Trump’s 2nd indictment amplifies partisan struggles, may impact 2024 race: experts

July 22, 2023

The second court appearance in less than three months for former US president Donald Trump ended on Tuesday (local time), with the Republican presidential candidate pleading not guilty to classified documents-related charges. No matter the result of the case, it drops another bomb into the 2024 US presidential race, once again exposing an escalated partisan struggle as well as the social split in the superpower, Chinese analysts said. 

According to multiple US media outlets, Trump pleaded not guilty to 37 charges related to alleged mishandling of classified documents at a federal court in Miami, Florida. 

Trump is the first US president – current or former – to be hit with a federal criminal indictment. He was arraigned in April in New York on charges that he falsified business records for a hush-money payment to former porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election, media reported.

But no matter how many times Trump faces charges, he can run for president while he is under investigation or indictment. Also, he can run even if he has been convicted, according to legal experts.

After the hearing, the twice-indicted former president, who turns 77 on Wednesday, briefly addressed reporters that “I think it is a rigged deal here.” 

“We have a rigged country, we have a country that is corrupt. We have a country that’s got no borders, we have a country that’s got nothing but problems. We’re a nation in decline. And then they do this stuff,” he said.

According to the AP, a justice department court filing, which involves the classified information recovered from Trump’s residence, is dated August 2022. But the charges came nearly a year later at a time when the election season has started in the US and the 2024 presidential contest is well underway. 

“If it were not election season, would it really not matter whether Trump is problematic or not? What has become of American justice? It is not to correct wrongs or errors, but to serve special interests,” Diao Daming, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Chinese analysts pointed out that the US has reached an unprecedented period when partisan struggles have risen to such a level that judicial means are being used to resolve partisan disputes. In the history of the US, there has never been a former president who has faced federal charges. The entire US judicial system is now caught in a political vortex, they noted.

Under such circumstances, there could be no clear outcome in the case considering the presiding judge, Aileen Cannon, was nominated by Trump to the bench in 2020. Therefore, she can control the pace of the proceedings and set a trial for a year or two later, Diao believes.

If it takes a year, it will not happen until next summer, and by this time next summer Trump could have gained the 2024 GOP nomination, Diao said. 

The case may not affect Trump’s nomination, but it could challenge the public support for Trump during the 2024 presidential race, Diao noted.

According to The New York Times, Trump gained in the polls the last time he was charged in April over the alleged hush money case. It is unclear if the public will be so supportive this time. 

A Yahoo-YouGov poll conducted in late May showed 63 percent of Americans called “taking highly classified documents from the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve them” a serious crime; a similar percentage feel that he should not serve as president if convicted. 

The 2024 election is going to be very strange with potentially the two oldest candidates in American history, with neither Trump nor Biden very popular, analysts said.