'Trump has fallen victim to his own trick' as he faces the reality of prosecution: columnist

'Trump has fallen victim to his own trick' as he faces the reality of prosecution: columnist
Former President Donald Trump speaking in Tampa, Florida in July 2022 (Wikimedia Commons)

After spending years talking about locking up political opponents, thereby normalizing the idea of high-profile lawmakers serving time in prison, Donald Trump could be on the brink of being the first former American president to end up behind bars.

With the announcement that Trump has been invited to appear before a Manhattan grand jury next week in what is believed to be the final step before being indicted for his part in paying hush money to an adult film actress before the 2016 election, the Atlantic's David S. Graham, suggested Trump's exhortation to "lock her up" aimed at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be boomeranging back on him.

"Trump acclimated Americans to many egregious actions by exposure therapy," Graham explained before elaborating, "What was once novel and frightening became familiar; familiarity bred contempt, but also enough acceptance to let Trump get away with a lot. Ironically, Trump may himself now risk falling victim to the same pattern. The idea that a former president might be indicted for a crime has, through repetition, gone from an unthinkable breach of long-settled norms to something so expected that the actual event may feel like an anticlimax."

According to Graham, the idea of indicting a former president has been considered off-limits going back as recently as President Gerald Ford's decision to issue a blanket pardon of disgraced Richard Nixon over fears it would tear the country apart.

However, Trump's divisive rhetoric against his opponents since he first ran for president in 2016 has made what was once considered unthinkable seem like the normal course of events.

"Some strident Trump critics felt that any attempt to prosecute was too fraught to consider, while others felt the rule of law demanded comprehensive investigations and charges if justified, no matter when any crimes occurred," he wrote before adding, "The point is that there was a robust debate. Somewhere that slipped away."

"In a way, Trump has fallen victim to his own trick. During his first campaign and his presidency, he would introduce some astonishing concept, weather the initial backlash, and then repeat it until the population had become numb to it," he explained. "And after all, it was Trump who first normalized the idea of prosecuting a rival presidential candidate. (Perhaps he regrets that now.)"

Graham cautioned, "Like Trump’s use of the tactic to enable his abuses, the normalization of prosecuting Trump is bad for American society," before adding, "This is true even if you believe (as I do) that many of Trump’s actions justify his being charged. The idea that a former president would be indicted should never become commonplace, but the way out is not to be found in prosecutorial discretion one way or another. Instead, it’s on voters."

"A good start would be to avoid electing presidents likely to commit lots of crimes," he concluded.

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