Shortly after Donald Trump was arraigned in New York City Tuesday afternoon, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. spoke of “our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law.”
In a poll conducted Wednesday, most Rochester Beacon readers expressed support for Bragg’s position on bringing charges against the former president. Eighty percent of respondents said they approved of the decision to indict Trump for his alleged role in hush money payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. Two-thirds strongly approved.
Trump, who pleaded not guilty, is the first former or sitting U.S. president to face criminal charges.
The former president, a declared candidate in the 2024 race, has called the case against him as a politically motivated “witch hunt.” In a speech Tuesday evening, he said, “We are a nation in decline, and now these radical left lunatics want to interfere in elections by using law enforcement.”
Asked if they thought the charges against Trump in this case were politically motivated, 71 percent of participants in the Beacon reader poll said no.
Americans nationwide appear to share the view of Beacon readers, at least on the decision to indict Trump. In a CNN poll conducted after news of the Trump indictment broke last week but before the specific charges were revealed, 60 percent of respondents approved of the decision to indict Trump, with 37 percent saying they “strongly approve.”
But while a plurality of respondents (45 percent) in an ABC News/Ipsos poll agreed that Trump should face criminal charges in this case, a slightly larger plurality (47 percent) said they believed the charges were politically motivated.
The former president is accused of falsifying business records in order to “conceal damaging information and unlawful activity” from the nation’s voters before and after the 2016 election.
Prosecutors allege that 12 days before the presidential election, attorney Michael Cohen, acting on Trump’s behalf, wired $130,000 to an attorney for Daniels. Cohen has since pleaded guilty and served time in prison for making the illegal campaign contribution.
After he won the election, Trump allegedly reimbursed Cohen through a series of 11 monthly checks—nine signed by the former president.
“Each check was processed by the Trump Organization and illegally disguised as a payment for legal services rendered pursuant to a non-existent retainer agreement,” according to a statement released by Bragg’s office. “In total, 34 false entries were made in New York business records to conceal the initial covert $130,000 payment. Further, participants in the scheme took steps that mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature of the reimbursements.”
In New York, falsifying business records is a felony only if the records were falsified to conceal another crime.
Even before the grand jury returned its indictment against Trump, the decision to pursue these charges sparked fierce debate. Some legal observers say Bragg is basing his case on a shaky legal theory, while others argue that it is no different than many other white-collar crimes prosecuted in New York.
Further, it appears to be widely believed that the hush money case is the weakest among several investigations focusing on Trump. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could soon announce whether she will file charges alleging that Trump and others allied with him tried to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results. In addition, Special Counsel Jack Smith is directing two federal investigations of Trump: one dealing with Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the election of Joe Biden, and a second probe focused on Trump’s handling of classified information.
Another concern voiced by many is that the hush money charges could set a dangerous precedent, opening the door to politically motivated charges by local prosecutors around the country.
Among Beacon readers, however, well more than half—62 percent—said the decision to indict Trump in this case will strengthen the nation’s democracy and rule of law. Seventeen percent disagreed, and 21 percent said it would neither strengthen nor weaken our democracy and rule of law.
Politically, the indictment seems to have boosted Trump, at least temporarily. But not among Beacon readers. Asked if it would make them more or less inclined to support him as a candidate for president in 2024, 74 percent answered “no change.” Twenty percent said “less inclined,” while 6 percent said they were more inclined to vote for Trump in 2024.
Wednesday’s poll drew more than 350 participants. Asked about their political affiliation, 59 percent answered Democrat; only 11 percent identified themselves as Republicans. Twenty-four percent were unaffiliated and 5 percent chose “other.”
Respondents also were asked to share their thoughts on Trump’s indictment. The following are the complete signed written responses of survey participants. Many additional unsigned responses were submitted. As a matter of policy, the Beacon does not post unsigned comments.
It’s shameful that a previous president committed these crimes NOT that he could be prosecuted for them. No one is above the law and the only way to prove this is by punishing him, just like anyone else.
I hope that the prosecution’s case is stronger than what some columnists are predicting. Fingers crossed.
Sick of our tax money going to legal fees, investigations, and politically motivated self-serving agendas. I am not a fan of Trump, but I am a fan of fixing our broken two-party political system.
