Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Something to Know - 17 April

There is an over abundance of stuff to read, watch, and comment about.   I saved one of the more interesting from yesterday's readings in case something today came about.   Well a lot of interesting commentary came about, and some were better than others, but this one from Status Kuo is worth it.   It stands out because it points out that The Trumpo is disintegrating in a New York courtroom.  Other accounts remarked on his dozing and lack of interest coupled with bursts of howling like a wounded jackal.   The requirement that he is going to spend 4-days a week nailed to a chair is going to really affect him.   His hairdo's gaudy coif is a bit shabby (a lack of attention to hair coloring and general grooming), and a host of other problems.   However this commentary points out that Trump is out there all by himself  (no family member, no spouse, no friend, nobody).   It says a lot about this guy.   How is he going to survive week, after week, and courtroom after courtroom?

The Status Kuo 

Apr 16, 2024, 8:30 AM (1 day ago)
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It's a historic week with Trump facing the first of his criminal trials. I'll be here to help make sense of it all and put things in perspective. Thanks for being a reader, and thanks even more to those who have supported my work with paid subscriptions. You make this newsletter possible!

Don Snoreleone

Trump appeared much diminished in his first day of trial, and even appeared to nod off. Sad!

APR 16
Donald Trump at his Manhattan trial, photo courtesy of The Washington Post

For a man for whom image is everything, Monday was a pretty terrible day for Donald Trump.

Trump portrays himself as invincible, uncowed and vibrant in the face of four daunting criminal indictments. But that didn't go so well on the first day of his criminal trial in Manhattan, as Trump sat glowering at the defense table, the first ex-president in history to face criminal charges. 

He appeared worn and grumpy. As Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reported

Trump has used the previous court appearances in other cases to project an image of grandeur. That is hard to do in this dingy courtroom, which smells slightly off and where he is an island amid a sea of people.

Trump, who regularly hobnobs with the billionaire set, was indeed now among the masses, which included 100 or so potential jurors, half of whom were excused immediately after raising their hands, indicating that they could not be impartial in this case.

And who can blame them?

The day's events, and the stark symbolism of the proceedings, are worth delving into, not only for their schadenfreudic value, but also because should things continue in this way, Trump will be much diminished in the eyes of the voting public.

Mr. Vulnerable

It was one thing for Trump to voluntarily attend his New York civil fraud trial, acting menacing and scowling at Judge Arthur Engoron, who ultimately delivered a stunning $464 million judgment. It's entirely another for Trump to be stuck for weeks in the same room as a jury of his "peers"—in this case a random set of Manhattanites with potential jurors that now apparently include a bookseller, an oncology nurse, an assistant Bronx County DA, and a woman who works at a sports betting site.

Indeed, Trump was ordered by Judge Juan Merchan, a New York state court judge, to appear in person for his trial four days a week, Wednesdays excluded, or face arrest.

That's right. The ex-president had less power over his whereabouts than a Manhattan judge born in Colombia. It's an important reminder of how things are supposed to work.

Beyond the humiliation of being required by a "lower" official to appear, Trump is also under a gag order by the same judge. He has already violated that order, of course, as part of Trump's habit of testing the limits of judicial power and patience. For these early violations, Trump is facing a hearing next Wednesday and $1,000 in sanctions for each infraction.

These are small and symbolic punishments that will likely grow should Trump continue to violate the gag order. But they represent something far bigger: the power of the judicial system to hold Trump to account however it sees fit. Merchan is in the unenviable position of having to do this without allowing Trump to turn the whole trial into a circus over his "free speech rights," so it's good in a way that he set the hearing for next week. The message? He will deal with Trump's violations when he wishes to deal with them, and no sooner.

There is also the sad spectacle of a man like Trump alone. Where are his loved ones? Who is there for any moral support at all? As legal commentator Joyce Vance tweeted,

I have rarely seen a defendant facing trial alone with no family, at least one person, in the courtroom for him. It's a sad commentary for a former president with four grown children & a wife, all of whom seem to have deserted him in the moment.

Trump once boasted, "I alone can fix it," telling his supporters that they didn't need anyone but their king on their side. Now that illusion is broken, and that king sits alone but unable to fix anything, not even his make-up. He seems less royalty than common man, perhaps lower still in some ways. After all, even the most common criminal can usually turn around from the defense table and see a sympathetic or supportive face. 

