NEW YORK (AP), The most important words that former President Donald Trump spoke after he was charged by the Manhattan District attorney with 34 felonies last week were 'not guilty. However, the most important political statement may be 'election interfere.'
Trump repeating those words, which were taken up by other top Republicans show that he is trying turn his historic position of being the first ex-president to be charged with crimes to his benefit. This is another example of Trump's consistent claim throughout his political career that he claims without any evidence that an election was rigged against himself.
Trump made his first court appearance in New York, one of many in which he is currently in legal trouble. He went through all the investigations and labeled them as "massive attempts to interfere with 2024 elections."
Trump stated that the justice system in America has been rendered lawless as he addressed his supporters at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home. Trump said that they are using it now to win elections.
At least 20 of these claims have been made by Trump in social media posts dating back to March 3. The majority of them occurred within the last two weeks. This was accelerated when a Manhattan grand jury appeared to be closing its work and ready to indict Trump. In what many in Trump's orbit saw as an attempt to ward off all the probes surrounding him, Trump announced his latest bid for White House.
Trump routinely claims that an election was stolen from him, even though he has no evidence to support his assertions. Trump claimed that his loss in the Iowa caucuses in 2016 when he was running for the GOP presidential nomination was because of fraud. Trump claimed that undocumented immigrants were the reason he lost the popular vote and won the White House in November 2016. Trump's task force to investigate voter fraud was disbanded without any evidence.
Trump started arguing that the 2020 election would be fraudulent several months before voting began. Trump attacked attempts to relax restrictions on mail voting during a coronavirus pandemic. He then expanded the allegations after losing the election to claim that he had won it. These lies were the catalyst for the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump's attorney general and federal and state election officials have both said that there is no evidence of fraud in the 2020 election. Courts, including Trump's appointed judges, have also rejected the allegations of fraud by the former president.
Steven Levitsky, Harvard political scientist, stated that Trump behaves like a politician caught in legal trouble.
Levitsky stated that he was not the first politician to face criminal charges -- sometimes fairly, other times not -- for playing the political victim card.
Levitsky, the author of "How Democracies Die", said that many former presidents of other nations, when they were prosecuted, claimed it was a plot against their future elections. After he was imprisoned prior to the 2018 elections, Brazil's ex-president Luis Inacio Lula Da Silva complained about this. Silva was released by the supreme court of his country and he won back the presidency in Oct.
Trump's case is notable because his party is repeating the stolen election claims before the next campaign. Last month, Kevin McCarthy, House Speaker, stated that he had directed his party's committee chair to investigate if federal funds were being used to subvert democracy by interfering with elections with politically motivated prosecutions.
Levitsky stated, "That a party is carrying this line is quite unusual."
The New York court charges against Trump stemmed last week from his reimbursements to Michael Cohen of hush funds he paid to his lawyer in the final days of 2016 to Stormy Daniels, a porn actress. They alleged that they had an affair. Some Trump critics see the charges as an abuse of New York law.
Manhattan's case centers around prosecutors' claim Trump falsified company records to pay off the money in order to keep a potentially harmful story quiet while he was campaigning. This is an illegal attempt by Trump to influence the election, they claimed.
Other investigations that involve the former president's attempts to interfere in the 2020 election are also a source of legal concern.
Fulton County, Georgia's prosecutor is investigating Trump's January 2021 phone call to the top Georgia elections officer, asking him to "find" enough votes to declare Trump there the winner. A federal special counsel investigation has been launched by the U.S. Justice Department into Trump's efforts to reverse his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.
Trump is also being investigated by the federal special counsel regarding his handling of classified documents at his Florida estate.
Alvin Bragg, Manhattan District Attorney, answered a question at a press conference on Tuesday that asked if the timing of the case was politically motivated. He said: "I bring cases when I'm ready."
Bragg's office, as well as the Department of Justice, declined to comment on Trump’s statements regarding 'election interference'.
Critics claim that Trump is once more making suspicions about fraud that could harm democracy. Joanna Lydgate (chief executive officer at States United Action), which tracks politicians who support Trump's election lies, stated that they have seen the film before. "We all witnessed what happened on January 6th and we know that this is dangerous.
Trump has repeatedly ignored such warnings and seamlessly integrated his current legal trouble into false allegations he has made for three years regarding Democratic Party wrongdoing that led to his ouster.
Trump lashed out at all the investigations in his Waco rally days before the Manhattan Indictment. He said that it was harder for his opponents to stuff the ballot boxes.
He stated that criminally investigating a candidate is the new weapon used by out-of control unhinged Democrats to cheat in elections.
Trump and other Republicans sometimes contradict themselves. They decry the investigations as an attempt at tarnish Trump, while also predicting that they'll help his bid for the White House.
"I think you will see his poll numbers rise," Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), one of the most vocal supporters in the House, stated at a GOP conference last week. "He's never been more in control." She called the charges of election interference 'unprecedented'
Aaron Scherb is the senior director of legislative affairs at Common Cause. Common Cause has been long critical of Trump's claims of election rigging.
Scherb stated that "Nobody is above law," even former presidents. Running for president can't and should not be used as a shield against wrongful conduct.