As the nation awaits the details of the indictment of former president Donald Trump, many Americans are left wondering what the aftermath will look like.
David Bateman, professor of government and policy at Cornell University and expert on democratic institutions, says the country could face enormous consequences if the former president is later nominated as the Republican front runner for president following his indictment.
Randy Zelin, professor of law at Cornell Law School and noted trial attorney with a concentration in white collar criminal defense, says that while a felony case against the former president may be weak, the misdemeanor is open and shut.
“There is no historical precedent for one of the two major parties to nominate a candidate on trial or potentially convicted. The consequences for the country would be enormous. Timing and the GOP response will be crucial to averting the worst.
“A trial would potentially begin in earnest during the critical primary period and might last into the general election campaign or beyond. If he were to be convicted before or during the primaries, party elites would have to decide whether to coordinate against him; if he has won the primaries, they would need to decide whether to dump him (an extremely difficult task).
“But an ongoing trial might concentrate attention on Trump, giving him some advantages in a GOP primary (while not seriously diminishing his ability to campaign) and limiting Republicans’ ability to coordinate against him until it was concluded. And if he is elected despite being convicted, we would be in a constitutional crisis without any guidance for its resolution.”
“A grand jury returned the indictment. A bunch of ordinary citizens. Similar ordinary citizens will decide guilt. This is precisely why the Founding Fathers created the grand jury and petit jury, as a check against the power of the government. It’s up to the citizens to decide ultimately, not the government.
“The felony case may be weak. It may not survive a motion to dismiss the indictment. The misdemeanor, however, is open and shut.”