Yet US prosecutors will be able to judge their success (or failure) by one noble tenet. Have they reasserted the rule of law? The most powerful man in the country sought to undermine the justice system’s foundations. Now he must submit to its authority.
A little over two years ago, Trump was US president. On Tuesday, he sat in a New York courtroom looking lonely, ashen-faced and humiliated in front of the world.
Yet the 34 criminal charges will re-energise his 2024 campaign to return to the White House. They fuel his misplaced victimhood.
Trump has a political superpower: he is shameless. The advantage of having little remorse or humility is that, where others would be emotionally ruined, you can persevere.
This New York case may not survive contact with the judge or the defence team. However, Trump may soon face more serious legal problems.
He faces a possible indictment in the state of Georgia for alleged electoral interference, which would carry the threat of a lengthy jail sentence. He faces potential prosecutions for refusing to accept the 2020 election result and for his role in instigating the 6 January Capitol riots.
If those do not proceed, once again it will fall to the American people to cast their verdict on his fitness for office.