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Experts on the political and legal implications of Trump's indictment

A former federal prosecutor says Jack Smith's Tuesday indictment of Trump is a message, so people "know how dangerous Donald Trump's actions were."
Experts on the political and legal implications of Trump's indictment
Posted at 8:16 PM, Aug 01, 2023

A range of political and legal experts spoke to Scripps News on Tuesday about the third felony indictment of former President Donald Trump, and what it means for his candidacy as the 2024 presidential race unfolds. 

Neama Rahmani, former federal prosecutor and president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, said Special Counsel Jack Smith sent a clear message with this latest indictment:

"If you read this indictment, it's Special Counsel Jack Smith not only speaking to the judge and the potential jurors in the case, but the American people," Rahmani told Scripps News. "He wants them to know how dangerous Donald Trump's actions were. And this wasn't about just auditing the election results are following his attorney's advice, or someone that really believed that the lost the election. He knew what he was doing was wrong, that it was fraudulent. It was unlawful. So this indictment really is the culmination of all of Jack Smith's work. You're talking about the New York case, right, about Stormy Daniels; even the classified documents case. Those might have been the under cards, but this is the main event; what everyone's waiting for."

SEE MORE: Former Pres. Donald Trump indicted in Jan. 6 investigation

In the new indictment, Trump is charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by obstructing the process of the presidential election; conspiracy to impede Congress' counting of the vote; conspiracy to impede the certification of the electoral vote and conspiracy against citizens' right to vote.

It is the third set of felony charges Trump has been indicted on this year, and the second set of federal felony charges.

Adrian Fontes is the Secretary of State for Arizona, which was named in the indictment. 

He told Scripps News in addition to what it spells for the future, the new indictment is vindication for Arizona officials who came under fire after the 2020 election.

"I was the chief election officer in Maricopa County, Arizona, which was the middle of the action here in Arizona, the place where Donald Trump lied about everything being fraudulent. We were the targets," Fontes said. "Our team that ran a great election in 2020 is now absolutely vindicated. So for all those folks out there who shed all the blood, sweat and tears back in 2020 just to get blamed for something they didn't do, to get lied at and have their integrity called into question — I feel vindicated for them and for myself and for all of the voters in Arizona."


SEE MORE: Pence, other GOP presidential hopefuls comment on Trump indictment

Political analyst Michael Starr Hopkins points out what we know of the indictment so far shows that it's not a partisan undertaking.

"The people who are flipping on Donald Trump, the people who are telling exactly what happened are Republicans," Hopkins told Scripps News. "These are Republican judges who rejected Trump's lawsuit in 2020. These are Republican judges that are rejecting the idea that Donald Trump did was appropriate. You know, when you have Rudy Giuliani, when you have Mark Meadows, when you have people who are known conservatives saying that what Donald Trump did was an attempted coup, you can't blame this on political motivations.

Rina Shah is a Republican advisor for Vote Run Lead, a nonprofit that trains and supports women who run for office.

She says while the new indictment may change some of the rhetoric around the 2024 race, it doesn't disqualify Trump from running.

"What we learned is that this was this power play that included other people, all for what? For Donald Trump to remain in power," Shah said. "Now, what happens from here is to be determined, right? Are we going to see Capitol Hill Republicans continue to call out and say that Trump is a victim, having indictments rain down on him for no reason? I think we'll see less of that, actually, because as you pore through the 45 pages what you realize here is that this was a president who was desperate to remain in power. But at the end of the day there's one reality. No charges he currently faces disqualify or stop him in any way from running or serving as the 42nd president of the United States."

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