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Trump’s Indictment Bodes Well for Democracy

What separates democracies from autocracies is the ability to maintain the rule of law and hold the powerful to account. Regardless of the outcome, the trial of Donald Trump – the first of any US president – could one day be remembered as a turning point in the battle for democracy, in the US and abroad.

STANFORD – US allies horrified by the growing dysfunction of American democracy may breathe a sigh of relief following the stunning indictment of former President Donald Trump by a New York grand jury for charges relating to hush money paid to the adult film star Stormy Daniels.

In another (albeit less momentous) victory for the rule of law, on March 28 a District of Columbia court upheld the extradition of former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, who was arrested four years ago and faces money laundering and bribery charges related to the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. Regardless of the outcomes, the fact that both former leaders will stand trial should help restore confidence in the United States’ commitment to defend democracy, at home and abroad.

To be sure, democratic allies like France, Taiwan, and South Korea have already charged and even convicted former heads of state. Nevertheless, Trump’s indictment – the first against a former or sitting US president – is a watershed moment. While the indictment is still sealed, and the contents of the case brought by New York County District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg are still unknown, no state district attorney or grand jury would indict a former president for anything less than a felony.