Trump defiant as political and legal worlds collide

Photo of author


It is, he told his followers, all “bullshit.”

Hours before his court appearance for his civil fraud trial in New York, Trump stood on a stage at a cavernous sports complex in southern New Hampshire and hurled insults at President Joe Biden and his Justice Department. He mocked New York Attorney General Tish James and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. And he wondered if his accusations would make his late father proud.

“I was accused four times in the last 12 minutes. “I heard we have two more, but I heard the Justice Department said ‘no, don’t do it’ because we’ve gone up in the polls every time I’m indicted,” Trump joked to applause.

“’Don’t accuse him anymore. This is killing us,’” she continued, adopting the voice of a fictional person from the Department of Justice. “We are going to impeach him directly at the White House.”

Trump and his allies have long used criminal cases against him to mobilize the MAGA base, an enduring feature of his unique brand of grievance politics. But those legal problems had never intersected so clearly with his political destiny. Two Trump-aligned lawyers, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, recently agreed to plea deals in the criminal election interference case in Georgia, just as Trump is stepping up efforts to defend his legal cases in the court of public opinion. .

In a reflection of how intertwined their legal and political paths have become, the Trump campaign moved quickly to raise funds following news of the gag order with email pleas to his supporters saying: “I will not allow a gag order silences them.” And in Trump’s world there has been consideration of what an appeal of the gag order could mean electorally. The appeal could further delay the procedure, which is what the former president wanted, according to two people familiar with the discussions who requested anonymity to speak freely.

Hanging over all the deliberations is the recognition that Trump will probably not stop talking about the issue, although perhaps in a more moderate tone.

“This is the first time in history that someone has been impeached and their poll numbers have gone up,” Trump said. “When they accuse you, screw them, because people understand that it’s nonsense.”

“Shit, shit,” the crowd chanted.

Earlier in the afternoon, while filing for the New Hampshire presidential primary at the Secretary of State’s office in Concord, Trump said he is “not at all” concerned about losing attorney-client privilege with Powell after claiming that she was never his lawyer. despite having once said precisely that. Trump continued to insist that he did “nothing wrong,” that his mounting legal challenges were “dirty politics” and that he could go after his own political opponents.

“It’s a two-way street,” Trump said. “Now it can also happen the other way around, and that is a sad moment for our country.”

Trump’s comments come amid an intensifying fight – in Washington, DC and New York – over the danger his rhetoric poses to efforts to hold him accountable in criminal and civil courts. And they underscore the rhetorical tightrope he will now have to walk as the primary season approaches.

Judges in both cities are weighing concerns that Trump’s social media bombast and penchant for invective against his perceived enemies could poison jurors in his criminal cases or scare witnesses into not being completely truthful.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan granted Trump a temporary stay of a gag order he had imposed just three days earlier, after Trump’s attorney, John Lauro, argued that parts of The order was vague and indecipherable. Within hours, Trump had resumed his attacks on the lead prosecutor in his Washington and Florida criminal cases, special prosecutor Jack Smith, calling him “unhinged” and also attacking a potential witness at his trial in Florida.

Chutkan had already warned Trump that some of his comments to that effect had violated his pre-trial release conditions. She imposed the gag order last Tuesday to formally compel Trump not to make specific inflammatory statements about Smith and his team, potential witnesses and court officials.

His comments, and any others he makes during the election campaign or on Truth Social, could figure in his legal fight to permanently lift the gag order, or in a decision by Chutkan to reimpose it.

Trump has already run afoul of another judge’s gag order. Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the civil fraud trial of Trump’s business empire, fined him $5,000 last week after learning that Trump’s campaign website continued to feature an attack on Engoron’s top secretary, even after the judge had ordered Trump to take it down and refrain from future attacks.

Trump attorney Chris Kise said the matter was an oversight due to some automated campaign procedures. Engoron said his decision to impose a nominal fine reflected that inadvertence. But he warned that he would impose much harsher punishments, including possible prison time, if Trump committed more violations.

Trump appeared to stay within those boundaries at his rally in Derry, where nearly 2,000 supporters from across New England filled a gymnasium to see him.

Clad in bright red hats reading “Make America Great Again” and T-shirts depicting Trump behind bars, fans of the former president danced on chairs to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” as they awaited his arrival. They laughed and applauded as he impersonated Biden from the podium and jeered when Trump criticized the president’s approach to Israel. From time to time cries of “we love you” rose from the crowd.

In interview after interview Monday, Trump supporters emphasized that they would not leave his side even as his legal problems mount. In fact, they said, the more charges are piled up against him, the more motivated they are to vote for him again.

“We think it’s a bunch of nonsense,” said Jackie Thibault, a Republican from Chester, NH, while holding a hand-painted sign that read “Trump 2024.” “We see what they are trying to do with it. … They are very afraid of him and that is why they go after him.”

There was an undercurrent of confusion among some of Trump’s supporters, including Thibault, about why Powell and Chesebro reached plea deals last week and what that could mean for Trump.

“I don’t understand that,” Thibault said.

But Trump “has a plan,” he said. “I hope so”.

Leave a comment