Culture Wars/Current Controversies

What happens if an ex-president goes to jail (hypothetically speaking)? It wouldn’t be pretty

Berlusconi, Sarkozy…Trump?

By Matthew Rosza, Salon

What will happen if a certain former president faces a criminal trial? History’s answer is clear: Nothing good.

The United States has never had a president go to prison. Neither a sitting president, nor a former one. Arguably there are a few who should have — although that’s another matter.

Donald Trump could change that. Perhaps that’s not surprising: Trump will already be remembered by history as the first president to be impeached twice, the first president to refuse to accept losing an election, the first president to lack any prior political or military experience and one of five presidents to be elected without winning the popular vote. He has racked up questionable distinctions like Tom Brady wins Super Bowl rings.

Now Trump may face jail time for alleged financial crimes in New York — or his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, or his speech to the Jan. 6 rioters. Given his pattern of ethically iffy business dealings and ripping off the taxpayers, as well as his shady actions in Russia and Ukraine, something completely unforeseen could also arise during current investigations that lands him in jail.

At any rate, if Trump goes to prison, it will be a first in the history of this country. What, if anything, does that say about the state of our democracy?


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