‘Sad day for America’: NYT, WSJ react to Trump’s indictment

Top US newspapers give mixed reaction to historic indictment of former president.

New York Times
The New York Times' editorial board said Donald Trump spent years 'behaving as if rules didn’t apply to him' [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

Donald Trump will be the first former United States president to face criminal charges, following a New York grand jury’s vote to indict him.

The historic announcement by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office on Thursday night followed weeks of speculation about the pending arrest of the former president and 2024 presidential hopeful.

While the specific charges are still under seal, they are believed to relate to a $130,000 payment that Trump’s former lawyer made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

The development prompted strong reactions from across the US, including in influential media.

Here is how the editorial boards of the most-read US newspapers reacted to the news.

The New York Times

The New York Times, which is generally known for its liberal editorial line, broadly welcomed the charges against Trump, who it said spent years “ignoring democratic and legal norms and precedents” and “behaving as if rules didn’t apply to him”.

In an editorial titled Even Donald Trump Should Be Held Accountable, the newspaper said prosecutors were right to investigate Trump despite concerns about the possible ramifications for the US’s deeply divided politics and the presidency.

The Times also dismissed the former president’s claims that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, was motivated by politics.

At the same time, the Times called on Americans to put aside their political views when considering the case and said that Trump was entitled to a “fair trial and the presumption of innocence”, despite his own “indifference to due process for others”.

“The decision to prosecute a former president is a solemn task, particularly given the deep national fissures that Mr. Trump will inevitably exacerbate as the 2024 campaign grows closer,” the editorial board said.

“But the cost of failing to seek justice against a leader who may have committed these crimes would be higher still.”

The Washington Post

The Washington Post reacted cautiously to Trump’s indictment, expressing doubt about the strength of the case against the former president.

In an editorial headlined The Trump Indictment is a Poor Test Case for Prosecuting a Former President, the newspaper opined that the case involving Stormy Daniels is “perhaps the least compelling” of the potential crimes that Trump is being investigated for.

The Post said prosecutors appeared to be pursuing a “novel” and “shaky” case that could jeopardise other more serious charges against Trump, who is also under investigation over his role in the January 6 riot at the US Capitol.

A failed prosecution would also provide the former president with ammunition for his accusations of a witch hunt, the newspaper said.

“Public perception and political strategy shouldn’t dissuade a district attorney from bringing a solid case, but neither should they persuade him to bring a shaky one,” the editorial board said.

“This prosecution needs to be airtight. Otherwise, it’s not worth continuing.”

The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal, which is known for its conservative-leaning editorial board, described Trump’s indictment as a “sad day for the country, with political ramifications that are unpredictable and probably destructive”.

While acknowledging there could be compelling evidence against Trump that has yet to be seen, the newspaper said that analysis from legal experts did not inspire confidence and any prosecution of a former president should involve a serious crime with evidence “solid enough that a reasonable voter would find it persuasive”.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper said the indictment set a dangerous precedent for US politics.

“Mr. Bragg is busting a political norm that has stood for 230 years,” the editorial board said.

“Once a former President and current candidate is indicted, some local Republican prosecutor will look to make a name for himself by doing the same to a Democrat. U.S. democracy will be further abused and battered. Mr. Bragg, the provincial progressive, is unleashing forces that all of us may come to regret.”

Los Angeles Times

The LA Times called Trump’s indictment a “momentous and sobering development”, but concreated its focus on the need to ensure the former president is not returned to office in 2024, regardless of his guilt or innocence.

The newspaper said that while Trump should be afforded the due process to which any defendant is entitled, he had disqualified himself from office irrespective of the legal outcome.

“To those who suggest that the indictment of a former president somehow threatens the office of the presidency, we would argue that nothing would so threaten the presidency, and the nation, as the election of Trump in 2024,” the editorial board said.

“He is a twice-impeached narcissist whose self-serving falsehoods about a stolen election inspired a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol. Convicted or acquitted, Trump must not be returned to the White House.”

Source: Al Jazeera