A necessary step for some, a "witch hunt" for others: the historic indictment of Donald Trump has further entrenched perceptions that partisanship has cleaved the United States, with the former president at the center of the storm.
The Republican billionaire's presidency -- as well as his rhetoric since losing the 2020 election to Joe Biden -- both underscored and amplified the country's political divisions, and reactions to him becoming the first US president charged with a crime have followed that playbook closely.
"The public today sees almost everything through the lens of partisanship," said Wendy Schiller, a political scientist at Brown University.
It is a perception that has not escaped politicos: the indictment is above all a "gift to the campaign managers and strategists in both major parties," giving them "an opportunity to stoke outrage," Robert Talisse, a Vanderbilt University expert on political polarization, told AFP.
Indeed, several leading Republicans, including the former president, have already launched fund-raising campaigns to fight what they have called a "political persecution."
In tweets, interviews and statements, Trump-supporting Republicans sharply denounced the indictment -- which is due to be unsealed in a New York court next week -- as "an absolute outrage" while lining up to defend Trump, who is running for president in 2024 again, as a martyr.
'Not my president'
The sense of an America divided has moved well beyond politics.
In many homes, whole areas of disputation in today's United States -- over gender, abortion or guns -- have become so heated they are almost taboo.
As the indictment was announced on Thursday night, with some liberals on social media mocking the "MAGA tears" of Trump backers, a small group converged outside the former president's luxurious Florida residence to display their support and express their anger.
Several waved flags proclaiming "Biden is not my president" or "Trump won," in the latest reminder that more than two years after the billionaire lost the 2020 election, millions of Americans remain convinced that the election was "stolen" from him.
But some experts warn against exaggerating the severity of today's political division.
From the Civil War that pitted North against South in the 1860s, to the rioting and protests over civil rights and the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s, American society has survived deeper divisions.
The country "was far more intensely fractured and segregated in the 1900s and (early) 2000s than it is today. We are a more diverse and more participatory country than we have ever been," Schiller said, adding that "more voices can mean things get louder and angrier."
"But it is unrealistic to compare it to 50 years ago, when so many voices were silenced through discrimination and structural obstacles to voting," she added.
And there is one person in the country who is doing what he can to avoid fanning the flames further: Joe Biden.
The president has yet to officially launch his 2024 campaign, but knows that anything he might say could fuel the Republican billionaire's complaints of a politically "weaponized" judicial system.
As such he has remained one of the few Democrats to keep his silence, telling reporters he will not comment on the indictment.
Meanwhile Trump, as ever, appeared to feel no such restraint.
The former president himself turned to his Truth Social platform after the indictment to accuse Democrats of being "the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this Country."
He added: "They are not coming after me - they are coming after you. I'm just standing in their way."
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)