Lorcan Nyhan: Whether as a felon or free man, Donald Trump will be on the ballot in US election

21st Apr 2024
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Originally published in the Irish Independent.

An Irish man will have a leading role in the first criminal trial of a former US president.

The New York Times-reading, Fox News-watching salesman will act as the foreman of the jury tasked with making a decision on the guilt or innocence of Donald Trump.

It provides an Irish angle on one of the most important trials in US ­history.

The trial relates to the $130,000 (€122,000) paid by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to adult film star Stormy Daniels to avoid her revealing, before the 2016 election, accusations of an affair with Trump.

It’s been labelled the “hush money” trial. But it’s a misleading definition.

The trial isn’t about the paying of the money, it’s about the reasons it was paid and then the subsequent cover-up.

Trump is the Republican messiah, their prophet

As the presiding judge at the trial is to tell the jury: “The allegations are in substance that Donald Trump falsified business records to conceal an agreement with others to unlawfully influence the 2016 presidential election.”

So the case hinges on the cover-up and the intention of the payment — and Trump’s knowledge of same.

This trial matters — primarily because of its tangible impact on the November US presidential election.

Will it harm or help America’s most controversial man? The spectacle of the trial itself is a political asset for Trump.

His post-court media statements will become a box office pulpit, a megaphone to motivate his loyal base.

We may roll our eyes when Trump refers to the court proceedings as the “first Biden trial” or as a “deep-state plot”, knowing it’s a ludicrous assertion that this was orchestrated directly by the current US president.

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