Following Donald Trump’s various indictments, Republicans like to say that prosecuting a former president is the kind of stuff you see only in banana republics. But, upon closer inspection and comparison with peer nations, it turns out that they (and Trump) are the outliers.
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Following Donald Trump’s various indictments, Republicans and their allies like to say that prosecuting a former president (and potential future political rival) is the kind of stuff you see only in banana republics. But, upon closer inspection and comparison with peer nations, it turns out that they (and Trump) are the outliers, and the taking to court of those in power more the norm.
There are plenty of examples of current and former leaders in other mature democracies who have faced charges for things they have done in office. Usually, these are much less serious than staging a coup, hoarding classified materials, and obstructing justice — i.e., the crimes the former president is accused of.
When that happens, the respective politicians and their supporters don’t try to undermine the rule of law. That’s perhaps the biggest difference from the US, where Trump, GOP lawmakers, and the right-wing media are practicing a scorched-earth approach to shield one man from accountability.
The events of this week in two Western democracies (although the US barely deserves that designation anymore) highlight this discrepancy.
WhoWhatWhy readers are likely very familiar with Trump’s indictments, the GOP’s often ridiculous reactions to them, and efforts of the right to make it seem as though what is happening is a politically motivated witch hunt and not simply somebody facing consequences for committing a bunch of crimes.
Chances are that they are less familiar with news coming out of Austria this morning.
There, former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was charged with “suspicion of making false statements” to government investigators who looked into a corruption scandal involving two high-ranking members of Austria’s right-wing party. The pair was taped discussing, and being receptive to, an offer of illicit political assistance presented to them by a purported Russian woman.
Some of this should sound familiar to Americans.
In any case, one of those two eventually became Kurz’s vice chancellor, the video was published, the government coalition fell apart, and an official probe was launched.
In the course of that investigation, Kurz has now been charged with making false statements and, if convicted, he could face up to three years in prison.
So, what did the former chancellor and head of the conservative Austrian People’s Party do? Did he take to social media to rant and rave about a “witch hunt?” Did he malign the entire judicial system in his country? Did he get his political allies to call Austria a “banana republic” on social media and cable news?
Well, he did take to Twitter to say the following:
It was a little surprising that the prosecutor’s office for financial and corruption-related crimes made the decision to charge me in spite of the exculpatory statements of 30 witnesses.
The accusations are false and we are looking forward to the truth finally coming to light and that these allegations will also be proven to be baseless in a court of law.
Kurz did take a shot at the prosecutors by saying that it is troublesome that the media was notified of the status of his case before he was.
Nothing about witch hunts or how this only happens in Third World dictatorships. No threatening messages, no harassment.
Just: Let’s settle this in court. See you there.
By the way, while Trump’s lawyers want to drag out his trials indefinitely, Kurz’s will begin two months from now.
And he doesn’t seem to have a problem with that.
So, maybe the issue isn’t that the US is a banana republic, maybe it is that banana Republicans seem hellbent on undermining it at every turn.