An immigrant of Colombian origin, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Manuel Merchan will preside over a historic judicial process for good and bad reasons: the first criminal indictment in US history against a former president.
Let me explain: it is good for the health of a democracy to know that no one, not even a powerful, white, male billionaire, is above the law.
The American Union was founded on the premise of equality before the law. Of course we all know that hasn’t always been true.
Article One, Section Two, of the United States Constitution originally stated that any non-free person would be counted as three-fifths of a free individual in determining representation in Congress.
Not only were enslaved African-Americans labeled less than a white man, but the political power of slave-proud Southern states was increased.
But at the same time, the criminal indictment of a former president is an event that tarnishes the Republic: More than 7 in 10 Americans agree that the criminal indictment against Trump is politically motivated, according to a CNN poll.
And it is doubly painful because Trump will spend the next two years presenting himself as a martyr, as the victim of a political manhunt and we will be bombarded by polarizing harangues until the day of the 2024 presidential elections.
Although perhaps the biggest concern is what will happen in the elections, in the scenario that Trump competes as the Republican nominee and loses the elections.
So far, all the signs indicate that the scandal is politically strengthening former President Trump.
In the wake of the criminal indictment, his popularity rose relative to January, he’s been able to raise more than $7 million for his legal defense by flying the flag of victimization, and he extended his lead over his main threat for the nomination, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron De Santis.
But his legal troubles could escalate: There are three more investigations against him still subsisting, with potentially more serious charges.
In Georgia he is being investigated for his attempted electoral manipulation. And the Justice Department is continuing its two separate inquiries into the theft of secret White House documents and his role in the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
There is nothing to celebrate.
In the coming months, the United States will face a litmus test of the strength of its political institutions, from which it may come out stronger or weaker. It is up to everyone, the political class and civil society, to rise to the occasion by showing total respect for the rule of law and the judicial system.