Trump guilty: The perfect storm on the Republican Party

Stormy in English it means “stormy” and it is to be believed that some turbulence in these hours has really affected the Republican Party of the United States, increasingly close around the leader Donald Trump, hit precisely by the judicial storm which sees him first among American presidents in history to have been convicted by a court. Furthermore, in relation to a rather scandalous affair, which involves a porn star who was given money so as not to testify about the tycoon's escapades.

Not only is Trump the first former president to be found guilty of a crime, but he is also the first major party presidential candidate to be convicted of a crime in the midst of campaigning for the White House. And if he defeats Joe Biden in November, he will be the first sitting president in history to be convicted of a crime.

A Manhattan jury has in fact found Donald Trump guilty of all 34 charges of document falsification, a historic and unprecedented verdict. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, announced last year that he had indicted the former president on charges of having falsified the reimbursement of his former lawyer Michael Cohen to cover a $130,000 payment that Cohen had then shot at adult film star Stormy Daniels, in order to prevent her from revealing the alleged affair between her and Trump before the 2016 election.

Trump obviously always denied the affair and, after hearing the sentencing, declared after leaving the courtroom: «This trial was rigged and it is shameful. The real verdict will be on November 5, by the people, they know what happened here and everyone knows what happened here today”, then attacking both the judge presiding over the case and the prosecutor who prosecuted it. «We didn't do anything wrong. I am a very innocent man” he commented in front of the microphones of the delighted press, promising that the fight continues.

What happens now? Meanwhile, Trump's conviction on all charges in his first criminal trial reaffirms a principle on which the United States is founded, namely that all American citizens are equal before the law and that no one, not even a former billionaire (and perhaps future) president, enjoys impunity. Which would be good news, except that Trump's authoritarian outburst minutes after the guilty verdict and the rush of leading Republicans to join his attack on the justice system already underline “how much these fundamental values ​​are now threatened” as wrote analyst Stephen Collinson.

In fact, the United States is profoundly divided between two completely different and distant visions of America, with the extreme wings of the parties and the respective currents that in Europe we define as “extra-parliamentary” increasingly protagonists and prone to violence: on the one hand the “Trump's people” or the radical right with its supremacists, followers of conspiracy theories, armed independence and anti-state militias; that is, to be clear, those who attacked the United States Congress on January 6, 2021. On the other, the left which is not progressive but above all radical: that of the cancel culture, of #metoo, of the pro-Palestine students occupying the universities, of the fierce and armed Black Lives Matter; and again, of those who declare themselves Marxists and socialists, who have made inroads into the minds of the new generations who are approaching American politics for the first time.

Of course, the two presidential candidates have not given great proof of themselves or of their understanding of the demands of the American electorate, if the restitution is that of a people divided between democratic metropolises and republican countryside, between the rust belt of disillusioned workers and the cities shocked by racial protests, and which has made the cradle of democracy a polarized and dangerous country in itself, in a climate of low intensity civil war.

«What has changed in recent years?» reflects Federico Leoni, author of two seminal essays on the contemporary USA, Fascists of America And America Vs: «A lot has changed, but not the substance. The pandemic lost its grip, a couple of wars broke out, Trump ended up at the center of legal events which paradoxically (but not surprisingly) gave him an advantage in the primaries. Now in the Republican Party to beat Trump you have to be further to the right than Trump, and even this may not be enough. Of course, extremism is useful in primaries but counterproductive in general elections, but how do you get to the general elections if you don't win over the base first?” Today, Leoni continues to reflect, «to obtain a majority you have to please a minority: it is one of the many contradictions in which American politics is involved, and those who pay the consequences are the many moderate citizens who still exist, but whose voice is overwhelmed by shouts of extremists.”

Yes, the extremists. But what happens if the first extremists are precisely the leaders of the State? As the troubled history between the four-time Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the Italian judiciary teaches us, it cannot be the judges who keep people out of politics. And, at least of this, the Democrats are aware: «There is only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the polls. Convicted or not, Trump will be the Republican candidate for president”, declared the communications director of the dem campaign, Michael Tyler. «The threat that Trump represents to our democracy has never been greater» Joe Biden himself is convinced, who however recognizes to his opponent that the final judgment on the former president will only come with the general elections.

When in Italy in the summer of 2009 the case of the former escort Patrizia D'Addario ended up at the center of an investigation by the Bari Prosecutor's Office into a prostitution ring set up by the Bari businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini, who allegedly accompanied young girls to residences of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the sentence for perjury (which only affected the president) paradoxically brought grist to Forza Italia's mill, with the government remaining in office until November 2011 and certainly not falling due to a conviction on its moral conduct but rather for economic and financial reasons, and this despite many other much more relevant legal problems involving the prime minister.

So today Donald Trump, who will appeal at the first opportunity (his lawyers have 30 days to present the appeal request and 6 months to present the full appeal), certainly does not risk ending up crippled at the polls due to an affair as sleazy as paying for an escort via a lawyer, nor will the judge in New York State – where the penalty for the crime for which Trump was convicted ranges from 16 months to 4 years in prison – probably force him to spend time in prison :It is much more likely that the Republican candidate will have to undergo probation and house arrest, given that he is a 77-year-old man with no criminal record. Or even the sentence will be suspended pending the appeal.

We will know in July, but in the meantime this historic sentence offers a possible advantage to Donald Trump: that of declaring himself the victim of a system that wants to silence the voice of “his” people. And, usually, as Berlusconi's judicial saga teaches, this has a lot of influence among the electorate. Which means that on the one hand the conviction does not shift the Americans' judgment on their former president by a single vote, on the other it polarizes the political parties more and more, awaiting the great day in which America will decide who is worthy of lead the superpower into the future. In both cases, this morning too Americans are thinking more about the inflation data than about the judicial troubles of the most hated president ever since Nixon.