While the actions in this indictment are far from the worst Trump has committed, they are serious crimes. The standard of probity we apply to elected officials in high office should be higher than to ordinary people; it astounds me that anyone would claim that Trump should be given a pass for what is clearly corrupt behavior.
Recognizing that the country is deeply divided, laws are the lines we have agreed not to cross regardless of our opinions. That applies to everyone equally.
I think we need to stop bringing Donald Trump into the public eye and let him fade into infamy.
I do not think that Americans are ready to give it all up for Daniels and Trump. Trump continues to further divide the country for self-serving reasons that appear to have no love for the country or democracy.
Trump and his supporters are a threat to democracy and must be stopped.
Trump is a guy that has generally avoided accountability for much of anything in his life. He’s painted this as an attack on all Americans but really, if you don’t pay six figure hush money and try to disguise it as a business expense, I don’t see this as much of a risk for anyone but Donald Trump.
It’s about time!
Thanks for this poll. The responses didn’t allow me to indicate the ambiguity and complexity of this issue. Do I think the charges against Trump are politically motivated? Possibly. Do I think he’s responsible for other illegal acts? Yes, especially but not only based on Jan 6 2022 events. Do I think that the indictment will strengthen or weaken democracy and rule of law? I don’t think that can be predicted. What is happening here is what scientist Karl Popper called a cloud problem, not a clock problem. “Karl Popper, the great philosopher of science, once divided the world into two categories: clocks and clouds. Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; clouds are an epistemic mess, highly irregular, disorderly, and more or less unpredictable.” This is one cloudy issue rife with potential for unintended consequences.
Teflon Don no longer.
—Peter H Van Demark
For many years Donald Trump has allegedly engaged in many questionable acts. The system has finally caught up to him. Let justice prevail.
It’s about time. I am tired of hearing his name, and even more, tired of hearing the awful things that come out of his mouth. I wish he would evaporate.
—Joy A. Bergfalk
I do believe that no one is above the law, and that to use one’s political, social, or economic position as a shield to accountability is the most egregious affront to our justice system. Donald Trump has openly flaunted his disdain for the system and has heralded his right to be above it, even mocking it – and worse, made veiled threats of harm to others who carry out their duties within the system. If found responsible for these crimes, he must be appropriately punished as others have been within the law.
I believe that Trump’s indictment is absolutely necessary in what remains of our democracy, but at the same time I also believe that our democracy is in shreds and cannot be resurrected simply by making an example of a clown.
Trump’s history of petty and more serious crimes is a stain on America. Our country needs to reject his dishonesty, mendacity, graft and corruption in an institutional way to protect the integrity of our institutions.
It is unfortunate that the first case to indict is this one. The others look much stronger to me, but I believe no one is above the law is the bedrock of democracy.
I believe we found the witch.
These charges are the least severe of several investigations into Trump’s behavior, but valid nonetheless. It’s hoped that his indictment in NYS will offer encouragement to prosecutors involved with the remaining investigations.
Everyone should be treated fairly under the law, so if a grand jury assesses, by review of the evidence, that there is reason to believe that a crime has been committed, a DA can/should pursue an indictment, not influenced by favor or station.
—Thomas E Moughan
There are three stronger cases in the wings, I wish the government was leading with one of those.
The indictment is just the first step in his adjudication. The real critical work is yet to follow. Trump slipped through the noose of impeachment twice. This court is likely (to) be more objective in its decision-making. However, it is clearly an important first step in dealing with him as a former President in that the artificial informal, and procedural barrier of not indicting a former President is broken. I understand that the founding fathers discussed this issue and concluded, based on the objectivity of their thinking at the time, that any President who was indicted and convicted would be subject to the objective views of the court of public opinion and fall from favor. Another perceived path they saw was that as a result of his/her personal objective judgment, they would voluntarily withdraw from any further engagement in attempting to be elected to any public office.
The continuing attacks on an American icon from the deep state and media is relegating the United States to the level of a banana republic. By the way, an NPR poll concluded that 93% of Republicans, 73% of independents and 30% of Democrats thought the indictment was politically motivated.
Donald Trump is a liar, a bully and a professional grifter who has sold a bill of hate filled goods to angry white people who are afraid of change and progress. He is a disgrace to our country. He paid Ms. Daniels hush money and THEN lied about it. He is NOT above the law.
Personally, i hope he rots in prison.
