Lots of news to choose from this week for a column topic. The price of a barrel of oil is purportedly set to skyrocket. Caitlyn Clark is the newest NCAA basketball sensation even though her Iowa Hawkeyes team didn’t win the woman’s tournament. There’s a tabloid rumor that Kevin Costner might quit the hit TV show Yellowstone. And, oh yeah, Donald Trump was indicted and arrested in New York City. Hmmm. That last one seems like a pretty big deal. Why don’t we take a look at it.

Just in case you’ve been enjoying life without news coverage for the last couple of weeks, for the first time in U.S. history, a former president is facing criminal charges. A Manhattan grand jury last week indicted Mr. Trump over allegations that he illegally reimbursed his former attorney $130,000 in hush money that was paid to an adult film star. Stormy Daniels claims to have had an extramarital affair with The Donald as far back as 2006. That was part of 34 counts of falsifying business records to which Mr. Trump has pleaded not guilty during his first court appearance.

Some supporters of Mr. Trump are calling the indictment politically motivated. One big reason is that the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, is a Democrat and, shall we say, not one of the former President’s biggest supporters. It’s also been claimed that the charges against Trump were somewhat suspiciously bumped up from misdemeanors to felonies. No doubt all those allegations will be thoroughly dissected by anyone with a law degree who can get face time on a news program.

There’s another faction of folks, some of whom are Trump backers and others who don’t necessarily have a great love for Mr. Trump, who believe that an indictment of this sort against any former U.S. Chief Executive is a really bad precedent to set. The speculation there is that a tit-for-tat may occur for future (and even past) presidents. To that point, there are definitely some Republicans who think current President Joe Biden and his family may have been involved in some shady business dealings. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that once Biden is out of office, a Republican D.A. somewhere might decide to empanel a grand jury to look into his affairs. And who’s to say whether Bill Clinton or George Bush or Barack Obama may find themselves sitting in a courtroom for who knows what?

While Donald Trump is definitely the first former president to actually be indicted, he’s probably not the first one to whom it should have happened. Case in point: Warren G. Harding and the Teapot Dome scandal in the early 1920s. That bribery scheme sent Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall to jail. Harding himself died in office in 1923, and thus, nothing happened to him.

Of course, Richard Nixon is the most likely ex-president in recent memory to escape what may well have been certain indictment for his role in the Watergate scandal. The cover-up of the ill-conceived and illegal break-in at Democratic party headquarters in 1972 led to Mr. Nixon resigning the presidency in August of 1974. Exactly one month after that resignation, the new President Gerald Ford issued the former President a “full, free and absolute” pardon for any crimes he many have committed or participated in while in office. (I wouldn’t look for any kind of similar pardon for Donald Trump by Joe Biden, by the way.)

One of the most interesting things to come out of Trump’s indictment is his recent surge in popularity. There are polls showing he has more support now in his bid to be the 2024 Republican nominee for President than he’s had for several months. You know, according to the U.S. Constitution, the only requirements for holding the highest office in the land is that you must be at least 35 years old, be a natural born citizen, and must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years. That’s it. Which means even a convicted felon could be elected.

From what I’ve heard so far, not even stalwart Trump haters think there’s much chance he will ever go to prison, even if he were to be found guilty of the charges against him. But if prison time did happen, and he is elected next year, would the White House be declared a prison? Or would the Oval Office be a 6×8 cell somewhere?

Whatever happens, it seems Mr. Trump’s case might not come to trial until this time next year. Huh. How about that? Right in the middle of a presidential race. Well, that ought to liven things up a bit. Those campaigns usually tend to be such dull affairs.

©MMXXIII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer