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Ian Bremmer on Trump's guilty verdict

Ian Bremmer on Trump's guilty verdict
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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. And a Quick Take on another historic day for the US political system.

Donald Trump, former president, running for president, guilty from a jury of his peers on all 34 charges in this New York case. It is an extraordinary day. The United States has never in history had an American president convicted of a felony before. There are, of course, lots of unprecedented things that happen in the US political system, right now. Trump's dual impeachments, both of which led to acquittals, the challenges of the Supreme Court, the speaker of the House, I mean, you name it right now, January 6th, America's doing it. And this is, should not be normalized. And yet, American citizens increasingly come to expect the unexpected from their political system.

This case is, the structurally weakest in the sense it's the least significant crimes that he has been accused of, that he's been indicted for, across the country. We look at, the cases of the mishandling and lying about classified information or, the Georgia efforts to overturn the election or, of course, the January 6th related cases. Those are much more serious in terms of impact on the US political system and the role of Donald Trump as president. But this is the case, that has moved the fastest. And this is the case that has now returned the convictions.

Let's look at the case itself for a moment. The verdict and even the potential jail time that comes from it will have no impact on Trump's ability to run for or to serve as president, should he win. Though it's also true that he cannot pardon himself because they're state charges. They aren't federal charges. So, if he wins, he's still a convicted felon, but he's also president again. And yes, he can still vote. Everyone saying no, he can't vote because Florida says felons can't vote. Yes, but that's if the felony is in Florida. If the felony is someplace else, in New York, and he's not actually in jail, then Florida has a type of reciprocity so that he, that the rules of New York apply, so he can vote for himself. And I'm sure he's going to.

On the legal front, the implications for Trump are pretty small. Prison time is pretty unlikely. Even if they're imposed, they'd be very short. Fines will be small, and Trump is also almost certainly going to appeal this guilty verdict through the New York court system and potentially eventually to the Supreme Court, which is going to take months. that you don't necessarily have given the upcoming election. And during that time, sentencing is likely to be postponed. And the focus of the appeal is going to be on the decision of the prosecution, which was quite controversial and seen to be politicized, to upgrade the charges from misdemeanors to felonies based on the legal theory that the fraud that Trump committed, were attempted violations of a federal law. So, that's the case itself.

What about the election? Does it now make it less likely that Trump wins? Maybe. I might even say probably, but only a little. First point, we are still six months away from this election. That is a very long time. The entire UK election is like six weeks from when they declare it to when it happens. The United States and all of America's collective wisdom, the most expensive, the biggest spectacle, and this is going on and on and on. And I suspect that a lot of what's happening today will feel like history by the time we actually get to November. Now, having said that, independents have consistently said over the past months that they will be less likely to vote for Trump if he is convicted. A lot of them say that, and there are a lot of independents. Fewer people are actually registered as Republicans or Democrats in today's United States. The GOP is very likely to continue to vote for him. In fact, many, I think, will be more strong in their conviction to support Trump because they feel that this is a witch hunt. Now, I do think that there are centrist Republicans that are not comfortable with a lot of who Trump is, but because pretty much every leader of the Republican Party, the governors, the senators, the members of the House, have all lined up behind Trump with loyalty, his coattail effect is probably going to be significant to the voters.

And, you know, Nikki Haley, who continues to poll about like 20%, even though she's already withdrawn, she has come out and said, “I'm supporting Trump. I can't support Biden, I got to support Trump.” Why? Because, she wants to be secretary of state, and her personal ambition matters a lot more to her than whether or not she sees Trump as unfit. And the impact that that's going to have on the election in Trump's favor, I think, is significant. I think she was in a position to make a difference. And she did, for herself. And that is part of the reason why US democracy is in crisis, is because so many political leaders for so long have been making decisions just like that. And that's not just the Republicans. That's the Democrats, too.

Now, I still think Trump can absolutely win again. This is a close race. It's going to be decided in a small number of states. Most Americans have said that what matters to them is not the state of American democracy. What matters to them is abortion, and immigration, and the economy, and inflation. And I suspect that that is still going to be true two months from now, four months from now, six months from now. And that, you know, as much as people were up in arms about the “stop the steal” movement, after January 6th, or as much as they were up in arms about the Access Hollywood tapes when Trump was running against Hillary Clinton, they quickly forgot about it. And I suspect that, you know, this is more significant, but still, ultimately, most Americans are going to continue to vote for what they say has been most important to them. And that's not the state of American democracy.

Again, a big reason why US democracy is in crisis. But perhaps the most important point here is justice needs to be done in the United States. It also needs to be seen to be done. And in the US today, the level of division, the level of mistrust, the level of suspicion among America and citizens means that almost every Trump supporter believes that justice has not been done, that this was a witch hunt, that this was trumped up charges and fake, driven by President Biden himself, to ensure that Trump cannot be president again. That is certainly the belief of a large number of Trump supporters and Trump and his advisers and his campaign, leaders will do everything they can to promote that narrative. And that is incredibly dangerous for a democracy. That is an indication that US democracy is in deep crisis in a way that is much, much more structurally challenging than in any other advanced democracy today. You could not say that about Canada, or Japan, or the United Kingdom, or Germany, or even France, or Italy. It is the United States uniquely among wealthy democracies, that has a political system that large numbers of its people, its own citizens, no longer believe in and don't know what it stands for, don't think it's legitimate.

And that, with two deeply unpopular candidates who stand for radically different visions of the world and the United States is a very, very dangerous place to be. And I think that whoever you're rooting for, whoever you're voting for, the strength of the US political system today is in question. And around the world, those of you that are watching this that aren't Americans, you know, your views of the United States, your willingness to believe in the US and believe in the commitments that the Americans make over time, are being deeply challenged, are being shaken by what you see in the US today, and what you're going to see over the coming months.

I certainly hope that we don't see significant political violence on the back of this, though I think it's certainly possible, and the likelihood of that as the election gets closer is growing. And I certainly hope that the United States is able to run a free and fair election, but it also has to be seen to be free and fair. And there, I don't think that is likely at all, come November. And as an American who considers himself a patriot and believes in my country, I'm deeply concerned and saddened about that. That's not going to make me stop working. It's not going to quiet my voice. It's not going to reduce what I'm saying to all of you out there. But I have to be honest about what I see, and that's where we are.

So, anyway, some thoughts for today. I hope everyone's well, and I'll talk to you all real soon.


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