Following a Manhattan grand jury's vote on March 30th, 2023, to indict Donald Trump, the Former president is the first ex-President facing criminal charges, an American first in American political history. The Prosecutor of Manhattan Court, Alvin Bragg, has not publicly announced the specific charges against Trump but Trump is alleged to be facing more than two dozen charges focusing on his role in paying hush-money to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, to bury a 'sex scandal' case during his presidential campaign in 2016. Trump surrendered himself in a New York State courthouse, where he has been photographed and fingerprinted as a criminal suspect with the specific charges against him revealed. Trump, in a statement, has described the case as a politically motivated witch hunt, “This is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history.” Trump called Bragg, a democrat, “a disgrace” and declared himself as “a completely innocent person.”
Trump had decades of experience in fighting criminal charges during his business career, earning him a 'Teflon' reputation for avoiding prosecution. However, this case is related to his business behavior during his presidential campaign, before serving as the president of the U.S. The other recent investigations about his actions in the White House, such as his abrasive tactics dealing with international affairs or interference with elections, or agitating a mob storming the U.S. capitol, can be truly regarded as political affairs. Hence, Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Susan R. Necheles and Joseph Tacopina, said in a statement. “President Trump did not commit any crime,....We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.”, this 'hush money' case should be really judged as a common citizen's criminal offense, not as a president on trial. Trump has declared his intention to contest the 2024 presidential election and has appeared to be the Republican front runner, therefore, this hush-money case will no-doubt have an impact on the 2024 presidential election. For this reason, the title question is very significant, and deserves a serious discussion and a fair answer. We will focus on the initial media reaction to the Trump case.
In an American jury system, whether Trump will be convicted or not can be known only when the jury of Manhattan court decides. Whether Trump will be put in jail or not also cannot be known until the court judge rules. However, Trump could have his constitutional right to run, serve and govern the nation if he were elected even if he was convicted or jailed. In a long article in Fortune and The Conversation (Donald Trump can still run for president after his indictment—and even govern from jail by Stephanie Lindquist, March 30, 2023), Lindquist (Foundation Professor of Law and Political Science of Arizona State University), cites Article II of the constitution and memos from Department of Justice reflecting Watergate case in 1973 and concluded that a sitting president could not be indicted while in office simply because “physical interference with the President’s performance of his official duties that it would amount to an incapacitation.” and “The spectacle of an indicted President still trying to serve as Chief Executive boggles the imagination.” (Dealing with international leaders, classified secrets, national securities, etc.); thus “obviously the presidency cannot be conducted from jail.”
Interestingly, American history tells us that in 1920, Eugene Debs ran for the U.S. presidency and received one million votes out of 26.2 million cast. This suggests that Trump may run for president if jailed. There were rumors claiming that one of the reasons Trump was so upset about losing the 2020 presidential election was that he needed the presidency to fend off convictions or jail terms. This would be logical if Trump felt that he would surely be indicted for criminal charges. This also explained the timing of this hush money case indictment that took place after Trump was out of the White House and before he was elected again, over a long six years of time. Judging from Trump's character and his current popularity within the Republican party, Trump will not stop campaigning for the presidency. Surveying the early news reports on the public reaction to Trump's indictment, we find some very interesting facts that should be highlighted for our readers.
First, the Trump indictment news broke out on March 30th, immediately on the same day then the next three days, there were lots of reports and analyses appearing in the media, including newspapers, television stations, and magazines. Overwhelmingly, the discussions were related to the highlighted sentences in the above paragraphs. These appearing as coordinated media reports are focusing not on the merit of the indictment but on the possible effect on Trump's campaign for the 2024 presidential election. Second, the media is suggesting that the public does not seem to care about Trump's indictment, including headlines such as Trump Indicted, Polls Suggest Republicans Won't Care ...(Forbes), Even if charged and convicted, Trump can still run in 2024 (Japan Today), Republicans Erupt in Outrage and Rush to Defend ...(NY Times), Cities bracing for protests in response to former Pres. Trump's ... (ABC, YouTube), and GOP calls for Biden charges after Trump Indictment (NY Post).
Another observation that may be pointed out is that if you browse the news from March 30 to April 2, one gets a feeling that the media is responding to a 'PR' crisis or damage control orchestrated by a pro-Trump effort. Even CNN news headlines show such a sentiment: Donald Trump has been indicted, Here is what we know, Ivanka Trump breaks silence on her dad's indictment, Would Trump be indicted if he weren't running? What's next for Donald Trump after his indictment? Surprisingly, academic professionals would offer a positive prediction for Trump as well: “It’s simultaneously embarrassing, but also makes him something of a martyr,” says Saikrishna Prakash, a distinguished constitutional law professor at the University of Virginia Law School. Many legal experts and political pundits on March 30th evening were rushed to comment, including the statement, “It could help Trump, thrusting him into the national spotlight.” Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, said on Newsmax that a mugshot of Trump could serve as a campaign poster for his campaign.
Of course, the media mood may change as new events occur. American media are not short of manipulation, especially during elections. However, the sex scandal involving Stormy Daniels and Trump is nearly seven years old. There is not much more juice the media can squeeze out. Perhaps, that is why the news media seems to be anxious to turn an old sex-scandal and hush-money case into an election drama, in which Trump can act very well. Therefore, the author feels appropriate to put 'So what!” as the answer to the question: “Will Trump Be Convicted and Put in Jail?” for us readers.