Nicolas Sarkozy Jail Sentence Buoys Trump Critics as U.S. Prosecutors Close In

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced to prison Monday by a Paris court which found him guilty of corruption and influence peddling, prompting many U.S. onlookers to suggest former President Donald Trump could be next across the Atlantic.

French authorities who were conducting several simultaneous investigations into Sarkozy used telephone wiretaps to uncover his offer to pull strings in order to help a judge obtain a prestigious job in Monaco. In exchange, Sarkozy's bribe sought to alleviate himself from an ongoing criminal investigation into illegal campaign financing for his 2007 and 2012 runs. Sarkozy's prison sentence for corruption prompted many American Trump critics to express their hope that the former U.S. president, who is at the center of several federal and state investigations, could also be held accountable for numerous allegations of wrongdoing.

"Setting precedence for presidents! DONALD TRUMP IS NEXT..." tweeted U.S. actor Kirk Acevedo on Monday morning. "Who says presidents can't go to prison? DONALD TRUMP will soon be doing jail time like former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. @NewYorkStateAG."

There are currently four separate investigations focused on Sarkozy. This parallel was not lost on Trump critics, who noted that New York and U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors are focused on Trump's taxes and past business deals. Sarkozy praised Trump and American voters after Trump won the 2016 presidential election over Hillary Clinton, characterizing it as a win over political elites.

As a Le Monde editorial recently said of the former presidents, they both demanded loyalty through an "allegiance or vengeance" mentality aimed at Paris and Washington elites. Both men remain wildly popular in right-wing circles and were immune from prosecution during their time in office. But now, in light of Sarkozy's prison sentence, prominent Trump antagonists say it's time to follow suit and seek a conviction for the former U.S. leader.

U.S. attorney Steven Bicky tweeted Monday morning: "USA: president incites insurrection, leading to storming of the house and multiple deaths: acquitted. France: president makes a phone call promising a job for info: 1 year in jail. Vive la France..."

But many Sarkozy supporters, including his famous singer-songwriter wife, say the series of investigations into the former president are just an indication of corruption within the government. Many Sarkozy backers had expressed hopes of him making a political comeback in 2022 before Monday's historic sentencing. The only other French leader to be prosecuted in the post-World War II-era was Sarkozy's political mentor, Jacques Chirac, who was put on trial in 2011 on similar corruption charges. He died in 2019.

"What insane relentlessness my love @nicolassarkozy .... the fight continues, the truth will emerge #injustice," wrote his wife, Carla Bruni, in a Monday Instagram post showing the two embracing.

Lawyer Thierry Herzog and judge Gilbert Azibert, two other figures at the center of the French investigation, were also sentenced this week. Sarkozy currently remains free and no warrant has been issued for his arrest as he almost certainly will file appeals. But Sarkozy and 13 others are set for a separate trial later this month on charges of illegal financing of his unsuccessful 2012 campaign.

"The events would not have occurred if a former president, as well as a lawyer, had kept in mind the magnitude, the responsibility, and the duties of his office," prosecutor Jean-Luc Blachon told the Paris court as the trial finished in December.

French media has long touted the similarities between right-wing Sarkozy and Trump, questioning if the "blueprint" for Trump's demise could be seen in Sarkozy's corruption trial.

"This could be Trump's future," tweeted Sarah Reese Jones of PoliticsUSA Monday morning.

nicolas sarkozy french president convicted
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced to prison on Monday, leading many to wonder if former U.S. President Donald Trump will be next. Above, Sarkozy, then France's finance minister, waves goodbye at the French embassy in Washington, D.C. on April 23, 2004. NICHOLAS ROBERTS / Contributor/Getty Images