AMNA NAWAZ: To delve further into the political implications of former President Trump's indictment, we turn now to the analysis of Brooks and Tumulty.
That is New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Karen Tumulty, columnist for The Washington Post.
Jonathan Capehart is away this week.
Welcome to you both.
It's good to see you.
KAREN TUMULTY: Great to be here.
DAVID BROOKS: Good to see you.
AMNA NAWAZ: Let's begin with the biggest story.
Mr. Trump has been indicted.
Republican allies now have been continuing his lines of attacking the prosecutor -- attacking the prosecution and the prosecutor, using some antisemitic dog whistles, also some racist undertones to a lot of that.
David, they could say: You know what, innocent until proven guilty.
We believe in the justice system.
But they're not saying that.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I guess -- well, first, it's just a grave moment, and I'm struck by they're not -- they are not being struck by the gravity of the moment of a former president being indicted.
There was a good piece in persuasion in an online site that I enjoy looking at Trump's rhetoric over the last seven years.
And, if we recall, when he came down the escalator, and even that first convention speech and the inauguration, American carnage, it was mostly economic.
Those people have betrayed you.
But then it ramps up, and it changes and it changes.
And then, last July -- or July 2020, he was at Mount Rushmore, if you may remember.
Then, finally, it's getting apocalyptic.
And now it's entered full, we're in the final battle.
That's the rhetoric that is being used now.
And that has taken the populism and ratcheted it up to militaristic levels.
And, right now, it's helping him.
I mean, as the indictments have been talked about, his poll numbers are surging.
And as we saw, every other Republican candidate, they can't attack Trump now.
They got to rally around the guy.
And so you just have this sense of this upward rising tide of bile in the body politic.
KAREN TUMULTY: And you're right about the rhetoric.
Yes, he has always sort of had really over-the-top rhetoric.
But when he ran in 2016, he was a miracle worker.
It was: "I alone can fix it."
Now he says: "I am your retribution."
The language is biblical, and it appeals, I think, not just to his evangelical base, but to QAnon conspiracy theorists.
And we are now at an absolutely different level.
AMNA NAWAZ: Meanwhile, Democrats' reaction so far, I want to ask you about that.
President Biden was asked about this and stayed away, said, no comment, absolutely.
Is that the right approach for Dems right now?
KAREN TUMULTY: Absolutely, because if they are going to make the argument that the process should be allowed to work, they have got to stay away from the process as much as they can, you know, not the same is happening with a lot of their talking heads on television.
But I think Democratic elected officials need to stay clear of this.
AMNA NAWAZ: David, it's obviously a worrying moment.
It's an unprecedented moment.
Our democracy is being redefined and tested in new ways.
But if you are a Republican weighing a 2024 bid right now, and there is all this uncertainty ahead, what do you do?
DAVID BROOKS: I think you have to take a second look.
Just his numbers did not look dominating three or four months ago now, and they do look dominating now, right now.
And so you have to think, well, that's a pretty steep hill to climb.
I'm also -- I just have to say I'm one of these people who wish the Georgia case had gone first.
AMNA NAWAZ: Why is that?
DAVID BROOKS: Because trying to steal an election is a crime I can understand, or the Washington investigation.
Trying to incite an insurrection, that's a crime I can understand.
Falsifying business records, it looks a lot more complicated and a lot less sure.
And we will see what the indictment holds.
I won't prejudge that.
But the most similar case I'm aware of is the John Edwards case from -- I don't know how long ago that was.
That was a little while ago.
And they couldn't get a conviction in his case.
It's obviously not the same, but it's a little similar.
And so I -- it makes it so much easier for people to say, oh, this is just a political witch-hunt, because it's not like the big, clear crime that we actually have visual evidence for.
AMNA NAWAZ: Karen, we know most Republicans, even before this indictment, but when there was a potential indictment looming, most Republicans said they wanted him to be president again.
Does this make him stronger?
Does it make it tougher for President Biden's reelection campaign?
