August 4, 2023
WASHINGTON – The United States lurched deeper into uncharted territory on Thursday with the arraignment in Washington of former president Donald Trump on four counts, including orchestrating a plot to try to overturn his 2020 election loss.
Trump arrived at the federal courthouse on a blustery afternoon, literally steps from the Capitol which was stormed by a mob of his supporters on Jan 6, 2021, in an effort to stop the certification of the presidential election.
Trump has insisted – and most of his supporters still believe – he won, despite no evidence of that standing up in multiple lawsuits across the country.
He was charged with trying to defraud the US, conspiracy to deprive Americans of the right to a fair election process, and conspiracy to obstruct Congress’ proceedings on Jan 6, 2021.
The former president pleaded “not guilty”.
Only a few of his supporters turned up.
Mr Daniel de Maura, 32, a translator and Washington resident, said: “He walks in the light of god.”
“He’s been framed,” he told The Straits Times. “He’s being attacked by the left.”
From the other side of America’s sharp political divide, Ms Janel Crowley, a 48-year-old nurse from Portland, Maine, stopping by Washington DC on a road trip, said: “It’s a cult; they worship him, they believe anything he says.
“He says he’s not guilty, so they believe him. They donate money to him, even though they don’t have money for themselves.”
She told ST: “I believe Trump is absolutely guilty and definitely needs to pay for his crimes.
“He lied to the American people about there being election fraud, and stirred his supporters up to come here and riot and break in to the Capitol and try to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
“To me, he represents corrupt corporate power, everything he did was in the interest of big corporations,” she said.
Later on Thursday, in brief remarks at the airport before he departed Washington, Trump told journalists: “This is persecution of a political opponent.”
The arraignment was Trump’s third since April. He may well face a fourth in coming weeks.
One case in New York City accuses him of falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments to a porn star.
Another accuses him of wrongfully taking away and keeping classified documents at his residence.
Thursday’s may be the most serious case against him, accusing him of orchestrating a plan to overturn the 2020 election.
A fourth indictment may come from Georgia, related to accusations of election interference.
Still, Trump remains the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s nomination; his previous indictments only boosted his poll numbers.
Political analysts, however, maintain that even if he were to be the Republican Party’s candidate for the 2024 election, his base – while fiercely loyal – is not broad enough to win him the Presidency.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is also running for a second term, which means 2024 could see a head-to-head rematch; even if Trump is found guilty on any of the charges, he can still run for election.
The US has been politically polarised before, said political science professor Charles Zelden at Nova Southeastern University at Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
But “this is uncharted, in that we’ve never had a candidate run for office who was multiple-indicted and who has a good chance of winning the primary and then running in the general election”, he said.
Trump’s next hearing on the latest charges is set for Aug 28.