What do South Korea, Taiwan, Israel, Italy, France, Portugal, and Iceland all have in common? They’re all wealthy democracies that have charged and prosecuted former heads of state or heads of government for criminal acts committed while in office.
The United States is not a member of this club — at least, not yet.
Add to the above list, Argentina and Brazil, though not as wealthy, another pair of more or less mature democracies that have recently seen former leaders face prosecution.
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So how are countries like these, and others, looking at the U.S. House of Representative Committee’s recommendation that Donald Trump be prosecuted for, among other things, inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021? Is the view in their mainstream news outlets informed by their own experiences with charging former leaders?
“The first time in history that Congress recommends criminal punishment for a former president,” notes South Korea’s largest daily, Chosun. Conversely, any indication that the staunchly anti-China former U.S. President might end up in jail received rather scant coverage from Taiwan’s pro-independence Liberty Times.
Israel’s left-wing daily Haaretz duly reported the news, but as a republication from Reuters — perhaps there will be columns forthcoming in the next few days linking potential charges against Trump with Israeli prosecutors’ own attempt to indict and convict former and now once-again Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Trump: nightmare week.”
In Latin America though, which is no stranger to seeing former rulers jailed, Argentina’s Clarin offers an in-depth explanation of the charges the U.S. Justice Department will have to decide whether or not to pursue: “insurrection, obstruction of official process, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and conspiracy to lie, for which he could face jail time and removal from office.”
Brazil’s O Globo says what U.S. media have been hesitant to say straight out: “January 6, 2021 entered into the history of the United States as the first coup attempt during a transition of power.”
In Italy, where former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud, Corriere della Sera writes at more length about what it called “Trump: nightmare week,” and lists out the twice-impeached, single-term former president’s perils: possible charges, a concrete mark on his historical legacy, whether his taxes records will be made public, and the impact of all of that on his support among Republican voters.
In Portugal, former Prime Minister José Socratès was charged with corruption, money laundering, and falsifying documents — though the corruption charges were dismissed, the latter two were upheld in 2021. Of Trump, Lisbon-based Publico emphasizes the thoroughness of the year-and-a-half long investigation, and the 154 page report released Monday.
“Although they do not have legal force, these recommendations have a very relevant symbolism, since this is the first time that a former President of the United States has been referred to a criminal process,” writes Publico’s Joao Pedro Pincha. “If the former president is actually indicted, he faces the prospect of a long prison sentence and jeopardizes his aspirations to return to the White House in 2024.”
From France, where former President Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted and sentenced for corruption, Le Monde is the most scathing. In an editorial titled, “After the assault on the Capitol, the devastating legacy of Donald Trump,” two central lessons are drawn.
The first is that “despite a handful of conservatives who paid with their political careers,” the Republican Party has been “decidedly incapable of opposing on principle the man who has continuously debased it.” The second goes beyond the fate of a single party: that “the gravest threats to American democracy today come from a supremacist extreme-right whose rhetoric Donald Trump has rendered banal.”
Le Figaro saw the latest news as a chance to run a simple online poll for its French readers. “La Question du Jour: “Should Donald Trump renounce his candidacy for the next American presidential election?”
Regardless of what the French think he should do, the whole world by now knows that the question of what these singularly troubling politicians will do is not only impossible to predict, but is bound to reverberate far beyond America’s borders …
— Alex Hurst
In other news …
📰 UP, FRONT PAGE AND CENTER
L’Economia picked tech billionaire Elon Musk as its person of the year. Just as the SpaceX and Tesla CEO’s fate hangs in the balance with his latest venture, Twitter, Italian daily Corriere Della Sera’s economy supplement describes him as “innovative and controversial, over-the-top and visionary, loved and hated.”
🤫 SO AMERICAN
Equally loved and hated is the series Emily in Paris, whose third season is about to hit Netflix. For the occasion, French TV channel BFM met with some of the show’s actors, who hail from both sides of the Atlantic, for a bit of U.S. v. France banter.
Résultat: Cast members trading barbs about U.S. aloofness, French straightforwardness, Parisians being blasés and Americans being LOUD.
🇵🇭🛥🇨🇳 IN BRIEF
Newspapers in the Philippines are focused this week on the latest reports of Chinese naval vessels “swarming” near contested islands in the South China Sea — and the swift U.S. backing of Manila.
In its lead front-page story, The Philippine Daily Inquirer referred to the statement of U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price: “The reported escalating swarms of PRC vessels in the vicinity of Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal in the Spratly Islands interfere with the livelihoods of Philippine fishing communities, and also reflect continuing disregard for other South China Sea claimants and states lawfully operating in the region.”
The Philippine Star offered similar Page One treatment, with the headline: “U.S. slams swarming of China ships in WPS” — referring to the West Philippine Sea, Manila’s official name for the part of the South China Sea that falls within its economic zone of influence.