NC political experts weigh in on Trump's federal indictment

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Friday, June 9, 2023
NC political experts weigh in on Trump's federal indictment
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Former president Donald Trump is once again in legal trouble facing his second indictment in a matter of months.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Former president Donald Trump is once again in legal trouble facing his second indictment in a matter of months. Sources tell ABC News, he's facing at least 7 charges in the first federal indictment of a former president. "This is something that I don't think we've also ever seen in American politics," said UNC Political Science Professor Marc Hetherington.

Sources said the charges range from the willful retention of national defense information to conspiracy to making false statements. The Justice Department has not confirmed the indictment, but it's tied to a months-long investigation led by Jack Smith into whether he broke the law by holding onto hundreds of classified documents at his Florida property after leaving the White House.

"I think we've all been expecting this to happen because there has been so much smoke, even if there hasn't been the fire of an indictment yet. But now that the indictment is here, it still leaves so much uncertainty about what the future will hold," said Hetherington.

Trump using the moment to send a fundraising campaign letter in it he writes, "The Biden-appointed Special Counsel has INDICTED me in yet another witch hunt regarding documents that I had the RIGHT to declassify as President of the United States."

The former president also took to his social media platform Truth where he proclaimed his innocence. "They come after Donald Trump weaponizing, the Justice Department weaponizing, the FBI, we can't let this continue to go on because it's ripping our country to shreds. We have such big problems. And this shouldn't be one of them. It's a hoax. The whole thing is a hoax," said Trump.

Hetherington called the indictment is unprecedented with a serious set of consequences. "I think it's really important to note that if like, you know, you or I did something like this, I think we'd be in jail. You know, right away. The Justice Department has provided the former president, lots of opportunities to try to account for the actions that he's taken."

Political Analyst Mitch Kokai with the conservative John Locke Foundation said one of the things that may help Trump, in this case, is that he can point to other political figures who have also been found in possession of classified documents.

"Look, there's lots of evidence of Joe Biden having classified documents in various places, including the place where he stored his fancy car. And people found classified documents there, people found classified documents with former Vice President Mike Pence. So, this is not something that is unique to Donald Trump," said Kokai.

When it comes to political implications, Kokai said this indictment could either rally Trump's base or hurt his chances for another bid at the White House. But the greatest impact could be among undecided voters. "I think the key is going to be who are the people who can be swayed one way or another? What do they say about this? And also, what does this actually mean in terms of his ability to be able to continue in the political process," said Kokai.

Kokai said we should also pay closer attention to how other Republican candidates like Mike Pence and Ron DeSantis react to Trump's indictment. "I don't think that they really want to come out and say, look at this indictment, it just shows you that Donald Trump's a bad guy, so support me, because they know there's a substantial part of the Republican base that still likes Donald Trump, and they need to have support from those folks."

Trump is expected in court in Miami on Tuesday. "What we haven't seen much yet is the former president's defense, and what the jury in Miami will get is that defense. It's probably not a very good idea for us to prejudge, what we're likely to see in the coming months," said Hetherington.