Ugly Situation Raises Questions about the United States’ Prestige

The behavior of former U.S. President Donald Trump is undermining the standing of the United States, a country that ought to be leading the way on democracy and the rule of law. As a U.S. ally, Japan should be seriously concerned.

Trump has been indicted on suspicion of taking classified national security documents to his Florida residence after leaving office in 2021 and illegally retaining them. He also has been charged with obstructing an investigation by law enforcement authorities.

The classified documents included military intelligence on the United States and its allies, as well as exchanges with foreign leaders. Trump is further alleged to have shown the documents to outside parties.

If true, these acts lay bare a lack of awareness regarding his position and his country’s national security. It would be a flagrant flouting of accepted norms for him to treat documents that he had access to while president as though they were his personal property after leaving office.

Nobody is above the law. The court must make every effort to conduct a fair hearing to ensure confidence in the rule of law is not shaken.

The problem is that the trial proceedings and the U.S. presidential election in November next year will take place simultaneously. Trump, who has announced his intention to run again for the presidency, continues to maintain his innocence and has appealed to his supporters by citing “the Biden regime’s weaponization of our system of justice.”

It is unfortunate that the indictment has been delayed to such an extent. The judicial authorities have been carrying out their investigation carefully, but this has given rise to questions regarding possibly suspicious political motives. U.S. President Joe Biden has not escaped criticism either, following the discovery in his residence of classified documents from his time as vice president.

Trump is taking advantage of the situation to expand his support by claiming to be a victim of “political persecution,” and has stated publicly that he will retaliate against Biden if he wins the presidential election and regains power.

But it is Trump himself who is politicizing the issue. His refusal to accept defeat in the previous presidential election and his attempts to manipulate the country show that he lacks the necessary qualities to be president.

Leading politicians in the Republican Party continue to avoid criticizing Trump, fearing a backlash from his enthusiastic supporters. This will merely serve to alienate voters with no strong party preference.

For his part, Biden has failed to deliver on his pledge to overcome divisions in his country. There are few signs of growing support for his reelection.

The turmoil in the United States will benefit China and Russia, both of which seek to “change the status quo by force” and realign the international order. It is hoped that Washington will break free of the current situation in which it is being swayed by Trump and restore a political system that its allies can look to with confidence.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 19, 2023)