KAREN TUMULTY: I think, in the short term, this is going to help Donald Trump, primarily because the Republican base is going to rally around him.
But, from here on, beyond that, nobody can predict.
And if this case does fall apart in court, that helps Trump enormously.
But the fact is, for people to hear over and over again about hush money to a porn star, in the long run, I think is pretty corrosive.
AMNA NAWAZ: I want to ask you about the bigger moment for our nation, because I went back and I read President Ford's remarks when he delivered the pardon for Richard Nixon.
And, at the time, his argument was, the country had already been through bitter controversy and a divisive debate.
And he said that, in a trial: "Ugly passions would again be aroused and our people would again be polarized in their opinions, and the credibility of our free institutions of government would again be challenged at home and abroad."
David, is the same true today?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I thought Gerald Ford made the right call.
I thought it was a brave call.
It cost him the presidency, basically.
And I'm glad Richard Nixon did not step trial -- stand trial.
Am I -- do I think that, therefore, we should not stand -- put Donald Trump on trial?
No, I do not think that.
But you go back.
I do a lot of reading of political biography, especially from the '70s, for some reason.
It was a grim period.
But the political establishment was in way better shape than it is now.
There actually were people who could go into Nixon and say, you have got to resign.
KAREN TUMULTY: There were Republicans... DAVID BROOKS: There were Republicans.
KAREN TUMULTY: ... who could go into Nixon and say, you have to resign.
AMNA NAWAZ: What do you make of this moment, then, given that historical context and what the nation has been through?
We are a different nation today, it's fair to say.
KAREN TUMULTY: Well, I think the polarization in the country is entirely deeper and more corrosive than it was then.
I think Ford does this to ward off an indictment.
And you're right.
History has been very kind to him.
But the electorate in 1976 was not.
The country at that moment was not with Gerald Ford.
AMNA NAWAZ: I do want to ask you both in the few minutes we have left about another big story this week which involves a fellow journalist overseas, of course, Russia this week arresting The Wall Street Journal reporter and American citizen Evan Gershkovich, accusing him of spying for the United States.
This is the first time that has happened since 1986.
And, of course, we are thinking about our friends and colleagues at The Wall Street Journal and Evan's family.
But, David, in this moment, is this a clear escalation from Russia?
DAVID BROOKS: For sure.
They -- we all have covered places from foreign lands, sometimes not nice countries.
And it's an attempt first to crack down on press coverage of Russia.
And, second, it may be just hostage-taking for more trades.
And so it just -- it's what happens as Putin gets more and more extreme and more and more isolated.
AMNA NAWAZ: Karen, how do you look at it?
KAREN TUMULTY: It also speaks to the way he is treating dissidents and critics in the country.
It is appalling, because there is absolutely no evidence of espionage.
But I do think that he made a calculation that the whole Brittney Griner, the basketball player, situation really worked out in their favor.
They released her, and they got a really bad guy back.
So I just don't know how the Biden administration handles this, but I think all of us need to keep attention this and to continue to demand as loud as we can that he be released, because there is no evidence of espionage.
AMNA NAWAZ: Knowing now this is a tactic, though, do you think American journalists should remain in Russia?
KAREN TUMULTY: That is such a tough call.
And I certainly don't want to see my colleagues endangered, as important as it is to get the truth out.
AMNA NAWAZ: It's an impossible call?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
AMNA NAWAZ: What do you think?
DAVID BROOKS: I -- if I was a bureau chief in Moscow, it's just so hard.
I think it'd be an individual-by-individual case.
It's like going to a war zone at this point, which is a sad statement.
It's a big story in Moscow.
It's just a gigantic story.
It'd be unconceivable we wouldn't be able to cover it.
But it's dangerous.
AMNA NAWAZ: Sad statement, but a true statement.
And, of course, we're thinking of Evan Gershkovich and his family.
David Brooks, Karen Tumulty, thank you so much to both of you.
KAREN TUMULTY: Thank you.
DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.