The View From India | What’s next for Trump after conviction?

Updated - June 03, 2024 04:32 pm IST

Published - June 03, 2024 12:34 pm IST

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends UFC 302 at Prudential Center on June 01, 2024 in Newark, New Jersey.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends UFC 302 at Prudential Center on June 01, 2024 in Newark, New Jersey.

(These article is part of the View From India newsletter curated by The Hindu’s foreign affairs experts. To get the newsletter in your inbox every Monday, subscribe here.)

Donald Trump last week became the first former American President to be convicted of felony. A New York jury found him guilty of all 34 charges in a case relating to hush money that he paid to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, in 2016. Mr. Trump, who is set to win the Republican nomination for the November Presidential election, was found guilty of falsifying business records after the payout to Daniels and of election fraud as he hid the information from the voters on the eve of the 2016 presidential elections. The judge will issue the sentence on July 11, just ahead of the Republican National Convention where Mr. Trump is all set to be crowned as the party’s candidate.

Will Mr. Trump go to prison? It’s up to the judge. The charge of falsifying business records is punishable under U.S. law for up to four years in prison. But the judge will take a decision considering several factors, including Mr. Trump’s age (77), lack of previous conviction, the non-violent nature of the crime and the fact that the convict is a former President. Many believe Mr. Trump could walk away with a fine. Even if he is sentenced to a prison term, he can seek bail, and Mr. Trump has already made it clear that he is going to appeal the verdict.

Does it bar him from contesting the election? No it doesn’t. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that bars a felon from standing in the election. The only conditions that presidential candidates would have to meet to seek election to the Oval Office, as this editorial by The Hindu notes, are that they must be a natural born citizen, be at least 35 years old, and must have been a U.S. resident for at least 14 years. So even if Trump is sentenced to prison, he will stay on the ballot; and if he wins the November election, he can, in theory, govern the country from behind bars.

Now what’s to be seen is how the conviction is going to affect Mr. Trump’s election prospects. Mr. Trump has claimed that the legal battles he is facing is part of a larger conspiracy. He says he is innocent and that the real verdict will come on November 5 (election day). Different Republican factions seem to be united behind Mr. Trump, as of now. The Trump campaign is trying to use the conviction to their favour, while the Biden team is asking whether Mr. Trump is morally fit to be the country’s President. These are unusual times for America. And in the months towards the election, the political faultlines in the U.S. are expected to be sharper.

ANC loses majority

Voters in South Africa dealt a huge blow to the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the party that led the country out of Apartheid, in the May 29 general election. A final ballot count showed that the ANC’s support sinking to just 40%, from 57.5% in 2019 and 70% in 2004. For the first time since 1994, the party will not have a majority in South Africa’s Parliament. The results were not surprising. The party, under the leadership of Cyril Ramaphosa, was struggling to retain its support base amid economic woes, widespread crimes, corruption scandals and intra-party factionalism. After 30 years of the ANC’s rule, the gap between the richest and the poorest South Africans still remains wide. Roughly 42% of the country’s workforce is unemployed and nearly two-thirds of South Africa’s Black majority are still living in poverty, compared to 1% white South Africans. Mr. Ramaphosa now faces the tough job of forming a coalition to keep the ANC in power. He has two options. One is to tie up with uMkhonto weSizwe, the new left-wing party led by his former President Jacob Zuma which polled 15% of the vote or join hands with the rightwing Democratic Alliance, which won 22% of the vote. Irrespective of the decisions he takes, his primary challenge would be to arrest the decline of the ANC.

This decline was set in over the years. See this profile of the ANC, which discusses the party’s heroic legacy and its present troubles, written by my colleague, Srinivasan Ramani: African National Congress | A party in decline.

Top 5 stories this week:

1. What are the hurdles to a two-state solution? With Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation since 1967, how will a Jewish and Arab state be demarcated? Stanly Johny explains in The Hindu FAQ.

2.This is not the first time that Palestine has attempted to obtain U.N. membership. In 2011 too, its request was opposed by the veto-bearing U.S. in the UNSC, writes C.S.R. Murthy.

3. The geopolitics around India’s play in Chabahar and Iran’s leverages are interesting, writes Kabil Taneja.

4.The man who could be the next British Prime Minister has toned down many of his early leftist promises and has brought the Labour party to the centre, focusing on economic stability, workers rights and climate justice, writes Joan Sony Cheriyan in The Hindu Profiles.

5. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive believes the controversial National Security Law has ‘restored peace’ and was necessary to guard against ‘undercurrents that try to create troubles’ in the city, writes Saumya Kalia.

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