Wednesday, May 03, 2023

All My Trials

Breaking wind ground in Aberdeen. Nobody seems to know how to credit this photo of TFG keeping his ears covered, may have originated here

While Donald Trump hides in Scotland from the trial for the defamation and battery (under New York's new Adult Survivor Law) of the writer E. Jean Carroll for raping her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the mid-1990s and then lying about it 20 years later—as it winds toward its close (today Lisa Birnbach, the writer friend Carroll called after the rape, and Jessica Leeds, the woman he assaulted in the first-class section of a flying plane, offered their testimony), I thought it might be fun to do a quick survey of where he stands in his legal situation and, given that there are now a few declared Republican presidential candidates, what effect it might have on the race.

I don't see how there's any possibility he wins this first case. The witness testimony is really compelling, Trump's attorney is nasty and disrespectful, both to plaintiff and to judge (evidently following his client's instructions) and looks like a thug, Trump won't be testifying at all, not that it would help him if he did, and since it's a civil trial the jury's doesn't need to be convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt" but only "by a preponderance of the evidence." On the other hand I imagine he files an appeal immediately, or a whole raft of appeals, indefinitely delaying the actual end of the case, and I'm afraid we won't really feel it's over for months or years.

And I'm afraid I don't see how it's going to have much effect on Trump's electoral prospect, one way or another. No doubt for those of us who decided Trump was a violent abuser of women since we heard the 2005 "grab 'em by the pussy" tape in October 2016, it reinforces our convictions, it doesn't disturb the convictions of those who refuse to believe it; they'll just reject the verdict. And a dirty little secret is that some of those don't care: they may well tend more to admire a man for being "masterful" with women, and some of them may well be women themselves (think of all those otherwise respectable-looking old ladies in T-shirts inscribed "He can grab me by the pussy any time" or the equivalent).

I don't have a good sense of what's going on with the other E. Jean Carroll suit, the federal one, other than to have an idea that the New York suit has rendered it moot. The big civil action, my longtime personal favorite, New York State's huge action against Trump, his three oldest children, and the Trump Organization and some of its executives for decades of falsifying records of Trump's net worth and the value of his real estate holdings in order to get better terms on loans, insurance, and taxes, in which attorney general Letitia James is asking for penalties of $250 million and a permanent ban on any of the defendants doing business in the state, comes to trial in October. I'm convinced that this suit will prevail and kick the Trumps out of my state for good, and I can't say enough in praise of it, but I have no clue what effect it might have on the nominating contest for the presidency in the Republican party. 

The Georgia case seems pretty clear: indictments over the effort to cancel the 2020 presidential election in favor of some fictional slate of electors are coming sometime in July or August. Obviously it'll be a long time before it gets anywhere near trial. The same goes for the very big indictments coming from Special Counsel Smith, on Trump's theft of the presidential documents he sent off to Mar-a-Lago and on his participation in the January insurrection. 

The first of those, on the Mar-a-Lago documents, seems very straightforward as a criminal case, Trump is clearly as guilty as he can be of violating the Presidential Records Act and probably the Espionage Act, though we don't know altogether who he may have conspired with. I have a real problem here over the question of why Trump wanted to steal the stuff—I don't have any understanding that the special counsel is looking at the things I'm thinking about, in particular the possibility that Trump was hoarding documents relating to the investigations of people on his "enemies' list" in the hope of using them in vendetta prosecutions. Hopefully I'm wrong about that and he is.

On the insurrection proper, I absolutely don't know. It's my guess that Trump himself didn't even have a particularly active role once he was stopped from whatever crazy thing he was imagining he could accomplish by joining the march to the Capitol, beyond hoping, as he sat in the TV room through the afternoon of January 6, that that it would happen without him. His speech on the Ellipse and behavior at the White House through the day are certainly evidence of something.

I was really heartened, though, to learn that a part of that investigation seemed to involve the president's solicitation of money from the marks on his mailing list to finance his contestation of the 2020 election results when he wasn't apparently using the money to do that, just grifting, but on this colossal $250-million scale. Politically, I think, that's the best charge.

Just as Trump's core following doesn't really believe there's anything wrong with rape if the person committing the rape is a hero, but even more so, they don't really think there's anything wrong with the hero overturning the constitutional order and crowning himself emperor or lider maximo—that's what they want Trump to do. When Smith charges him with trying to do that in the January 6 cases, it's not going to stop them from wanting to vote for him; it's not going to hurt his electoral chances as much as you'd hope, or maybe hurt them at all. 

But if Smith charges him with working a cheap con on his followers, carrying on a pretense after January 6 that he's still trying to overturn the constitutional order when he's really just taking their money, maybe they'll finally start to see that he's not a hero but a low-grade mountebank, and turn on him at long last.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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