Michael McDowell: Donald Trump’s indictment makes his re-election more likely

The issues with the former US president run deeper than the Stormy Daniels case and amount to an attempt to subvert democracy

It is hard to see how attempts by a New York Southern Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, to indict former US president Donald Trump on charges relating to the Stormy Daniels hush-money pay-off will not almost inevitably rebound in political terms by garnering support of grassroot Republicans for Trump’s re-election campaign.

Any prosecution will almost inevitably centre on testimony from Trump’s erstwhile personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as to how a pay-off to Ms Daniels, a pornographic film actor, was made and disguised as a legitimate use of corporate funds.

So, to sustain a conviction, a New York jury will have to hear, and believe beyond any reasonable doubt, testimony from a disgraced and jailed attorney and from a pornographic film actor who sought hush money. The jury will also have to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the payments in question were contraventions of corporate law and electoral law.

Admittedly, a grand jury has heard and acted on such testimony. But the standard of proof before a grand jury is a prima facie standard. A jury trial of Trump could descend into a bitter and protracted political circus played out on TV in every American home with all the uncertainties that attended the famous jury trial of OJ Simpson, where prosecution witnesses ended up on the defensive in relation to motive and reliability.


Trump faces more possible criminal indictments relating to illegal taking of federal classified documents and to illegal attempts to persuade election officials in North Carolina to “find” votes that would reverse that state’s voting in the 2020 presidential elections.

It is also possible that he might face charges arising from the January 6th, 2021 events on Capitol Hill.


For my part, these criminal trial possibilities are distractions from the main issue in relation to the presidential election in 2024. That main issue is simply this: Donald Trump is a dishonest, dangerous and vindictive man who ought never to have been elected to the White House.

I really do not care much if Trump’s infidelity brought him into bed with Stormy Daniels. I never really cared with what Bill Clinton got up to with Monica Lewinsky. The sex lives of US presidents, including Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy, really did not, and do not, matter.

New York has lived with pay-offs to those involved in one-night stands for centuries now. There were even law firms who specialised in such pay-off deals, including the infamous firm of Howe and Hummel about which books have been written.

What is it about the once-proud Republican Party that it can abase and soil itself by nominating such a defective character for election to the highest office?

No. The issues with Trump run deeper than Stormy Daniels. This man is a very, very dangerous demagogue. His attempts to subvert democracy are not merely the unforgivable reactions of a man who couldn’t stomach losing to Joe Biden. He was willing to do virtually anything to tear down America’s institutions and constitution to prolong his tenure as president.

He attempted to suborn his own vice-president to reject the certified votes of the people. He convened the demonstration that ransacked the Houses of Congress. He dog-whistled support from racist extremists. He waved the Bible in a nauseating staged march to a church in Washington. He pardoned those who collaborated with his own illegalities. He hired and fired an assortment of cabinet members and advisers most of whom eventually testified to his total unsuitability for office.


He invented and embellished the profound lie that the 2020 election had been rigged and that he had in fact won that election. He used Fox News to stoke up dissemination of that lie, even to the point that we now know that Rupert Murdoch had private misgivings about the damage it was doing. The result of his megalomania and dishonesty is that the American public, to a not insignificant extent, believes his lies.

The coterie of lawyers that converged on the White House during his last days did their level best with wild schemes, theories and bogus lawsuits to create a legal pretext for the first attempted coup in American history.

And yet he seeks re-election. What is it about the once-proud Republican Party that it can abase and soil itself by nominating such a defective character for election to the highest office? They have the resources and the history that would easily allow them to find a candidate worthy of election and capable of commanding the respect of the free world.

How is he at heart any better or more worthy of confidence and trust than Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping?

We saw the dreadful experiment in the United Kingdom – or more properly in England – that led to the election of Boris Johnson. In electing people known for their untrustworthiness and opportunism, we witnessed at first hand how faith in democracy is thereby imperilled.

By comparison with what is really at stake, the Stormy Daniels pay-off is a grotesque and dangerous distraction.