I believe the risks of failure of the prosecution and political backlash were worth taking for the benefit of respect for the rule of law and calling to account one of the most egregious white collar criminals in contemporary America.
It is my opinion that political office has unfortunately has become a career job and all politicians are interested in growing their power ahead of their obligation for service for our democracy. Donald Trump is considerably more dangerous than any politician in history. He individually has had the largest impact on the disintegration of our democracy and institutions. He is a loathsome and dangerous human and an embarrassment for us nationally and internationally. I absolutely think he has broken the law in many ways and feel strongly that he believes he is above accountability. It is critical that we show him that no one—Democrat, Republican or independent—is above the rule of law.
I’m sick to death of all the hand-wringing about indicting a former president because it might somehow cause a Constitutional crisis. Really? It will be a Constitutional triumph because this time it’s real. Unlike the so-called “trials” impeachment the outcome isn’t going to be determined by partisans. Let’s not be afraid to follow the rule of law. No one is above it.
I greatly dislike Trump. But this indictment is a politicized travesty of justice; even Democrats like Andrew Cuomo recognize that. It will taint the much more substantive potential indictments on attempted vote tampering in Georgia, fomenting the January 6 riot, and mishandling of classified documents (though the latter is also tainted by previously letting Hillary Clinton off). The way to get past Trump is not to keep focusing our attention on him, and especially not to indict him on illegitimate charges that wouldn’t have been brought against anyone else. Once again, Trump Derangement Syndrome causes Trump’s opponents to tear down norms in their zeal to attack him for tearing down norms.
I hope that this is part of a trend in which more government officials are held to account for their actions. Elected officials should be more scrutinized and held to a higher standard than ordinary people, despite what has been true for virtually all of American history.
Finally, CJ System is working as it is constitutionally required to do. Law Enforcement Investigates, the Elected DA determines whether or not to do forward; If so, the DA presents testimony & evidence to a GJ; The GJ is allowed to review, and then deliberate, and then Vote. If the defendant is Indicted, the defendant is arraigned, and the case proceeds through the Court system (as required by the Constitution). NO ONE. NO ONE is above the Law of the USA. And that is why this is the right, proper, and JUST thing to do.
I think he can no longer say he could shoot someone on 5th avenue and get away with it.
I was, and am, hoping for more rigorous charges – on a higher level of governmental abuse – using his office for personal gain.
—Jack Mould, Rush
He should have been in prison for life decades ago for the ways in which he conducted his businesses. I have read seven books about both him and the history of his family. His father and grandfather were despicable people, and he is one too. He has been directly or indirectly responsible for the death of far too many people. And of course his inability to maintain a successful business (who goes bankrupt running a casino?) has caused the loss of livelihood of many. Not to mention all the people whose services he has engaged and then didn’t pay them. It is true that the way he grew up caused him to have a deeply damaged psyche, but he should have realized he needed help and gotten it. Instead, he blundered along, growing more and more corrupt. At this point, he never tells the truth about anything, uses lies to attack others, and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
I seem to recall Trump and his weaponization of the government to lock up his political enemies. Looks like he will get what he has asked for. His legal problems are only beginning. For the sake of our country and democracy may this be a wake up call to his misguided supporters as well as other despots, dictators and authoritarian “strongmen.” You are not welcome here. Every dog has his day.
It is time this is ended. No one is above the law.
—Mary Jo Albert
Regarding Question 2, let us be honest: Everything—and I mean everything—about The Former Queens Man involves some kind of “political motivation”, either for or against him. But a grand jury has found reason to bring criminal charges against TFQM, so…Fiat justitia ruat caelum — “let justice be done though the heavens fall”. Democracy and the rule of law will grow stronger over the next several years as the TFQM Legal Marathon plays out and he faces multiple criminal charges in New York City, Georgia, and Florida. Or should we just do what he asked of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger: “Gimme a break! What I want to do is this. I just want to find, uh, 11,780 votes, which is one more than [the 11,779 vote margin of defeat] we have, because we won the state.” No breaks will be forthcoming. Thanks for publishing the poll.
—William McLane, Rochester
As President Trump so stated, and as we all know, this is a political witch-hunt that has been going on now since 2016. He WILL overcome this as he has with all the other stuff he has been thru.
No one is above the law.
Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].