Instead, Trump is surrounded by his perceived enemies. Here's the telling Press Pool report as the first day of Trump's first trial wound down:

After the jurors leave the courtroom, [Trump] stares over at DA Alvin Bragg. Then Trump turns his eyes to the press pool. As he exits, he glares at New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman for several seconds as he walks out.

Mr. Whiny

Trump's main complaint throughout this case is built on a lie. He has consistently claimed, without evidence, that Joe Biden is behind the state charges. This is nonsensical, but in Trump's narrative, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought an indictment against him not for covering up his illegal influencing of the 2016 election, but rather on orders from the White House to tip the election in 2024.

In Trump's warped world, but for his having to be in New York four days a week, he could be out campaigning in the swing states. "Election interference!" Trump rails nearly daily. 

But a four-day trial week still leaves three days open for campaign appearances. It's not as if Joe Biden doesn't also have non-election related events to attend to, including trying to stop hostilities between Israel and Iran from escalating into an open, regional war. Both candidates have their day jobs. Trump's for the next eight weeks happens to be to sit as a criminal defendant in court.

As for "election interference," it's not clear what the court case interferes with. Trump has made relatively few campaign stops over the past weeks, even before the trial began. By the end of March, Trump had held only two campaign events after becoming the presumptive GOP nominee. Meanwhile, in that same period, Joe Biden made some 18 appearances in eight swing states. 

What is Trump doing instead? To no one's surprise, he still spends most of his time golfing at Mar-a-Lago, and even awarding himself with first place prizes in his own golf tournaments. He seems unwilling to devote much time to actual campaigning—a fact that the Biden Campaign poked direct fun at in a video.

On Monday, when Trump finally emerged from the courthouse, he repeated his complaints about "election interference" and added how he wouldn't even be allowed to attend the upcoming Supreme Court hearing or his son Barron's graduation.

Judge Merchan pointed out that, unlike in his court, attendance at the Supreme Court was optional. "Your client," he said, speaking to Trump's attorney directly, "is a criminal defendant in New York. He is required to be here. He is not required to be in the Supreme Court. I will see him here next week."

Trump in fact had skipped out of the SCOTUS hearing on his qualification to remain on the Colorado ballot, so it's not as if he's really all that interested in such events, however momentous. And Judge Merchan actually never denied Trump the right to attend his son Barron's high school graduation ceremony in May. He said only that he would consider it.

That didn't stop Trumpy politicos from overplaying the "Donald as victim" card. Senate candidate Kari Lake (Q-Pluto), who would swear her fealty to Trump on a stack of $60 U.S.A. Bibles if she could, took home first place for over-the-top sycophancy in this tweet:

I am heartbroken for President Trump & Barron. 

All the hard work our kids put into graduating, & President Trump is being robbed of getting to experience his son's High School graduation ceremony. 

This corrupt judge is heartless & cruel.

This might have carried greater weight had Trump ever attended the graduations of any of his other children, Don Jr., Ivanka, Eric and Tiffany—the very ones who aren't there in court to attend Trump's own matriculation into felonyhood. 

Mr. Sleepy Don

And as he sat stony-faced at trial, Donald Trump, who has mocked Biden as "Sleepy Joe," visibly dozed off, according to Haberman, his head falling to his chest, his mouth gone slack. When his attorney passed him a note, he did not take it, likely because he was asleep and unaware. (Trump of course denies that he did.)

Preet Bharara, whom Trump had fired as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, had this to say:

I've never heard of a defendant falling asleep at his own trial, let alone on the first day

The memes naturally flew fast and funny, but I'll save them for Saturday's round-up. Suffice it to say, we can expect that this isn't the last time a bored and low-energy Trump will nod off at his own trial, undercutting one of his big talking points about Joe Biden. 

More Republicans would know about Trump's ironic nap if they weren't glued to Fox News instead of any other media outlet. As Aaron Rupar noted,

Shocker: Neither Fox News or Fox Business has mentioned reports of Trump falling asleep in court today

Maybe the next time it happens, someone can get him a MyPillow.

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Juan Matute
     (New link as of 29 March - click on it)
― The Lincoln Project

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