Trump indictment: He could be running the country from prison. What a fitting next step in his political career


Hillary Clinton is too nice a person, too good a stateswoman and too sensible to organise a huge rally, and have, say, Bill, Barack and Joe along and have her supporters really get stuck into a chorus of “Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!” But it would be kinda fun, wouldn’t it?

America seems a nation built for litigation – the recent bizarre skiing accident featuring Gwyneth Paltrow being a case in point – and world-breaking litigation, at that.

Donald J Trump is a man built for litigation too, long used to deploying willing but ill-advised lawyers to defend him and his business interests, as the later careers of Rudy Giuliani and Micheal Cohen among demonstrate. Trump himself carries his past legal scars like the battle honours of a distinguished army regiment.

He recounted the litany once again in his post-indictment official statement: “You remember it just like I do: Russia, Russia, Russia; the Mueller Hoax; Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine; Impeachment Hoax 1; Impeachment Hoax 2; the illegal and unconstitutional Mar-a-Lago raid; and now this. The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump’, but now they’ve done the unthinkable… indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant election interference”.

It’s fair to say he’ll fight the case.

Not only that, though, but Trump will also fight any of the other cases that may be brought against him. The notorious events of 6 January, for example, might yield anything from treason downwards.

There’s a case in Georgia concerning alleged pressure on election officials to find The Donald some much-needed votes. Meantime, the Department of Justice Ned’s to decode what to do about the presidential documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago base.

He loves it. He’d be more than happy to fight four cases simultaneously, like some kind of Marvel comic book hero. He’s nothing without an enemy and a conspiracy to nurture, and the prospect of such a multi-pronged assault must send him into a state of political tumescence.

His supporters run on grudge and grievance like their pick-ups run on gasoline – they needs lots of it. Litigation is fuel for the MAGA base. As my former colleague Amol Rajan asked on the Today programme, what does it say about the state of American democracy that being indicted on serious charges will actually help Trump win the next presidential election?

The even better news for Trump is all this complex legal stuff will fill the headlines for months on end, years even. Trump will dominate the news as much as when he was president. He’ll also be back on Twitter, and we know what that means – Elon Musk gets dragged in. The circus is just beginning.

Little will be settled before election day because American justice is like an elephantine gestation – long and painful, but majestic and unstoppable. It may well be the case that Trump will still be contesting the various cases by the time he gets sworn in, and into his term of office.

Like his fellow autocrats, Netanyahu and Bolsonaro, protracted legal stuff doesn’t bother him. When charged, he will be fingerprinted, have his mugshot taken, and maybe handcuffed, if they can find a pair small enough for those famously dainty fingers.

At some point though, he may be found guilty, and… sentenced to imprisonment. In which case the most powerful nation on earth will be run by a jail bird. That is going to be tricky.

Whatever penitentiary he finds himself in will have to build President Trump special accommodation – the White House Block, with its own Oval Cell decorated with busts of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, and a big portrait of a smiling Ronald Reagan on the wall.

America’s right will take a sudden interest in the conditions of those incarcerated. Visiting hours with the Trump family, members of the cabinet and his hairdresser will be a bit of a spectacular. Trump will have to mind how he goes in the showers, and make friends with the jail’s own power brokers.

He’d need to chair the National Security Council on Zoom calls, dressed in a bright orange jump suit, which will clash horribly with his tangerine complexion. He might decide to nuke Iran for a bet with his cell mate. Everytime he goes down for breakfast they’ll sing “Jail to the Chief”.

As their ultimate commander-in-chief, the prison screws will have to salute Trump before and after every rectal search for drugs. Trump will be able to appoint Supreme Court judges, who may well be in line to hear his judicial appeals against conviction.

In Trump World, as we have come to expect, anything is possible, and nothing can be ruled out. The legal process will grind on in appeal Le to the electoral cycle, in a sort of ultimate Trumpian dystopia.

He has tried to break American democracy on numerous occasions, and he will try again. Of that we may be sure.

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