The targeting of Trump may be happening without any instigation by Biden, but very few US voters will believe in such a presumption of Presidential innocence, writes Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat
Some time ago, in these columns, it had been pointed out that Donald Trump as President of the US ignored advice given by some of his staff to embroil his rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election in court cases. Such cases were intended to point to the sources of some of the large tranches of money received by the Clinton Foundation, as well as other matters, including mishandling of sensitive data that was confidential.
Wisely, Trump ignored such views and refrained from ensuring the prosecution of Hillary Clinton, who soon began to fade away from the limelight. Technically, President Biden has little influence over the various legal officers who are pursuing cases against Donald Trump, but that he has created an enabling environment for what looks like an attempt at a takedown through the legal system of his most likely rival in the 2024 US Presidential polls is clear.
Given the personality of Trump, which has more than a streak of narcissism in it, it is entirely possible that he genuinely believes that Joe Biden stole the 2020 elections from him. His not making a secret of such a misplaced belief was a factor behind the way in which mob fury was on display on 6 January 2021, when even the US Capitol was attacked by groups of Trump supporters, some of whom were violent.
Did Trump have any supervisory role in what appears to have been a chaotic, leaderless mob and its actions? Improbable. Is it a crime in the US to believe that an election is stolen and to express such doubt publicly? If so, such a statute is not common knowledge. An insurrection denotes a planned effort at overturning a government, and this would involve the takeover of several offices across the national capital, and not just the vandalising of what has long been termed the People’s House.
By calling mob violence an insurrection and by casting the then President as its principal organiser, the events of 6 January appear to the disinterested observer to have been weaponized so as to try and ensure that adverse action against him by the law prevents Trump from contesting the 2024 polls.
While Merrick Garland as a Federal judge was exceptionally competent, and ought to have been in the Supreme Court but for the machinations of then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose footnote in history is assured by the manner in which he succeeded in placing ultra-conservative individuals within the Supreme Court. While Garland was a great judge, he has been less successful as Attorney-General, as witness the rising curve of crimes in the US, including murder through mass shooting.
Not merely Trump but his three children by his first wife have been dragged into the courtroom to be cross-examined, and possibly face criminal indictments themselves in the way in which their father has been subjected to. It may be that all this is happening without any instigation by President Biden, but very few US voters will believe in such a presumption of Presidential innocence. For Donald Trump, these cases, and even possible jail time, may help boost his re-entry into the White House.
A 76-year-old former President of the US and three of his children being subjected to a flurry of cases and the accompanying inquisition was expected by the Democratic Party leadership to knock Trump out of the Presidential race. Instead, he appears set to be the challenger to the Democratic nominee.
It may be remembered that this columnist had during the initial months of Biden’s term suggested that he announce that he would not be running for a second term. Such an act of self-abnegation would have not just brightened his appeal, but would have enhanced the chances of getting some of the truly transformative social agendas that President Biden has proposed get passed into law. Once it became obvious that Biden was hankering for another term in the White House, every initiative, every recommendation, of his was regarded as politically motivated and treated accordingly.
It is uncertain whether US Representative Rashida Tlaib will survive a primary challenge after having hauled Israel through the coals as a consequence of its measures against Hamas after 7 October. What is clear is that she is among the many who sense that a second term for President Biden is a fantasy, hence her open expression of contempt for the individual who is the leader not just of her party but the country. More than anything that the other side does, it is the missteps of a side that doom it to failure, and such is proving to be the case for President Biden.
This is despite the fact that overall, his record has been far better than that of several of his predecessors. Biden may plead non-involvement in the way in which Trump is being hounded in contrast to the way Hillary Clinton was treated during 2017-21, but the perception that he is the mastermind of such an attempted takedown of the Republican frontrunner is almost total within not just the US but in several parts of the world.
Even the New York judge in the civil case against him is helping in ensuring sympathy for Trump by his remarks during Trump’s somewhat rambling defence of his actions. The NY Attorney-General said that numbers do not lie. But are the numbers being stated necessarily accurate? If Trump makes it back into the White House in 2025, the cases against him would in a contrarian way have provided the fuel needed to have got him back into the job he lost in 2020.