Former President Donald Trump is currently on trial in New York. It’s not a criminal trial — as many as four of those are scheduled for next year — but rather a civil case, brought by the New York attorney general’s office. It accuses the former president, his three oldest children, and the Trump Organization of committing fraud, in part by inflating the value of their assets.
Per Slate, and other media organizations, Trump appears to have concluded that he is not going to win the trial, so he might as well play to the crowd and use the situation for political advantage.
All three of Trump’s oldest children have testified already in the case, as has Trump himself. And the former president, per reports from the courtroom, spent much of his time on the witness stand grandstanding.
“This is not a political rally,” Judge Arthur Engoron declared at one point during the testimony, although he eventually stopped attempting to get the ex-president to stop ranting at will from the witness stand.
“I thought Donald Trump’s outbursts against the judge were truly remarkable,” Barbara McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor, told Slate. “He said on the stand how the prosecutor is a hack and how the judge is biased and unfair. At one point, the judge asked Trump’s lawyer, ‘Could you please get your client under control?’ The response was, ‘I will not violate my client’s First Amendment rights,’ which is such an absurd response. In the courtroom, there’s no First Amendment right to say whatever you want to say. You’re under oath to answer questions truthfully.”
“This is really all just a performance for Donald Trump. This is a show to provide a false narrative to his supporters that he is a victim, that he is being railroaded by prosecutors in the courts, and that he will continue to show that he is above the law,” McQuade added in the Slate story. “I think he anticipates that he will lose this case. And this way when he loses, he will be able to say to his supporters, ‘See, I told you all along they had it in for me.’ It really does make me wonder whether he won’t use the same strategy in one or more of his trials. Maybe all four of them.”
Lawyer Ken White talked about the case on his podcast with Josh Barro, Serious Trouble, earlier this week. His cohost, Barro, noted that Trump appears to be “playing to cameras that aren’t there.”
“Everything the Trump team is doing, you can’t understand it as trying to win the case,” White said on the podcast. “that’s not what it’s about. It is purely about signaling that they think the judge, the court, the process, and everything is illegitimate. It’s a showing of complete contempt for everything.” He compared it to the Chicago 7 trial in the 1960s, and Abbie Hoffman and his codefendants adopted a similar strategy.
White also referenced a moment in court in which the judge told Trump’s attorneys to “control your client,” and one of them replied, “It’s your courtroom, you need to control it.”
“Which is something I would not say [in court] unless it was my intention to leave the courtroom in handcuffs,” White said.
“Trump and his lawyers act in this way, and they know it will be widely reported, and they know that the same people will say this guy’s the worst, and they know that the same people will say this guy’s the best, and they’re very skilled in getting that message out there,” White said.
It’s not clear when the New York trial will be over, but the former president is facing several more trials next year.
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Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.