DeSantis threatens to blow up indictment by protecting Trump from extradition
Then-President Donald Trump inspects the Hinds County Jail on display at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss. Now facing his own criminal indictment, the former White House occupant could soon find himself inspecting the bars of his own jail cell. | Susan Walsh / AP

NEW YORK—As soon as a group of ordinary citizens on a Manhattan grand jury exercised democracy by indicting former President Donald Trump for crimes, the right-wing governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, declared that he will not cooperate in any attempt by New York officials to extradite Trump from Mar-A-Lago for arraignment.

Trump’s lawyers claim he will voluntarily surrender next week—the same lawyers who previously swore, falsely, that there were no additional classified documents at their client’s golf club. Trump himself, of course, has a life-long history of lying about his intentions, so questions remain as to the timing of what will happen next now that Manhattan Attorney General Alvin Bragg has revealed the grand jury’s decision.

Regardless of whether Trump is arrested and handcuffed or comes in voluntarily or is protected by DeSantis, a declaration by Republican leaders in the House that they will try to haul Bragg to appear before them poses a new threat to democracy. It is clear they intend to throw a wrench into the indictment process, indicating that the fascist-leaning GOP leadership will do anything in their power to prevent citizens on grand juries from doing their jobs.

Although the indictment is related to Trump’s buying the silence of an adult film star in order to prevent scandalous news coverage in the middle of an election, the full details of the charge will remain sealed until his arraignment.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared he would not cooperate with New York officials should they seek to extradite Trump over the criminal charges he faces. | AP

Trump is now the first-ever president or ex-president to be indicted for a criminal offense, although he and his company, The Trump Organization, have a 50-year record of indictments issued before he occupied the White House. Many ended with out-of-court settlements.

That included a 1973 settlement when federal prosecutors indicted Trump, his developer father Fred Trump, and their firm for discriminating against Black people in federally-aided rental housing they built. After a lot of bluster and braggadocio—a lifelong pattern for Trump—a settlement was reached that let the Trumps avoid prosecution. At other times, Trump’s gotten away with it, such as when he stiffed the construction workers and firms, union and non-union, who built his Atlantic City casino.

Trump’s past, present, and pending indictments do not include the two House votes to impeach him. Ironically, because the Senate failed to convict him in 2020 and 2021, Trump can—and is—running for president again.

The first impeachment was related to his solicitation of election interference from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and a threat to withhold military aid in an effort to help his campaign. The second impeachment was for his incitement and participation in the planning of the Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt at the Capitol. The invasion was designed to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and perpetuate Trump in the White House by stopping the count of electoral votes. Those votes gave Biden the 2020 win.

Running for president from prison?

The Manhattan indictment thrusts the 2024 presidential election into unprecedented territory, raising the possibility that the leading contender for the Republican nomination will seek the White House while also facing trial for criminal charges in New York, and possibly in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., too.

Other right-wing Republicans, including ones who themselves would like to be president, came out in defense of Trump after the indictment was announced. When offering to shield Trump from extradition, DeSantis called it “un-American.” Former Vice President Mike Pence, whose life was threatened after Trump incited the Capitol attack, told CNN the charges were “outrageous.”

Despite those feeble attempts to maintain the backing of Trump’s fanatical base, the indictment poses real problems for the GOP’s future. More criminal charges against Trump could threaten the GOP’s standing in the very swing-state suburbs that have abandoned the party in three successive elections.

Trump, who has spent 40 years dodging this type of legal jeopardy, attempted to put up a confident front late Thursday, blaming the charges on “Thugs and Radical Left Monsters.”

People protest in front of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office ahead of former President Donald Trump’s indictment on Tuesday. A New York grand jury investigating Trump over a hush money payment to a porn star appears poised to complete its work soon as law enforcement officials make preparations for possible unrest in the event of an indictment. | Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP


Trump is “ready to fight,” his attorney, Joe Tacopina, said on Fox News. The former president’s 2024 election campaign and his allies have long hoped an indictment would serve as a rallying cry for his supporters, angering his “Make America Great Again” base, drawing donations, and forcing Trump’s potential rivals into the awkward position of having to defend him.

It is not at all clear whether this will continue, however.

Trump’s campaign didn’t miss the chance to fundraise off news of the indictment, though. An email arrived in supporters’ inboxes within minutes with the subject line, in all caps: “BREAKING: PRESIDENT TRUMP INDICTED.”

There is little chance a criminal trial will help Trump in a general election, particularly with independents, who have grown tired of the constant lack of stability around him. That has provided an opening for opportunists like DeSantis and others, who are presenting themselves as supporters of the former president’s policies but without all his baggage.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has already declared her candidacy, blasted the indictment as “more about revenge than it is about justice.” Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is considering a run, accused Bragg of “undermining America’s confidence in our legal system,” while also sending a fundraising text off the news.

Following the facts

When Bragg releases details of the indictment, it will become clearer whether the porn payoff is considered an illegal campaign contribution, and thus a federal crime. Also to be set is the actual date for Trump to appear for arraignment or a plan to bring him in if he tries to hide out in Florida. Then would come the taking of a mug shot and a plea from him of guilty or not guilty.

