An Indicted Trump Could Still Become President of the US

An indicted Trump could still become president of the US

It is not an everyday occurrence that a former president of the USA gets indicted by a court. US presidents, both serving and former incumbents to that post, have always been protected against indictment. Till last week, when President Donald Trump was indicted by a New York grand jury on charges that hush money payments were made to an adult film star, Stormy Daniels, who claims she and Trump had sex, and that she accepted $130,000 (more than Rs 1 crore) from his former lawyer before the 2016 elections that he won and became president.

According to US law, the indictment means that now the Manhattan district attorney can move forward with criminal charges against the former president. When a suspect is indicted it means that the grand jury has found enough evidence to charge him with a crime and for the prosecutors to move to the second stage with a case against him.

In 2016, days before Trump was elected president, his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, allegedly wire-transferred the sum of money to Daniels, ostensibly for her to be silent about the alleged “affair” she had with Trump.

How will this affect Trump’s campaign for his bid to be elected as president again in 2024? More particularly, could this hurt his campaign? Or, could it hurt it? 

Scandals are never good for political candidates. If scandals emerge before elections, a candidate’s performance in the elections usually is impacted negatively. In the run-up to the 2022 elections to the US Senate, it was revealed that Herschel Walker, an anti-abortionist Republican candidate, in 2009 had paid for his then-girlfriend to have an abortion. His credibility was dented and he lost a fair share of votes. Could something like that happen to Trump?

Quick opinion polls (conducted before Trump’s actual indictment) have suggested that an indictment could negatively affect his chances of becoming president again. Polls such as those (and there will certainly be many more of them now that he has been indicted) have a downside. Many people who say they would not vote for him probably wouldn’t have done so even if hadn’t been indicted or charged. So it isn’t wise to put too much stock on such opinion polls.

The thing is, however, that Trump continues to be quite popular among Republican voters. According to Civiqs, an online polling and data analytics company, as on March 31, after the indictment, nearly 75% of voters had a favourable opinion of him. Another company, Morning Consult, tracks the Republican primaries, in which party members vote in a state election for the candidate they want to represent them in the general election. After the primaries and caucuses, each major party, Democrat and Republican, holds a national convention to select a Presidential nominee. Morning Consult’s tracker shows that Trump still tops the list of candidates from the Republican party. As many as 52% of potential Republican primary voters would choose Trump. For the record, the same poll found that 26% would choose Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who is also in the race; and just 5% would go for Nikki Haley, the Indian-origin Republican contender for the presidential candidacy.

There could be another angle to Trump’s indictment. The US political scenario is sharply partisan and divisive. Most Republican voters and supporters believe that Trump is being charged unfairly (a Reuters-Ipsospoll says more than 75% of Republicans feel he is being targeted unfairly). Remember that the indictment is not the only potential “setback” that Trump has faced. In 2019, he faced an impeachment inquiry related to the Ukraine scandal in which it was alleged that Trump coerced the president of Ukraine into announcing an investigation of Trump’s rival Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter for malpractices in connection with a Ukrainian company. The inquiry was dismissed by the Senate and the issue did not seem to affect Trump’s popularity. 

As of now, therefore, it does not seem that the latest indictment could have any major negative impact on Trump’s bid for another presidency of the US.

Karnataka polls will be a test for both, BJP and the Congress

Karnataka’s assembly elections will be held on May 10 and the results will be out three days later. For the two most important contenders in the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, the state elections will be an important test. For the BJP, which is in power there now, it will test its attempts to consolidate its sway in Karnataka and indicate whether it can spread its wings further in other southern states. For the Congress, it will test whether the party, which has been slithering down a slippery slope almost everywhere in elections throughout the country, can regain some of its past glory by defeating the BJP’s might. 

In the 2018 assembly elections in Karnataka, the BJP won 104 of the 224 seats beating the Congress, which garnered 80. Since no party won a majority in the assembly, the BJP as the party with the largest number of seats was first invited to form the government. But before a trust vote to prove its majority could be held, the BJP government resigned and a Congress-led coalition government took charge. But in 14 months, some more than a dozen legislators crossed the floor and the Congress-led government collapsed. Since then, it is a BJP government that has been in power in Karnataka, albeit tenuous. 

All eyes will, therefore, be on how the two main national parties fare in Karnataka this time. Expect high-decibel campaigning and pre-electoral firepower from both sides.

The “search” for Amritpal Singh continues

The manhunt for Amritpal Singh, the self-styled chief of Waris Punjab De, a pro-Khalistani group that wants a separate state for Sikhs, has become a sort of a farce. Videos and social media posts keep surfacing with statements from the 30-year-old fugitive who has been on the run since March 18.

Even as Indian security forces comb areas, conflicting reports about where he could be hiding abound. Most recently, via a YouTube post, he claimed to be in high spirits and called upon his followers to unite against the actions of the Indian government. On the live YouTube post, he also urged Sikhs in India and abroad to call a Sarbat Khalsa on the occasion of Baisakhi. A Sarbat Khalsa is a deliberative assembly (on the same lines as a Parliament in a Direct Democracy) of the Sikhs.

Many conspiracy theories, including one that suggests that the Indian authorities are deliberately going slow on apprehending Singh, are doing the rounds. Meanwhile, the young Sikh rebel continues to be at large and his supporters, especially those among Sikh immigrants in UK and the US are becoming more vocal with their protests.

Cheetahs bring cheer to India

Last year, eight Namibian cheetahs were brought into the Kuno national park in Madhya Pradesh. Last week, one of the cheetahs gave birth to four cubs. This is a boost to India’s attempts to repopulate forests with the species. Cheetahs are India’s only big carnivores to have gone extinct. Over the years, forests across India were cleared to develop settlements and set up plantations, resulting in the loss of habitat for big cats, including the cheetah.

The birth of the cheetah cubs, the first time in 70 years after the species became extinct in 1952, is good news for India’s environment and forest conservation.

Gun menace in America

After a 28-year-old shooter who identified as transgender walked into an elementary school in Nashville last week and shot dead three children and three adults, the spotlight is again on gun ownership and recurring gun-related violence in the country. The shooter in Nashville was killed by the police but the controversy over the right to own guns rages on.

The shooter used an AR-15 rifle, which is the best-selling rifle in the US. It is an army-style gun that has no known civilian use. Yet it is popular in the US with one in 20 Americans owning one. 

The Washington Post newspaper asked nearly 400 AR-15 owners, who are mainly white, male, and between 40 and 65 years old,  to explain their reasons for owning the model. 

Most owners said self-defense was the reason for owning an AR-15. Others said it was recreation, target shooting, and hunting, which was why they owned an AR-15. 

The controversy over the right to own guns in America stems from the 2nd amendment of the US constitution, which protects the right to keep and bear arms. It was ratified on December 15, 1791, along with nine other articles of the Bill of Rights. The politics over the amendment and the spiralling rise in gun-related violence, particularly in school shootings, have been raging in the US with sharply divisive opinions about whether it should be modified. The modern debate about the amendment is about whether it protects an individual’s private right to bear arms or should be exercised through regulated organisations such as the National Guard.

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