Trump becomes first US president to be indicted

Briefly: A New York grand jury voted on Thursday to indict former US President Donald Trump. This means they believe there’s enough evidence to bring criminal charges against him, likely related to falsifying business records and election finance violations. Trump is the first US President to be indicted.

As you can imagine, Americans are reaching different conclusions about it all. Many see it as proof of US integrity (‘nobody is above the law’). Others see it as evidence of American decay (‘the US justice system has become politicised’).

But the world is reaching different conclusions, too:

  • Predictably, state media outlets in China and Russia see Trump’s arrest as evidence of a US sinking into disorder and disarray.
  • Western officials say Trump is a “stress test” which US institutions are passing (though in private, they fret about America’s trajectory).
  • And world leaders have mostly stayed silent, though El Salvador’s president thinks Trump’s indictment undermines US credibility abroad.

Intrigue’s take: Throughout its history, the US has shown an ability to inspire us (touching the moon) but also shock us (a Civil War leaving 620,000 dead). It’s veered between wanting to save the world (Woodrow Wilson), tame the world (Roosevelt) and retreat from the world (Jefferson).

And this bewildering blend of creative and destructive impulses continues today: in a single week, you’ll see an update on the mission to Mars; a drop in life expectancystunning progress in AI; and another school shooting.

Meanwhile abroad, you’ll see the US leave Afghanistan, defend Ukraine, host a Summit for Democracy, then fist-bump an autocrat. So to quote a certain ex-president… what the hell is going on? Are we watching another period of US renewal? Or is the US in terminal decline?

It’s a fair question. And yet, if you try and shoe-horn the US into an answer, you’ll just break your shoe. Both answers are playing out. They’re the same opposing, centrifugal forces that drive the US to inspire us one day, then shock us the next.

So… what exactly is holding the US together right now? US values. If Americans can hold firm to those values, the US will be okay. If not, then strap yourself in.

Also worth noting:

  • China’s netizens on Weibo (China’s version of Twitter) responded to the news in some creative ways, with a little help from AI.
  • A conviction wouldn’t prevent Trump from running for president in 2024. In the latest polls, he extended his lead over the likely challenger for the Republican nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
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