Trump trial: how robust is democracy?

Former US President Donald Trump has appeared in court in Washington. At his third trial he is charged with attempting to falsify the 2020 election results and for his role in the storming of the Capitol on 6 January 2021. The media agree: much is at stake in this trial - not just for Trump but for the US as a nation.

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Aargauer Zeitung (CH) /

His web of lies will be debunked

The indictment has a catch but will still hurt Trump, writes the Aargauer Zeitung:

“Ultimately there is no solid proof for Smith's main charge: that Trump not only lied after the 2020 election, but that in full knowledge of the facts also did all he could so that he would be falsely declared the winner. ... Politically, however, the indictment is poison for Trump, even if his fans are now complaining about a witch hunt. Because the special investigator is forcing the former president to repeat in court, under oath, his abstruse theories about the last presidential election. In doing so, Trump will alienate a majority of the population in the 2024 election campaign. Because most Americans want to finally talk about their own problems again, not Trump's.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Voters and not lawyers must condemn Trump

Berlingske is sceptical about the role of the judiciary:

“Is it up to the lawyers and the Department of Justice to dismantle the dangerous Trump, especially now, in the middle of the election campaign where Trump looks set to be the presidential candidate? Or should it be the voters? ... For the sake of America's democracy, it should be the latter. ... Even if he proves to be convicted on several counts, they may well end up being his strongest cards in the upcoming election campaign. They give him the platform to create the perfect stabbed-in-the-back legend. The role of the martyr and the distrust of democracy contained therein appeal to him - and could beguile many of his supporters.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Legal system stretched to the limit

A Trump election win would be a tough test for the US justice system, Dnevnik comments:

“If Trump actually won, it would throw the US even more off course that it is now. He could order the Attorney General to discontinue the investigation against him. He could even pardon himself. Constitutional lawyers are not clear whether this possible, which would mean the case would probably go to the Supreme Court, where Trump nominated three of the nine judges. This would be a tough test for any fully functioning democracy with a healthy justice system.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Now only crossed fingers will help

NRC warns against underestimating Trump yet again:

“His combination of playing the victim and end times rhetoric seems to be propelling him towards the party nomination. In the meantime he is emptying the pockets of small donors to finance his legal costs. What remains unclear is whether swing voters and moderate Republicans will be convinced by this when it comes to the actual race. But Trump was underestimated before - and won in 2016 with fewer votes than his rival. With Trump as candidate and defendant in court, American democracy stands before an unprecedented stress test, and the rest of the world can only keep its fingers crossed that it will end well.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Trump the favourite despite grave allegations

Notwithstanding the charges Trump remains the favourite Republican candidate, journalist Alan Friedman explains in La Stampa:

“The new charges are much heavier than the previous ones, centred on the illegal possession of Top Secret CIA and Pentagon documents and other sensitive material for national security. ... These new allegations would show that Trump was guilty of conspiracy to order his staff with criminal intent to destroy evidence prosecutors had requested. ... Nevertheless it is probable that Trump will still win the nomination. ... Each time he is indicted, his election projections improve or remain the same. ... It is therefore unlikely that anyone could challenge the former president with any hope of success.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Disqualified for political office

The Republicans should have expelled Trump long ago, Die Presse complains:

“At stake now is the very heart of American democracy - and ultimately perhaps even its very existence. If, like Donald Trump, you refuse to recognise the real election results, you refuse to accept defeat and you refuse to hand over power peacefully, you are violating an inviolable basic principle of democratic order. To act like this is to disqualify yourself for political office. ... The Republicans failed to expel Trump from their ranks immediately after the shameful attack on the heart of American democracy. They remain hostage to him to this day.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Separation of powers at risk

The US is really being put to the test, fears Simon Petite, US correspondent for Le Temps:

“The president has the power to pardon anyone convicted. Could he pardon himself? ... The institutions had already been shaken on 6 January 2021, when the president's supporters stormed the Capitol. Two and a half years on, Donald Trump shows no remorse and is storming the White House once again. If he succeeds, it is to be feared that he will expand his prerogatives. ... He would do so by relying on the legitimacy of the people against that of the judges. He has already attacked the transfer of power, what remains is the separation of powers.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Democracy under threat not only in the US

Jyllands-Posten sees the case as symptomatic of a growing political sickness:

“Trump is symbol and symptom of a terrible polarisation and a standstill in democratic dialogue that is shored up by social media. And an increasingly spineless political class that is entirely out of touch with the people it purports to represent. These are phenomena that will not disappear with Donald Trump, and his escapades only highlight how fragile democracy is. Things we have always taken for granted are now at risk. Everything can collapse very suddenly.”

Večernji list (HR) /

The problem is much bigger than Trump

The ex-president is a symptom of the deeper problems in US society, Večernji list writes:

“Trump's voters are convinced that the entire system is pitted against them; that the FBI, the media and Hollywood are 'left-wing activists' and that Trump is the only one who has ever stood up to them. ... It is not yet clear whether impeachment will finally turn some voters away from the ex-president. Nevertheless it seems increasingly clear that Trump is a symptom, not the cause, of American divisions. If this anti-democratic impostor has convinced the desperate half of America that only he is fighting for them and against the politically correct left movement, then perhaps the problem is bigger than Trump.”