Trump obsession — in 2016 alone, CNN had a 77% increase in viewership; MSNBC had an 87% increase; and Fox News a 36% increase. Trump as president and Trump as personality were lucrative to the media, even if individual reporters had a range of opinions on his integrity, leadership, business acumen and character.

Trump’s personality and history as a television personality led to the political circus that we see today. A circus where it may seem that, like in “Banana Republics” and autocratic regimes, people not only are, but should, be prosecuted because of their beliefs. 

The indictment has also shown the media’s lack of objectivity in public policy and discourse. If you believe the media, it was unfair to a candidate to disclose information about Bill Clinton’s sexual conduct in 1996, Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of emails in 2016 and the supposed contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop in 2020. However, it is not only fair but necessary to prosecute Trump, and it is because Democrats want Trump to receive the Republican nomination.

The Democrats believe that Trump is their most beatable opponent, as they have already done it once. The indictment provides the media with the same opportunity they had in 2016: to give near constant media coverage to elevate Trump to his base and increase animosity toward him for his possible nomination to the general election. However, this electioneering could easily backfire just like it did in the 2016 election and help Trump become elected again. While I am sure it is the nightmares of many, it is the dreams of the media conglomerate’s stockholders. 

The indictment of Trump is a smoke screen that prevents our country, proponents of democracy and rule of law from leading with integrity.

Throughout all the media coverage of the indictment, it can be hard to remember the flimsy legs upon which it stands and the destruction that it can now create. The peaceful transfer of power has been one of the important hallmarks of the United States since President George Washington first stepped down in 1797. While Trump damaged this in 2020, this indictment could set the course for indicting all presidents after they finish their term by their political rivals, which could easily lead to prosecuting political rivals ahead of the general election. It could lead to the prosecution of other equally flimsy cases, such as money laundering through Ukraine or China. It has been said that the average person commits three felonies per day of which they are unaware. Politicians certainly commit more and are aware of them all, which is depressing in and of itself.

Currently, people are arguing over and defending people who are not morally upright. We need politicians who can act with integrity, who will be ethical and who will not be embroiled in questions of criminal intent. The United States is the leader of the free world, and the U.S. president needs to embody the high ideals grounded in the Constitution. Our two-party system seems to lean into candidates with questionable integrity. Bragg is promoting systemic dysfunction. 

We the people need to speak out. Rather than tolerating the political dance, we need to call for a higher standard. The indictment of Trump is a smoke screen that prevents our country, proponents of democracy and rule of law from leading with integrity. It also takes attention from the real issues that should undergird the 2024 election.