The Irish Times view on Trump on trial: the unpredictable candidate goes to court

It is not clear what his supporters would make of any convictions for a candidate who is currently just ahead of president Joe Biden in the polls

On Monday Donald Trump became the first former US president to stand trial on criminal charges when his Manhattan trial for allegedly paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels opened. If he is jailed he will not, however, be the first to campaign for the presidency from prison – in 1920, veteran socialist Eugene Debs, convicted of seditious anti-war propaganda before nomination, secured a million votes from his jail cell.

The Manhattan charges carry the possibility of up to four years in prison, but a conviction would not legally bar Trump from the presidency. The case, pitched by prosecutors as part and parcel of attempts to rein in Trump’s serial electoral interference, is just the opener in the litigation he faces and which will curtail his campaigning running up to November’s election. Jury selection has begun and is expected to take up to two weeks.

On Tuesday. the US supreme court was hearing oral arguments in two other cases that involve questions about the legality of hundreds of prosecutions relating to the January 6th attack on Congress as well as the basis of two of the four charges against Trump over those events. The supreme court cases also deal with his claim that, as former president, he is immune from criminal charges arising from acts within the “outer perimeter” of his official duties – including, he believes, his role on January 6th.

This month is also likely to see further developments in the Florida case against him over alleged illegal theft of official documents, and in Georgia where he is charged with conspiring to overturn the election results.

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Ongoing civil proceedings involve Trump appealing orders to pay more than half a billion dollars in damages and interest to New York state and to the writer E Jean Carroll.

It is not clear what his supporters would make of any convictions of a candidate who is currently just ahead of President Joe Biden in the polls. “The voters understand,” Trump said as he entered court yesterday. They may do, but how it will affect their votes remains to be seen.

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