Although hundreds of the January-6th “foot soldiers” have been convicted since, including members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers for seditious conspiracy, Trump was only recently indicted in 2023—first by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and later by Special Counsel Jack Smith in connection with his retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago, Florida resort, his sharing of possibly classified information at his Bedford, New Jersey residence to individuals lacking security clearances, and his acts of obstruction of justice.
Although astonishing and unprecedented, the indictment of a former president for the first time in U.S. history was likely vital to preserving American democracy itself. Nontheless, even though the ”red wave” failed to materialize in the 2022 midterms, Trump has announced his candidacy for 2024 and is leading not only the Republican field but is also ahead of Joe Biden in the polls, making a GOP election victory in 2024 an all too real possibility. Despite Trump’s indictments, that possibility entails the very real risk of potentially ending U.S. democracy, with significant consequences not just for Americans but also transatlantic cooperation and European security.
Against this background, Kim Wehle walks through the various guardrails of democracy established by the U.S. Constitution and the system of laws, and explains why and how the only mechanism remaining for staving off unaccountable future crimes in the Oval Office is the criminal justice system. Yet for numerous reasons—including trial delays, the absence of constitutional limits on presidential candidates, the intransigent loyalty of the MAGA GOP, and the threat of a pardon (which is the subject of her next book, out in June 2024), the fate of American democracy in all likelihood remains at the behest of the political process. The stakes could not be higher and the uncertainties could not greater—which is why a working understanding of the structure of the legal and political systems that created this crisis is so critical to a favorable outcome at this pivotal point in history.