But in anticipation of the security situation that could occur when Trump appears in the Big Apple for those steps, the New York Police have been warned to be on high alert. Stoking the possibility of violence, Trump put up a social media post of himself wielding a bat aimed at Bragg’s head. He has called for an uprising of his supporters, just as he did on Jan. 6, 2021, to turn out and “take back America.”

Trump implied a threat of violence against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg when he posted an edited photo of himself swinging a baseball bat at Bragg’s head. | via Truth Social

Bragg told the Washington Post last year after one of his former deputy DAs resigned in protest over what he said was foot-dragging on Trump cases, that his prosecutors “are going through documents, interviewing witnesses, and exploring evidence not previously explored…. We are investigating thoroughly and following the facts without fear or favor.”

And then, on Jan. 21, Bragg’s office won a $1.6 million fine, the maximum, against Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, on 17 counts of state tax fraud. That case was put together under

Bragg’s predecessor, Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, Jr.

Besides the New York indictment, Trump faces other mounting legal troubles:

  • An Atlanta grand jury turned over a report to D.A. Fani Willis regarding Trump’s obvious attempt to steal Georgia’s electoral votes in 2020. Trump and his allies pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find me 11,780 votes” to produce a one-popular-vote win there and thus swing the state to Trump.

Willis is also expected to indict some of Trump’s top staffers involved in that scheme, notably former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, his consigliere who is now suspended from legal practice.

  • The U.S. Justice Department’s special counsel, Jack Smith, is digging into both Trump’s incitement and the organization of the Jan. 6 coup and his illegal possession of classified records at his Mar-A-Logo estate after he left office. A federal judge in D.C. ruled this week that Pence must testify behind closed doors about the coup, at least to some extent.

Smith, a former federal prosecutor, has as evidence all the depositions, films, and testimony gathered by the U.S. House’s Special Jan. 6 committee in 2021-22, plus statements from those of the 800-1,000 indicted Trumpite invaders who have pled guilty and cooperated with authorities. Pence did not testify to the committee.

  • New York Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James sued Trump, his kids, and the company on Dec. 21 for $250 million “for years of financial fraud.” James also wants to ban the Trump Organization from operating in New York for five years, effectively putting the company out of business. Trump’s lawyers tried to delay that case, but state judges turned them down. The trial is tentatively set for September.

The first Manhattan trial of Trump, which resulted in a fine, was when the Trump Organization, his family company, and his top aide, chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, were found guilty in New York State Supreme Court of 17 counts of massive tax evasion over a decade. Trump signed checks to have his company pay for Weisselberg’s luxury cars, apartments, and his kids’ private school tuition. Weissenberg didn’t report any of that as additional income.

The payoff to Stormy Daniels went through Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who later pled guilty to two federal crimes and served time for being the conduit. Cohen paid Daniels, and Trump repaid him. He listed the payment on the company books as “legal fees.”

Republicans, except for Trump’s communications director, by and large shut up about the indictment, reflecting Republican politicians’ still-present fear of Trump’s troops, both at U.S. Capitol barricades and in retribution at the ballot box. His spokesman predicted Trump would beat the rap and that it would increase his popularity within the party.

Former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., one of the two Republicans on the Select House Committee which investigated the coup attempt, agreed Trump’s popularity would rise. The committee voted 7-0 to subpoena Trump. He defied it, and the subpoena attempt lapsed when the committee went out of business at the close of the last Congress. The pro-Trump House Republican majority did not revive it.

“Look at what happened when he defeated impeachment the first time,” Kinzinger told Time before Bragg’s announcement. “Look at what happened, you know, frankly, when he wasn’t even removed the second time, which he should have been, he actually gains popularity. He’s so good at being a victim.”

New York City police officers line up outside Manhattan criminal courts building, Thursday, March 30, 2023, in New York. The NYPD is on high alert after Trump encouraged violence on social media. | Mary Altaffer / AP

Democrats were not surprised at the indictment. The Biden White House, in keeping with its hands-off policy on judicial issues surrounding Trump, shut up. There were some exceptions. One was Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House manager—the prosecutor—in the first, unsuccessful, impeachment case.

“The indictment of a former president is unprecedented,” said Schiff, who has announced his candidacy for a U.S. Senate seat next year. “But so too is the unlawful conduct in which Trump has been engaged. A nation of laws must hold the rich and powerful accountable, even when they hold high office. Especially when they do. To do otherwise is not democracy.”

A test for the “free” press

One certainty is that in the long period ahead, the U.S. media will bear some of the most serious responsibilities it has ever had in American history.

On this historic indictment of a former president, the media must dig deeply and expose how the fascists in America will continue to use this and coming indictments to maintain and grow their power.

At the same time, they have to cover the horrific effects of inflation on millions of Americans and the attempts to put the responsibility for digging out of that crisis on the backs of working people rather than the wealthy. The pro-Trump fascists will use that economic crisis to build support for themselves.

The media also has to start telling the truth about the military adventures the U.S. has embarked upon by explaining how the U.S. got into both the war in Ukraine and the current Cold War arms buildup against China. Both are draining the budgets needed to meet human needs and increasing the danger of World War III. That crisis will also feed into the issues the right uses to its advantage.

In addition, the climate crisis and global warming will not relent because of all of these other problems.

The corporate media has thus far not shown the ability to deal with all these problems, but as the “free” press and “fourth estate” in our country, it has the responsibility to do so.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.