Thursday, June 29, 2023

It’s That Simple

 Anybody still remember the E. Jean Carrol trial? Where Trump denied ever entering the doors of Bergdorf Goodman or knocking who Ms. Carroll is, or denying that she was his “type,” and thus he couldn’t have raped her? Anybody remember it was a classic “she said/he said” conflict where the jury had to struggle with the issue of who to believe, because it was her word against his, his against hers?

Neither does the jury, because that’s not the way the trial happened. The trial happened without Trump ever appearing in court, because had Trump appeared, he might have been called by Ms. Carroll to testify. Defendants in civil suits don’t have a 5th Amendment protection. That’s primarily why Trump was in Ireland for the trial; and why he’ll be in court for the criminal trials. And why he can’t really put on the defenses he’s trying to make now to the Florida indictment. It’s his words (he has several scenarios available) against the witnesses. And he won’t take the stand, anymore than he did when he abandoned the country to avoid testifying. He simply can’t afford to. What comes off as “successful” in media reports is absolutely disastrous IRL.

To legal observers and, indeed, to pretty much anyone who could hear, the audiotape sounded like an admission of guilt. But this is Trump, a serial liar for whom an obvious defense presents itself: that he was not telling the truth to his visitors when he claimed to be showing them secret papers. And, sure enough, by Tuesday, Trump told reporters on his way back from a New Hampshire campaign appearance, “It was bravado, if you want to know the truth”—bravado here being a Trump synonym for “bullshitting.” This is the 2023 equivalent of dismissing the “Access Hollywood” tape as mere “locker-room talk” that had nothing to do with Trump’s actual behavior toward women. He even suggested that the papers he is heard shuffling through were just “building plans.” For Trump, it’s better to be a liar than a convict.

”Legal observers” understand something Ms. Glassier, for the sake of her narrative, doesn’t want to: Trump can’t raise this defense in the courtroom. He can’t do it because he can’t testify. Even Joe Tacopina wouldn’t let Trump testify in the civil case, and his client’s liberty wasn’t at stake there. If Trump testifies in Florida, it’s all over but the shouting. His lawyers would withdraw from the case rather than represent him at that point. And the fact Trump went to Ireland rather than be in court for the Carroll trial indicates even Trump understands this. Trump is a serial liar who plays the media like a fiddle, but he understands that, in the courtroom, he has no power at all. His defense of lies is useless because, if he starts spewing them, they will be challenged; and he will lose.

It’s that simple.

Trump can praise his performance after the fact, or call the interviewer “nasty, “ even complain they didn’t smile in the interview. He can do all that safely through social media or to another, even more fawning, interviewer. But he can’t do it IRT, and he can’t do it under cross-examination, where his every word can be subject to challenge. Trump wilts at challenge. He folds, he fades, he collapses. He has a retort later, when the challenger is gone. Whenever he faces actual pushback, one on one, without a cheering audience of minions, he drops like an empty suit.

There is no audience to play to in a courtroom, no escape from the insistent questioner, no opportunity to call the interrogator “nasty.” Judges don’t put up with that, and Donald Trump is cowed in the presence of judges. He can make up defenses in accounts the media will dutifully report.

He can’t do that in court. He can’t afford to.

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