There are growing concerns that the charges against Trump will overshadow other investigations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tues accusation against former President Donald Trump in connection with a 2016 hush money payment raises concerns that it could undermine public confidence in what democracy experts see as a far more important investigation.

Trump faces several investigations in connection with his refusal to accept his 2020 loss to Democrat Joe Biden. These include whether he pressured election officials to overturn the results, encouraged wrong voters from battleground states and his role in the events leading up to the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Jeffrey Engel, founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, called this week’s indictment by a New York grand jury “the appetizer to their main course yet to come.”

“The main course is literally democracy at stake and who we are as a nation,” he said.

The New York investigation that led to Thursday’s indictment involved payments made to pornographic actor Stormy Daniels at the end of the 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter. But some fear the charges – which remain classified – could divert public attention the other casesthat focus more directly on attacks on the country’s democratic institutions and traditions.

Larry Diamond, a democracy expert and a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said he was nervous that the New York indictments would “settle out all charges of politicization against him and abuse of justice.” It’s an issue Trump has emphasized on social media and during a recent campaign rally in Texas.

“I certainly wouldn’t choose to handle this most flimsy case first,” Diamond said.

The indictment has already rallied Trump’s supporters, both at grassroots level and in public office. The response to Thursday’s indictment has exposed the deep political rifts that have increasingly polarized the country since Trump’s rise to power within the Republican Party.

Kathy Clark, a retired police officer from suburban Palm Beach County, stood off the road outside Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after news of the prosecution broke, holding a “Trump Won” banner. Clark, dressed in a red, white and blue cowboy hat and vest, said the New York prosecution would backfire.

“People who have been on the fence will see how the government has politicized the justice system,” she said.

Trump has promoted the idea that the Investigations are partial and intended to undermine his campaign as he embarked on his third White House bid. On his social media page, the former president labeled prosecutors involved in the investigation as those who endanger democracy.

Other supporters quickly lined up behind him, including West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican who called the indictment “a political witch hunt and a political persecution.” And the only reason they do that is because they’re scared. They know they can’t beat him at the ballot box. That’s why they resort to these terrible tactics.”

Surveys have shown that a Republican majority still supports Trumps false claim that the Presidential Election 2020 was stolen, suggesting they already believe the system wronged him, despite multiple confirmations of Biden’s win reviewstells and audit in the key presidency Battlefield States.

Trump’s attempts to overturn these results false claims of widespread fraud are the focus of two other ongoing investigations, including his role in trying to stop confirmation of the election results and in the run-up to the violent attack on the Capitol. A special prosecutor is also investigating Trump’s storage of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate, an investigation that could pose the greatest legal threat to the former president.

A separate investigation in Georgia’s Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, examines the pressure Trump and others have put on state officials to overturn the results of the local presidential election. The probe began after a phone call in which Trump urged Georgia’s foreign minister to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory.

The payment Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen made in 2016 to cover up an alleged sexual encounter with Daniels is the least likely to involve an attack on democratic norms. But it’s the detail that best lends itself to Trump’s claim that he is being attacked on partisan grounds.

John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, recently said on CNN that the question is what happens after the indictment. If prosecutors don’t get a conviction, “I think historians will look back and say that was the act that got Donald Trump reelected president.”

Diamond, the Stanford expert, said that despite his nervousness that the New York case will go first, it won’t stop the others.

“The other stuff isn’t just going to evaporate, and I think for the purpose of defending our constitutional system and defending the rule of law … those are the ones that I think should carry the most weight in the public mind,” he said.

Roscoe Howard, a former US Attorney for the District of Columbia, said prosecutors in New York were aware of who they were dealing with and the turmoil that would follow. But he said prosecutors don’t focus on public opinion or the political fallout of a case.

Her concern is not with other investigations, but with whether her case is ready to go to trial, Howard said.

“There isn’t a prosecutor in this country who will bring a case to court that he thinks he’s going to lose,” he said. “They just don’t.”


Associated Press writer Terry Spencer of Palm Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.

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