August 02, 2023

SIU political experts: Latest Trump indictment presents new challenges for nation

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A four-count federal indictment on Tuesday that alleges former President Donald Trump tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election could present new challenges for the nation, political experts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale believe. But the latest criminal case may have little impact on Trump supporters as he seeks another run at the White House.

“This is a hugely consequential event that will challenge our political and legal system in ways they have not been challenged before,” John Shaw, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said. “As Donald Trump’s legal travails multiply, his hold on the GOP endures.”

The indictment by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., charged Trump with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights. The indictment is the result of a special counsel investigation into efforts leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.


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faculty-photo-mulligan.jpgKenneth Mulligan is an associate professor of political science in SIU’s School of Anthropology, Political Science and Sociology. His research and teaching involve American political behavior, media and politics, and public opinion.  He can be reached at 618-201-9634 and

John-Jackson-sm.jpgJohn Jackson, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute visiting professor, has more than four decades of political expertise and research in presidential politics, campaigns and elections. He is available via Zoom and can be reached at 618-303-1240 or

john-shaw-sm2.jpgJohn Shaw, director, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, spent 26 years in Washington, D.C., covering Congress and economic issues for Market News International before his arrival at SIU Carbondale in 2018. He has been a guest on the PBS NewsHour and C-SPAN. He can be reached at 618-453-4009 or

SheilaSimon-books-sm.jpgSheila Simon, assistant professor of law, SIU School of Law, returned to the university after serving as Illinois’ lieutenant governor from 2011 to 2015. She has taught classes on government ethics. Prior to her work at the law school, she was an assistant state’s attorney in Jackson County. She can be reached at or 618-536-8321.

Trump is scheduled to appear in a Washington, D.C., federal courthouse Thursday afternoon. This is the third criminal indictment Trump — considered the front-runner among myriad 2024 Republican presidential candidates — is facing. He was charged in June in connection with a classified documents probe, and a grand jury in Manhattan charged Trump with business fraud in March. Trump has pleaded not guilty in the other two cases.

John Jackson, a visiting professor with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, noted there are “two very different dimensions” to Tuesday’s indictment — legal and political.

“On the legal front, these new indictments may be very significant because they allege a cover up regarding Trump’s attempts to change the outcome of the election,” Jackson said. “On the political side they may not amount to much except to reinforce already firmly held positions. His supporters simply don’t care what he is charged with. Nothing fazes them. For his detractors, this reinforces all the negative evaluations they already hold.”

Kenneth Mulligan, associate professor of political science, said the indictment could work in Trump’s favor among his base.

"Politically, the latest indictment is likely to have little, if any, effect on the 2024 presidential race, except perhaps to help Trump win the Republican nomination,” Mulligan said. “After his last indictment, Republican support increased."

Sheila Simon, assistant professor of law at the SIU School of Law, is “saddened” by the indictment.

“A charge is not a conviction.  As a former prosecutor I understand that.  But I also served in elected office, and that's why reading the indictment of former president Donald Trump saddens me,” she said. “I know that losing an election stinks. But anyone who runs for office ought to have extra respect for our system  -- for the way we select leaders and transfer power.  Former President Trump lost an election, but he appears to have lost even more in terms of an understanding of democracy.”