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After former President Donald Trump was indicted March 30, some Republican leaders decried the development as indicative of an unstable government.
"I watch it happen all the time in the Third World and in developing countries," U.S. Sen Marco Rubio said on "Fox & Friends" on April 3. "They use prosecutors to go after candidates."
"NEW YORK IS A BANANA REPUBLIC!" tweeted Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officer.
"This is what happens in communist countries, not the United States of America," U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said at an April 4 protest in New York City opposing the arraignment.
Trump himself made the comparison.
"This is what happens in Third World countries which, sadly the USA is rapidly becoming," he wrote in a March 28 Truth Social post. "THE USA IS NOW A THIRD WORLD NATION."
Trump is facing criminal charges for his supposed role in a $130,000 payment to adult film actor Stormy Daniels in 2016; the money was paid to silence Daniels' allegations of having had an affair with Trump.
The claim that governmental leaders facing criminal charges are more common in other countries is accurate. But these incidents are not exclusive to underdeveloped nations. PolitiFact examined what the modern process of bringing criminal offenses against one’s leaders looks like elsewhere. Here's a roundup of some of the precedents.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the subject of a yearslong corruption trial, examining charges that he accepted bribes, committed fraud and breached trust. He's vehemently denied the allegations and snubbed calls to resign over the matter.
Netanyahu’s announcement of a legislative proposal to overhaul the country's legal system sparked mass protests across Israel. The proposed reform would give the prime minister and his allies more authority to appoint judges and enable the parliament to override Israel's supreme court, CNN reported.
Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009, faced corruption charges. Unlike Netanyahu, however, Olmert resigned from office while under investigation; The Tel Aviv District Court convicted Olmert in 2014 and sentenced him to six years in prison — though the sentence was later reduced.
Silvio Berlusconi, who served as Italy's prime minister for nine years between 1994 and 2011, had 35 criminal charges brought against him during his career, involving bribery, tax fraud, witness tampering and paying for sex with an underage girl.
But Berlusconi has evaded prison through appeals, which often take years to decide and render sentences unenforceable until they're exhausted. Berlusconi was temporarily prohibited from seeking public office in Italy after a 2013 tax fraud conviction.
Berlusconi currently serves in Italy's Senate.
Nicolas Sarkozy — France’s president from 2007 to 2012 — was convicted twice in 2021 for crimes involving illegal campaign financing and falsifying documents. He received short sentences, one of which would allow him to serve time from home with an electronic monitoring device, according to The Associated Press. Sarkozy appealed both convictions.
Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac, who served from 1995 to 2007, was convicted in 2011 of embezzling government money, abusing the public trust, among other crimes, according to The Washington Post. Chirac received a two-year prison sentence.
Park Geun-hye was South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be ejected from office. The nation’s Constitutional Court convicted her of abuse of power and coercion in 2017 after Parliament impeached her and removed her from office a year earlier. She was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
The court ruled that Park pressured retail chain Lotte and electronics giant Samsung to give millions of dollars to foundations run by a confidante. In January 2021, South Korea's Supreme Court upheld Park’s 20-year prison term, with another two years after that for breaching election laws, CNBC reported. South Korea’s justice ministry pardoned Park in December 2021.
Lee Myung-Bak, Park's predecessor, was convicted of crimes involving bribery and embezzlement in 2020. Lee received a 17-year prison sentence but served only two years after he was pardoned in December 2022.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was indicted and imprisoned for taking bribes from engineering companies in 2018. He served more than a year in prison and appealed his conviction, which he described as a politically driven effort, according to Reuters.
Brazil's Supreme Court annulled Lula's criminal convictions in 2021, allowing him to launch a successful campaign for the presidency against right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in 2022.
Christian Wulff, a former president of Germany, resigned from his position 20 months into office after he was ensnared in a corruption scandal stemming from his time as Lower Saxony’s governor. He was accused of illegally accepting gifts and favors from wealthy friends.
A German court acquitted Wulff in 2014, contending that the prosecution failed to provide enough evidence that Wulff's actions included letting a film producer pay around $980 in expenses during Oktoberfest, was an official act of corruption, The New York Times reported.
In December 2022, Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who also served two terms as Argentina's president, was convicted of corruption, sentenced to six years in prison and banned for life from holding public office.
A three-judge panel found Fernández de Kirchner guilty of fraud for distributing millions of dollars in public money to a construction company run by her family friend for road projects during her presidential terms, which ran from 2007 to 2011 and 2011 to 2015. Prosecutors said Fernández de Kirchner directed public works contracts to the friend, Lazaro Baez, who sent money back to Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, also a former Argentine president.
Fernández de Kirchner continues to serve as vice president and has avoided prison because her position carries immunity.
Copy Chief Matthew Crowley contributed to this report.
Tweet, March 30, 2023
Former President Donald Trump, Truth Social post, March 28, 2023
Axios, Former leaders have been jailed or charged all over the world, March 31, 2023
Florida Politics, Marco Rubio rips 'Third World' indictment of Donald Trump, April 3, 2023
Politico, Italy needs me: Berlusconi stages his comeback, Aug. 16, 2022
Associated Press, Berlusconi acquitted in trial tied to 'bunga bunga' parties, Feb. 15, 2023
BBC, Silvio Berlusconi: Ban on former PM holding office scrapped, May 12, 2018
The New York Times, German ex-leader acquitted of graft charges, Feb. 27, 2014
The New York Times, The case against Netanyahu, Feb. 13, 2018
Time Magazine, Liberal Israelis Fear for the Future of Democracy, Nov. 7, 2022
The Washington Post, Netanyahu's corruption trial opens, May 24, 2020
NPR, South Korea pardons a former president imprisoned on corruption charges, Dec. 23, 2021
BBC, South Korea's ex-president granted government pardon, Dec. 24, 2021
Associated Press, S. Korean prosecutors grant ex-president temporary release, June 28, 2022
Time Magazine, Jacques Chirac Convicted on Corruption Charges, Dec. 15, 2011
BBC, Former French president sentenced to jail for corruption, March 1, 2021
The Washington Post, Former French president Sarkozy, guilty of illegal campaign financing, probably will avoid prison, Sept. 30, 2021
Reuters, France's Sarkozy likely to avoid jail despite new conviction, Oct.1, 2021
The Washington Post, Argentine Vice President Cristina Kirchner found guilty of corruption, Dec. 6, 2022
Axios, Lula looks to restore Brazil's tarnished global stature, Oct. 31, 2022
Axios, Lula leads Bolsonaro as Brazil's election heats up, Aug. 18, 2022
PBS, Pakistani police storm home of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, March 18, 2023
The Guardian, Argentina's Cristina Fernández sentenced to six years, Dec. 6, 2022