Trump and his allies say FBI raid makes the US like a 'third world' country, but democracies like France, South Korea, and Israel have prosecuted ex-leaders

Trump and his allies say FBI raid makes the US like a 'third world' country, but democracies like France, South Korea, and Israel have prosecuted ex-leaders
Former President Donald Trump speaks at CPAC on August 6, 2022 in Dallas, Texas.Brandon Bell/Getty Images
  • Trump and his allies are decrying the FBI raid on his Florida home as a sign that the US is now a "third world" country.
  • The US has never criminally charged a former president.

Former President Donald Trump and his allies have decried the FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago home as the type of thing that only happens in "third world countries" or "banana republics."

The FBI raid was reportedly connected to an investigation into 15 boxes of documents — including classified material — that Trump took from the White House to Florida when he left Washington. Trump, the only president in US history to be impeached twice, decried the FBI search as "an assault" that "could only take place in broken, Third-World Countries."

Republican lawmakers and right-wing commentators echoed the former president in their reactions to the raid, which was approved by the Trump-appointed FBI chief, Christopher Wray.

GOP Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, for example, on Monday tweeted, "In third world countries and banana republics they prosecute the former presidents/leaders and their staff. Right now, we look beneath them. We are in a race to the bottom."

And Fox News host Dan Bongino on Tuesday said the raid was "third world bullshit."


The US has never criminally charged a former president. But other democracies across the world — including close US allies like South Korea, France, and Israel — have prosecuted, convicted, and even jailed former leaders.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is still a member of Israel's parliament, is entangled in an ongoing corruption trial.

Two of France's recent presidents, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, were found guilty of corruption. Sarkozy last year was sentenced to jail; he appealed the ruling.

South Korea has tried, convicted, and imprisoned more than one ex-president. The most recent example is that of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who was convicted of abuse of power and coercion in 2018 after being impeached. Park was initially sentenced to 30 years in prison, which was later reduced to 20. She was pardoned last year by then-President Moon Jae-in.

While it's true that countries with autocratic leaders and weak democratic institutions have a habit of imprisoning prominent opposition figures, including ex-leaders, it's also the case that countries with strong democracies do their best to follow the principle that no one is above the law — whether they're former world leaders or not.


Recent research from political scientists at the University of Washington found that "both sweeping immunity and overzealous prosecutions can undermine democracy" in terms of the prosecutions of ex-leaders.

"But such prosecutions pose different risks for mature democracies," the researchers went on to say, adding, "Strong democracies are usually competent enough – and the judicial system independent enough – to go after politicians who misbehave, including top leaders."

The researchers said that in "mature democracies, prosecutions can hold leaders accountable and solidify the rule of law."

That said, the researchers also underscored that prosecuting ex-leaders can be a mixed bag for democracies. "There are consequences to prosecutions of these officials — not just for them, but for their countries. Presidents and prime ministers aren't just anyone. They are chosen by a nation's citizens or their parties to lead. They are often popular, sometimes revered. So judicial proceedings against them are inevitably perceived as political and become divisive," the researchers said.