NEW YORK, April 5 (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s surrender on criminal charges on Tuesday was marked by a clash between protesters and protesters outside a central Manhattan square, and a now-familiar cycle of name-calling and insults by advocates and Trump. himself
But many Americans who say they are watching this case and other Trump investigations are not looking for political point-scoring — they are holding out hope that US democracy will deliver justice.
“That’s the reason,” said Carla Sambula, who said she drove an hour home from Rockland County, New York, to sit in line outside a Manhattan courthouse so she could testify at Trump’s impeachment trial. “It’s hard to say if they’re going to be right, especially with a woman of color,” said Sambula, who is black, adding that she voted for President Barack Obama.
Americans’ trust in such institutions as Congress, television news and the presidency fell to their lowest average level in more than 40 years last year; Gallup poll he showed Just 14% say they have a great deal or “a great deal” of confidence in the criminal justice system, up half from a decade ago.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case is the first of many to tie up Trump in the country due to the 2024 presidential election in which Trump is the leading Republican candidate. Trump pleaded not guilty Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of brutality on the far right and the far left,” said Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer and law professor at the University of Minnesota. Both sides united around the idea that “the law is not about the law, but about the state and just power.”
Trump himself has complained for years that law enforcement is targeting him at political events, and that his rhetoric has risen from the New York cause.
On Wednesday, Trump called on fellow Republicans in Congress to cut funding for the US Department of Justice and the FBI. Several Republican lawyers have expressed concern that the case is an examination of whether the government can arm itself against unscrupulous politicians.
About half of Americans think the investigations against Republican Trump’s actions are politically motivated by Democrats, a new Reuters/Ispos poll shows – including 36% of Democrats. Half of Americans, meanwhile, believe Trump and some members of the Republican party are working to delegitimize the law to prevent crimes against Trump – including 30% of Republicans.
And Americans say they want to be held accountable – about 70% disagree with the idea of the president of the United States having immunity from all but the most serious criminal charges, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found. On an even higher level, it is clear that no one in America is “above the law.”
The judicial system in the US is under intense scrutiny in the months ahead, as many investigations continue on the trail.
The Manhattan case, which brings money to the porn star, could last for a year or more. The investigation into Trump’s attempt to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia may result in an indictment this spring, and the Department of Justice is investigating the transfer-related power issue as well as Trump’s alleged retention of documents. A civil trial over voting manipulation company Slander’s dominance allegations against Fox News over the 2020 election could begin this month.
“One of the pillars of democracy is holding elected officials accountable. We usually think about it politically, but it also applies legally when crimes are committed,” said Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a legal and advocacy group.
This flurry of legal actions against Trump “could signal an era where presidential actions are subject to legal procedures,” Warren said.
Amir Ali, executive director at the MacArthur Justice Center, pointed to the disproportionate incarceration of minorities and lower-income people in the United States and said the system “has given people with power a free pass.”
“It is clear that the criminal legal system can be struck down – it has been proven and crushed,” Ali said.
Yusef Salaam, one of five young black men convicted in a 1989 kidnapping case, wrote a full-page newspaper report sounding one Trump paid about decades ago, calling Salaam and others the “Central Park Five” against the death penalty.
“Although thirty-four years ago you effectively called for my death and the death of four other innocent children, I wish you no harm,” Salaam, now a Democratic candidate for New York State Council, said in his ad. “Yes, I use my faith to search for the truth.”
The issues related to Trump in several cases “reflect the fragility of some democracy,” said Adav Noti, president of the Legal Campaign Center, a nonpartisan government watchdog. “People will try to stay in power against the law,” he said.
At least two inquiries into Trump are working on questions about whether to block the agency’s legitimate transfer of power to Democrat Joe Biden’s successor. Trump continues to falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud.
The way to prevent future election sabotage is because “high-level people are going to jail for trying to overthrow the 2020 elections,” Noti said.
“It’s not a good reason,” he said, because Americans feel rude. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Heather Timmons in Washington, Tyler Clifford in New York; Additional report by Anna Gratzer in New York. Writing by Heather Timmons, editing by Donna Bryson and Shri Navaratnam
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