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Prosecute the Populists?

As legal investigations of current and former populist leaders get underway, it is easy to succumb to schadenfreude. But the assumption that Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and Sebastian Kurz are finally getting their comeuppance is premature.

MOSCOW – Until the cease-fire, the world’s attention was trained on Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza, which may have suited Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is facing trial on corruption charges. And Netanyahu is hardly the only populist leader in legal peril. From Austria to the United Kingdom to the United States, similar investigations are underway. Have democracies finally found the means, and the willingness, to vanquish their domestic enemies?

To answer that question, let us begin by looking at the poster child for anti-democratic populism: former US President Donald Trump. He is in the crosshairs of prosecutors in both New York (for potential tax and other business-related crimes) and Atlanta (for his efforts to overturn the 2020 US presidential election).

Some of Trump’s closest associates also have targets on their backs. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who became Trump’s personal lawyer, is facing a federal criminal investigation into his dealings in Ukraine.

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