Former US President Trump incited a right-wing insurrection. But that’s not why he’s being indicted

A Manhattan grand jury has indicted Trump in connection to hush money that he allegedly paid to cover up an affair. This does not even scratch the surface of his many crimes

March 31, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Rioters storm the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 (Photo: Tyler Merbler)

On March 30, former US president Donald Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury based on charges levied against him by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. These charges are in connection to hush money that Trump allegedly paid to pornstar Stormy Daniels to cover up an affair when Trump was first running for president. This money could constitute an illegal donation to Trump’s campaign. 

Trump is likely to be arraigned on Tuesday. While he could be arrested, it is most likely that he will surrender himself to avoid a spectacle. However, people in the US will see a mugshot of a former president for the first time in history.

Although sitting US presidents are legally immune to indictment, former presidents are not, however, a former US president has never been indicted for a crime. US leaders have committed many crimes, but for over 200 years, US presidents have been essentially above the law. This has just changed.

However, it is notable that of all of Trump’s many criminal acts, it is this relatively minor infraction that could land him in prison. Moreover, Trump can still continue his campaign for president—even from prison.

Donald Trump incited a riot on January 6, 2021, when he claimed that the 2020 election which he lost to Joe Biden was “stolen” from him and riled up a crowd of his supporters who proceeded to carry out a deadly attack on the US Capitol building. While a few insurrectionists with no political power have faced some legal consequences for their actions, the most powerful architects of January 6, such as Trump, were never held accountable.

Trump, during his time in office, oversaw numerous operations in direct violation of international law and the UN Charter such as the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, the attempted invasion of Venezuela, the backing of the ultra-right coup in Bolivia, the declaration of Jerusalem the capital of Israel, the escalation of sanctions against countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, and the crushing of the aspirations of the people of Palestine, Western Sahara, and Yemen.

Trump also oversaw a vast redistribution of wealth to the already ultra-wealthy through the 2017 tax cuts for the rich, which cost the nation at least USD 1.5 trillion. These are public funds that one could argue were effectively stolen from the people of the US, most of whom have difficulty paying weekly expenses. His delayed pandemic response, in which he undermined his own government’s efforts to contain the virus, made the United States the leader in COVID-19 deaths globally, a title the nation still holds.

This list still only scratches the surface of Trump’s crimes against working and poor people across the globe. For these, he faces no threat of arrest. Although former US presidents are no longer de facto above the law that governs the rest of the country, the question remains if Trump is truly being brought to justice.