Professor Inderjeet Parmar comments on charges of fraud brought against former US President Donald Trump.

By Hamish Armstrong(Senior Communications Officer), Published

Donald Trump has become the first former President of the United States to be indicted. In connection with failing to disclose so-called ‘hush money’ that is alleged to have been paid to former adult actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 to prevent her exposing an affair, charges have been brought against Mr Trump as he seeks re-election in the next 18 months and leads GOP national opinion polls in the lead up to the primaries.

Inderjeet Parmar, Professor of International Politics at City, University of London, and author of The Trump administration, the far-right and world politics, and Trump’s coup and insurrection, said that while he was not surprised by the charges, others had done worse previously without facing indictment.

“Donald Trump’s indictment has been coming for years,” Professor Parmar said.

“The most surprising thing is it’s the first time a former President has been charged.

“Thinking back to President Nixon and the Watergate scandal, not to mention secret bombing and war crimes in Cambodia, what Mr Trump is alleged to have done in regard to Stormy Daniels is nowhere near as severe. However, there is no doubting that it might’ve had an impact on his personal image and therefore the outcome of the 2016 US Election.”

In terms of what a guilty verdict might mean for Trump’s popularity or even prospects of re-election, Professor Parmar said only time would tell, but senses a growing level of fatigue among Republican voters.

“We will need to wait and see the outcome before knowing the harm it could do to his image,” Professor Parmar continued. “But it is already clear that his White Christian evangelist base remains solidly behind him.”

If Trump is acquitted, then he will be boosted in his campaign to win the Republican nomination in the primaries. Acquittal empowers him and allows him to cry political persecution, as well as proclaiming himself as a fighter for liberal American values and more moral authority – which could not be further from the truth.

“However, win or lose, many within the Republican Party have been sobered by his chaotic and personalist presidency, longstanding belief that the 2020 Election was ‘stolen’ from him and the 6 January insurrection. Astutely, they have managed to separate Donald Trump himself from Trumpism – thus remaining supporters of the policies underpinning his presidency, but tired of his narcissism.”

It is for this reason, Professor Parmar believes, that his would-be political opponents in the race for Republican nomination are keeping their cards firmly close to their chests when speaking out about the indictment.

“When we see the people most likely standing in the way, such as Ron De Santis, Governor of Florida – which is fast becoming a ‘laboratory’ of Trumpism without Trump with its policy agenda – it is clear the biggest sell they have to voters is that they are not Donald Trump. And judging by De Santis’ polling in early voting primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, it is effective. But we would be unwise to write off Trump – he has defied the odds before.

A big difference between Trump and his Republican opponents is that they are more experienced politicians. They know how to get things done rather than produce a side show.

“Ultimately, though, Trump is still the most powerful Republican figure in US national politics and they need to tread very carefully when discrediting him.

“There may well have been a ‘cooling off’ of Trump-mania since 2020, but the division of opinion he continues to evoke could have serious ramifications for American democracy.

“The political violence in Washington on 6 January 2021 took the US to the very brink of civil war, according to political scientists who specialise in the field of civil wars. It is back from the brink, but not back very far.

“Trump’s actions on that fateful day, in co-ordination with other leading figures in the GOP, law enforcement and national guard, charges which he has yet to face in a criminal court, remain the greatest threats US democracy has faced since the civil war in 1861.

“But America’s political class is still unwilling to come to terms with the full horror and consequences of 6 January, reluctant to face the far-right storm should Trump face the full force of the law. An acquittal in New York could irreparably harm the chances of successfully prosecuting Trump on the more serious charges.

“In that regard, the Stormy Daniels indictment is largely political theatre, a distraction from the really important matter of far-right threats to American democracy from within the GOP and white supremacist allies.

“The world should take heed when one half of the US party political system no longer accepts the outcome of free and fair elections when it is on the losing end.”

All comments can be attributed to Inderjeet Parmar, Professor of International Politics at City, University of London.