Changing Perspectives: Americans and the Growing Tolerance for Political Prosecutions

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Recent developments in the legal landscape surrounding former President Donald Trump have sparked significant debate across the United States. While a plurality of Americans perceive the current Justice Department indictment against Trump as politically motivated, a significant number still believe he should face charges. This juxtaposition raises intriguing questions about the potential consequences for future politically-motivated prosecutions and the changing perspectives of Americans toward such cases.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll revealed attitudes toward the Justice Department’s indictment against Trump:

Americans on both sides of the political aisle view these charges as more serious compared to April’s indictment. Republicans, in particular, view the federal indictment as more serious than the New York indictment two months ago.

Overall, 61% say the federal charges related to Trump’s handling of classified documents are serious, compared to 52% answering the same about Trump’s April indictment in New York on charges related to a payment of hush money.

This movement is driven by Americans across the political spectrum. Notably, however, the biggest increase is among Republicans. Now, 38% of Republicans view the federal indictment charges as serious, compared to 21% in April. Democrats have shifted slightly (7 percentage point increase), though the vast majority believed April’s charges to be serious (91% now, 84% then). Nearly two in three independents (63%) view these charges as serious, compared to 54% in April.

The report also noted that opinions on this indictment compared to the last “are stable on whether Trump should be charged for a crime, whether the charges are politically motivated, and whether or not he should suspend his campaign.”

More believe that the former president should be charged in this case (48%) and suspend his campaign (46%) than believe he should not (35%, 38%, respectively).

Overall, roughly half believe Trump should be charged, and should suspend his campaign (48% and 46%, respectively). These views are unchanged from April, where 50% said Trump should be charged and 48% agreed he should suspend his campaign.

On the other hand, 47% view the latest charges as being politically motivated, also unchanged from April (50%). These views are mainly driven by Republicans, while Democrats want to see Trump charged and to suspend his campaign. Interestingly, independents are split, with roughly half agreeing with all three sentiments.

Still, the share of Americans who believe these charges are politically motivated (47%) outnumber those who do not (37%).

The survey’s findings mirror what many members of the chattering class have been saying about the indictment. Rep. Mike Carey (R-OH), during an appearance on NBC4, said:

“You’ve got a very politically motivated DA. You’ve got a judge that actually donated to President Biden. And I think if you look at these charges, they’re going to be very hard to prove. This sets a very bad precedent, I think, for any former President. And my concern is what this does to the institution.”

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) referenced the politics in this situation during a conversation with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, as RedState’s Brittany Sheehan covered.

“Donald Trump — you may hate his guts, but he is not a spy.

“Did he do things wrong? Yes, he may have. He will be tried about that. But Hillary Clinton wasn’t.”

The lawmaker then responded to a question about an audio recording in which it appears Trump is sharing a classified document with an unauthorized individual.

“I don’t know what happened; I haven’t heard the audio. But look at who’s been charged under the Espionage Act: Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning — people who turned over classified information to news organizations … or provide it to a foreign power. That did not happen here.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), while speaking with Steve Bannon, host of the War Room podcast, brought up the curious reality that the Justice Department issued the indictment just as information came to light about a potential bribery scandal involving President Joe Biden.

Yesterday was a very dark day, one of many that we have seen under the Biden regime. It is not a mistake that at the same day that the FBI was forced to finally provide to Congress a document that we are owed because of our constitutional authority and oversight that shows the corruption and frankly, the treasonous relationships Biden and his family members had while he was sitting as vice president. He has been bought and paid for. That’s the same day that Biden’s Department of Justice targets President Trump with an indictment.

The implications of these findings are multifaceted and raise concerns about the potential rise of politically-motivated prosecutions in the future. While a plurality of Americans perceive the current charges against Trump as politically motivated, the fact that a significant portion still believe he should be charged suggests a growing acceptance of such prosecutions. This trend could potentially embolden both Republicans and Democrats to pursue politically-motivated cases, further polarizing the legal landscape.

This is not to say that politicians and government officials should not be prosecuted if they engaged in illegal activity. Indeed, any agent of the state who engages in malfeasance should be held accountable regardless of which team they are on. But the notion that it should be acceptable to prosecute someone based on politics should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who fears a tyrannical government.

If political partisans can leverage the power of the state to target their opposition in government, what is to keep them from doing the same to everyday folks? There have already been plenty of instances in which the FBI has gone after folks on the left and the right based on politics – and it wasn’t pretty.

This dichotomy suggests a shifting landscape where politically-motivated prosecutions may become more acceptable to the public, which is the last thing our country needs at the moment. The implications of this evolving perception raise concerns about the future impartiality of the justice system and the potential for increased polarization. As the legal and political arenas continue to intertwine, it is vital to address these concerns and ensure that justice remains blind to partisan motivations.


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