Black leaders see irony in Trump indictment: ‘What goes around comes around’

NAACP President Derrick Johnson told theGrio the unprecedented indictment of the embattled former commander-in-chief proves that “no one is above the law.”

TheGrio’s April D. Ryan contributed to this report.

Black leaders quickly reacted to the historic indictment of former President Donald Trump.

The Exonerated Five, formerly known as the Central Park Five — the wrongfully convicted Black men Trump called to be executed in 1989 newspaper ads — reacted to Trump’s indictment on Thursday evening in a one-word statement: “Karma.”

The indictment of Trump has the country at a standstill as it marks the first time in United States history that an ex-president and current presidential candidate has been indicted by a grand jury and charged with a crime.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (left) and former President Donald Trump (right). (Photos: Getty Images)

NAACP President Derrick Johnson told theGrio the unprecedented indictment proves that “no one is above the law.”

“Finally, of the myriad of lawsuits that’s pending, one will begin to bring him to justice and to cause him to pay for the harm he’s committed against individuals, but also the American people,” said Johnson.

While the exact charges against Trump remain unknown, the twice-impeached former president was indicted on more than 30 charges by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Black man, in relation to his alleged involvement in a hush-money ploy to conceal an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels in the weeks ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The prosecution is expected to make the argument that Trump committed business fraud and falsified records to protect his presidential campaign from political harm.

Civil rights activist Al Sharpton also recalled Trump demanding the death penalty for the Exonerated Five, saying in a statement: “What goes around comes around.”

(Left to right) Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Kevin Richardson, three of the five men wrongfully convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989, speak outside New York’s City Hall in 2014 after it was announced that the men then known as the “Central Park Five,” had settled with the city for approximately $40 million. “Karma,” they wrote of the indictment of Donald Trump, who had called for the death penalty in their case. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

“Let’s not forget that it was Donald Trump who took out full-page ads calling for these five Black and Brown young men to get the death penalty,” said Sharpton. “This is the same man who’s now calling for violence when he has to go through the same system. The same man will have to stand up in a courtroom and see firsthand what the criminal justice system is like.”

However, Black conservative and political commentator Armstrong Williams said despite the indictment, Trump remains innocent until proven guilty.

“It’s just an indictment; it has to be proven,” Williams told theGrio. “As far as I’m concerned, these are the moments that Trump lives for. He likes to be the center of attention — and he has it.”

He said the public should “respect the process.”

After the news broke of his indictment, Trump called it an “attack on our country.” In an email, his 2024 presidential campaign quickly solicited donations from supporters “to defend our movement from never-ending witch hunts and win the White House in 2024.”

Due to Trump’s actions connected to the deadly and violent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol building — instigated by his false claim that his 2020 presidential election loss was a result of voter fraud — there remains concern his supporters could turn to violence in protest of his indictment.

Williams said Trump supporters should “learn” from the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

“Their families were destroyed [and] there’s financial ruin,” he recalled. “Thousands were charged. Over 500 were indicted. Many are in jail.”

Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the day some of them stormed the building. (Photo: Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

“It’s not a need for violence,” opined Williams. “It’s not a need for destruction.”

Though Trump has long evaded accountability from the criminal justice system, political scientist and Fordham University professor Christina M. Greer told theGrio that this case could “be the one thing that actually finally makes the chickens come home to roost for Donald Trump.”

“Not only did you possibly do something illegal that Michael Cohen has admitted to, and we have other witnesses that are going to corroborate his story, but we actually have you on tape saying that you are committing this crime,” said Greer of District Attorney Bragg’s likely thinking in indicting the former president. 

While America can sometimes be seen as having two justice systems based on if you’re Black or white, wealthy and powerful like Trump, Johnson noted, “Our justice system should be a just system to apply equally to everyone. This is an example where we can demonstrate that to be the fact.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg addresses a press conference in July regarding Steven Lopez, who was exonerated then in the 1989 Central Park jogger case. Bragg’s indictment this week of Donald Trump could be just the first for the former president, who is also under investigation in Georgia and by the FBI. (Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“The ideology of white supremacy, of the corruption and deceiving people existed prior to Trump being in office, and after he’s finally brought to justice,” said the NAACP leader. 

“We must, as a society, do all we can necessary to create an environment where we snuff out that type of behavior,” he added, “and not allow it to be normalized as it has been normalized over the last five years.”

The indictment coming from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is the first of what could be several for Trump. The former president is also being criminally investigated by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in Georgia for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The FBI is also probing Trump for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection and his possession of classified documents.

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!