Donald Trump will receive his indictment this Tuesday, April 4, in the case of the bribes he allegedly paid to the exactriz pornographic Stormy Daniels to buy his silence, while he was a presidential candidate. Interview with Corentin Sellin, historian specializing in the United States.
By Christophe Paget
It is a first in American history: a former president under investigation. Donald Trump has arrived in New York, where he is preparing to appear in court in Manhattan. He seems combative, despite this accusation and the numerous investigations that point to him. On Friday he claimed to have raised four million dollars in 24 hours, after his indictment, to finance his campaign for the 2024 presidential election.
RFI: Can this accusation, instead of being a problem for Donald Trump, serve him politically?
Corentin Sellin: For now, and in the short term, it is an obvious political benefit for Donald Trump. We have seen it since the announcement of the impeachment on March 31: all the Republicans, including those who have positioned themselves in the alternative to Trump, all his rivals, including the most serious of them, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, all have flown in support of Donald Trump against an accusation presented as an act of politics and not a judicial one – under pain of appearing like bad republicans. They have no other choice, because it is clear that Republican voters are unanimously convinced that Donald Trump is the object of political persecution.
RFI: Could Donald Trump, along the same lines, extend the trial of this case so that it arrives in the midst of the 2024 presidential campaign?
Corentin Sellin: Obviously, that could be a hypothesis, but that’s not where we’re headed, because Donald Trump’s lawyers have made their defense strategy clear: ask for a motion to quash the proceeding as quickly as possible, to try to show that the entire proceeding of the Democratic Manhattan prosecutor has no legal basis. What they would like to achieve is, in fact, for the Manhattan prosecutor, Democrat Alvin Bragg, to be disavowed by a judge. If that happened, of course, it would make it much more difficult for other federal or local prosecutors to go after Donald Trump.
RFI: The fact is that, in addition to this first case in which he is going to be charged, there are still many other ongoing investigations that point to the former president.
Corentin Sellin: Yes, indeed, and it is really this entire chain of events that will have to be scrutinized. We know that Donald Trump is being investigated, both for his role in the insurrection of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and for his management of classified files, which he kept for more than a year at his private home, in contravention of the laws of the country. And here, of course, we are sure of possible crimes that are much more serious, even in terms of penalties incurred. One wonders if Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg may not have broken a historic deadlock, that is, indicting a former president for the first time. This could ease the burden on other prosecutors investigating Donald Trump, because now they don’t have to worry about being the first to indict a former president: it’s done. And they could move more directly to new allegations.
RFI: Could these new allegations come before the Republican primaries and the 2024 presidential election?
Corentin Sellin: The first Republican primary election won’t be held until February 2024, that’s almost a year. So many things can happen. And that is why you have to be careful with political analysis: yes, in the short term, today, this benefits Donald Trump on his side. But if there were a lot of accusations, wouldn’t some Republican voters prefer another candidate, perhaps just as radical, like DeSantis, but without all these judicial “pans” hanging over a candidate?