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Skepticism voiced over Trump indictment

By HENG WEILI in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-04-03 09:50

As former US president Donald Trump prepared to be arraigned Tuesday on a New York indictment, a former US attorney general expressed reservations Sunday about the effect on the legal system.

Former US attorney William Barr, who had a falling out with Trump over the latter's challenging the 2020 presidential election results, predicted the indictment would set off a wave of politically motivated prosecutions across the country.

"The real danger of this thing over the long term," he said on Fox News Sunday, is that "we now have thousands" of district attorneys nationally who because "the Rubicon has been crossed, any one of them can find federal candidates or federal officeholders and so forth, can find some state law they want to pursue the person on and get themselves into the national political arena".

"I do think that this is a watershed moment, and I don't think it's going to end up good for the country," Barr added.

Also, two senators who voted to impeach Trump over the Jan 6, 2021, storming of the US Capitol were skeptical of the indictment.

"It's just a very, very sad day for America," said Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, in an interview on Fox News Sunday.

"Especially when people are maybe believing that the rule of law or justice is not working the way it's supposed to and it's biased — we can't have that," Manchin said. "But on the other hand, no one's above the law. But no one should be targeted by the law."

Trump, 76, is expected to be arraigned, fingerprinted and photographed at a Manhattan courthouse on Tuesday as he becomes the first former US president to face criminal charges. The indictment stems from hush money paid to a porn star before the 2016 presidential election.

Senator Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican who also voted to convict Trump on impeachment charges stemming from Jan 6, questioned the prosecution.

"It's wrong. I'll put it this way — no one should be the target of the law," Cassidy said on Fox News Sunday. "This seems to be more about the person than about the crime."

Joe Tacopina, an attorney for Trump, said Sunday that he expects more details surrounding the arraignment to be resolved on Monday and noted that the Secret Service, which protects former presidents, also has a role to play on Tuesday.

"All the Tuesday stuff is still very much up in the air, other than the fact that we will very loudly and proudly say, ‘Not guilty,'" Tacopino told CNN's State of the Union program.

"Hopefully, this will be as painless and classy as possible for a situation like this," Tacopino added. He said it was unlikely there will be a "perp walk", in which an individual who has been charged is paraded in front of the news media, because of security concerns.

Before the indictment, the grand jury heard evidence about a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in the waning days of the 2016 presidential campaign. Daniels has said she was paid to keep silent about a sexual encounter she had with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied any such encounter.

Word of the indictment surfaced on Thursday, although the specific charges against Trump arising from the investigation led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, have not been made public.

"We're not doing anything at the arraignment because that would be showmanship and nothing more — because we haven't even seen the indictment," Tacopina said.

Tacopina said that Trump's lawyers will review the indictment once it is made public and will look at "every potential issue" to challenge.

"And of course I very much anticipate a motion to dismiss coming because there's no law that fits this," Tacopina added.

A court official said the arraignment is scheduled for 2:15 pm on Tuesday. The official said the judge has asked both sides to submit their positions on whether cameras and video should be allowed in the courtroom.

Trump plans to deliver remarks later Tuesday at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, at 8:15 pm, his office said Sunday.

Trump, who launched his 2024 presidential candidacy in November, plans to fly to New York on Monday from Mar-a-Lago and spend the night at Trump Tower in Manhattan before his court appearance, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters last week.

He is expected to appear before Justice Juan Merchan of the criminal court in Manhattan. Merchan also presided over a criminal trial last year in which Trump's real estate company was convicted of tax fraud, though Trump himself was not charged.

Trump on Friday lashed out at Merchan, saying the judge hates him and treated the Trump Organization "viciously".

Tacopina, however, said Sunday: "I have no issue with this judge whatsoever. He has a very good reputation."

Reuters contributed to this story.

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