Donald Trump acts terrified to face a jury. He should be scared

Donald Trump, as usual, is unhappy. Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over Trump’s first criminal trial in Manhattan, just expanded an already existing gag order on the infamously whiny former president. The old one barred Trump from talking about jurors, witnesses, court staff, prosecutors, or family members of court staff, except the judge and lead prosecutor, District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Trump, like a 5-year-old looking for loopholes in the rules against cookie-stealing, immediately went after the judge’s daughter instead, spreading lies about her that were clearly meant to make her worry for her safety. On Monday, at Bragg’s request, Merchan amended the gag order to cover his own and Bragg’s family members. 

This is the behavior of a man who knows he cannot persuade a jury of his innocence. 

“They can talk about me, but I can’t talk about them???” Trump whined on Truth Social, ignoring the fact that “they” are not criminal defendants who have a track record of inciting violence from afar. “This Judge should be recused, and the case should be thrown out.” 

This language about recusal suggests this tantrum is about more than Trump’s usual emotional incontinence. For one thing, it’s his usual effort to throw as much sand in the gears as possible in hopes of delaying a trial scheduled to start April 15. It also suggests Trump is already looking past this trial to the appeals process where all these accusations can be bundled into the argument that the judge was prejudicial and therefore the conviction should be thrown out. 

The good news is that this all suggests Trump believes he’s likely to be convicted of a felony — as he well should be.

This case indeed gets downplayed in the media because it’s viewed as not as serious as Trump’s other criminal cases regarding his attempted coup or his theft of classified documents. But a jury is not asked to decide where they rank this case on the distorted scale of Trump’s criminality. They’re just going to be asked if Trump committed business fraud to hide a campaign finance violation. Trump knows better than anyone how guilty he is of that accusation. That he’s sweating bullets suggests Trump thinks things won’t go so well at trial. 

The threatening messages aimed at the judge’s daughter aren’t the only sign that Trump and his lawyers are getting increasingly frantic, looking for anything he can do to delay or disrupt the proceedings. On Monday, the Trump team’s latest court filing begging for a delay was released to the public, and it reeks of desperation. Trump’s lawyers claim he cannot have a fair trial due to “pervasive pre-trial publicity.” They demand that the trial be canceled altogether or at least subject to “a significant adjournment.”

As Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling of the New Republic points out, however, “Trump has used practically all the platforms available to him, including his rallies and his social media company, to draw more attention to the proceedings.” It’s unlikely to work, but it does show that Trump’s “strategy” in this case will be to do whatever he can to screw things up, and then point to the damage he caused as a reason for a further delay of that terrifying day when a jury is asked to pass judgment on him. 

Indeed, Trump reacted to the gag order predictably: by doing it again, this time by posting a clip of Fox News hosts attacking Merchan’s daughter. He’s of course daring the judge to do something about it. If the judge does, that’s a minor win even if the penalty is serious, because it will eat up time. This is the behavior of a man who knows he cannot persuade a jury of his innocence. 

There’s every reason to believe this trial could go haywire. As long as Trump can’t leverage the chaos to halt the proceedings, however, it’s likely to backfire on him. 

Judge Merchan does, thankfully, see right through Trump. In his decision to expand the gag order, Merchan writes, “It is no longer just a mere possibility or a reasonable likelihood that there exists a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings.” He even seems to understand that Trump isn’t just trying to rattle people, but indeed is hoping that one of his unstable followers takes it upon himself to commit acts of violence: “[A]ll citizens, called upon to participate in these proceedings, whether as a juror, a witness, or in some other capacity, must now concern themselves not only with their own personal safety, but with the safety and the potential for personal attacks upon their loved ones. That reality cannot be overstated.”

Angering a judge overseeing your case seems like bad strategy, but given Trump’s laser-like focus on stopping a jury from hearing the evidence against him, his actions make a rough sort of sense. There’s a chance that it will take longer to seat a jury and go through the trial, with so many people involved worried for their safety. No doubt Trump is also aware that bomb threats or other MAGA terrorist actions could be disruptive enough to bring the trial to a halt. Luckily, his followers so far have mostly been too worried about their own safety to try something stupid. Even better, by making jurors see him as a threat to their safety, Trump has done more to turn them against him than all the pre-trial publicity ever could. 

Want more Amanda Marcotte on politics? Subscribe to her newsletter Standing Room Only.

Unlike his civil trials, where his physical participation was not required, Trump will have to be in court for most, if not all, of this trial. If past is predicate, this will probably be very bad for the defense. Trump’s narcissistic self-regard made him believe that the jury would be impressed by his presence in the second civil trial over his sexual abuse and defamation of journalist E. Jean Carroll. So he showed up regularly, throwing fits and making stink faces and, if rumors are true, wafting his signature butt-and-ketchup smell over the courtroom. The result was Carroll being awarded $83 million, which is $78 million more than was awared by the jury which never had to see Trump in person. Since he’s so focused on disrupting the proceedings, we can expect more of the same at this criminal trial. And it’s likely to infuriate the jury. 

Not that he has the attention span, but Trump would be wise to watch the recent documentary “The Truth vs. Alex Jones,” about the two successful defamation lawsuits filed against the Infowars host by the parents of Sandy Hook victims. In real time, I closely followed these cases addressing Jones’ repeated defamtion of these parents by accusing them, falsely, of fabricating or lying about their children’s murders. But even for me, the documentary was riveting — especially in the courtroom — for one big reason: You can see the jurors’ faces when they are in the presence of Jones. It’s quite the trip, watching these people grow increasingly disgusted with Jones, with his bombastic lying, to the point where some looked physically ill as he kept talking. 

Trump and Jones are basically the same person: Sociopathic con artists who have a huge following with cruel people. It causes them to forget that most people find them repulsive. If anything, Trump is much worse, especially in the ego department, given as he regularly compares himself to a literal god, which even Jones largely has the sense to avoid. Add to it that Trump’s lawyers, who get paid from his campaign accounts, know better than to interfere with Trump’s antics, which may play poorly in court but perform well as a fundraising tactic. So there’s every reason to believe this trial could go haywire. As long as Trump can’t leverage the chaos to halt the proceedings, however, it’s likely to backfire on him. 

Read more

about Trump’s courtroom antics and legal troubles


Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar