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Trump’s Trial Could Bring a Rarity: Consequences for His Words

“So it’s not true?” Isn’t that true?”

The judge in Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan had just interrupted the former president’s lawyer, Todd Blanche. Mr. Blanche was defending a social media post in which his client wrote that a years-old public statement “WAS JUST FOUND!”

Mr. Blanche had already admitted during Tuesday’s hearing that Mr. Trump’s message was false. But the judge, Juan M. Merchan, was not satisfied.

“I have to understand,” Judge Merchan said, glaring at the bench’s lawyer, “what I’m facing.”

The question of what is true – or at least what can be proven – is at the heart of any trial. But this particular defendant, accused by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal, spent five decades spewing thousands and thousands of words, sometimes contradicting himself within minutes, sometimes in the same breath, without caring much about the matter. consequences of what he said.

Mr. Trump treated his own words as disposable products, intended for one use, and not necessarily indicative of deeply held beliefs. And his tendency to stack phrases on top of each other has often worked to his advantage, amusing or engaging his supporters – sometimes prompting threats and even violence – while distracting, infuriating or just plain disorienting his critics and critics. opponents.

If Mr. Blanche appeared indifferent in court as he told a criminal judge that his client had said something untrue, it may simply be because the routine has become so familiar.

Mr. Trump’s career-long habit of having a stream of consciousness ready to fire – on social media, on television, with reporters, to rally participants – can now be held against him by prosecutors and a judge who has real power over him. .

Prosecutors asked the judge to convict the former president of criminal contempt for violating a silence order that prohibits him from attacking witnesses, which they said was necessary given that his previous attacks had “resulted in threats credible reports of violence, harassment and intimidation. Judge Merchan’s questioning of the veracity of what Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social was one of several episodes that highlighted how constant public speaking — which made Mr. Trump a tabloid staple and then reality TV star – has been working against him of late.

Ultimately, the affair could threaten not only Mr. Trump’s freedom, but also the central tenets of a lifelong philosophy, always present in the former president’s speech: a convenient disregard for the truth, a categorical denial of anything that could be harmful and a stubborn insistence that his adversaries always act in bad faith.

The consequences so far have been minimal. Prosecutors told the judge during the contempt hearing Tuesday that for now, they are not seeking prison time for comments primarily targeting two key witnesses: Michael D. Cohen, former fixer and personal attorney for Mr. Trump, and Ms. Daniels, the porn star. who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump and that Mr. Cohen paid $130,000 to remain silent weeks before the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump is less moved by threats of fines. Yet when he was sentenced to a similar sanction in a civil fraud trial late last year, he slowed his attacks on a court official after the sanctions increased.

Mr. Trump succinctly explained his mentality during his run for president in 2016. When Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell asked him why he responded to every slight, the candidate replied: “I have to defend myself.”

Mr. Trump’s words — which helped get him to the White House through dozens of rallies and interviews — often worked against him once he got there. In July 2016, his public appeal to Russia to “find” Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails on her private server just after he officially became the Republican nominee became part of the investigation into whether her campaign had conspired with the Russians to help elect him.

Mr. Trump has also been investigated for obstruction of justice as part of a broader investigation into Russian interference led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. One such possible act of obstruction was a series of tweets in April 2018 in which he stated that Mr. Cohen, his personal lawyer who was under investigation, would never turn against him. (Mr. Cohen ultimately did so; he is expected to be a key witness at Mr. Trump’s criminal trial, and prosecutors have suggested they might introduce those tweets as evidence.)

As a sitting president, Mr. Trump was immune from prosecution; he only faced a big report from Mr. Mueller.

Those protections disappeared when he lost the presidency and left the White House. But Mr. Trump has not changed his approach to public life, and it seems unlikely that he ever will.

Mr. Trump has long confused legal issues with public relations issues, treating legal type as easily derived from statements or deviations.

Since the charges were unsealed in April 2023 by District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Mr. Trump and his advisers have braided together legal and policy responses. They successfully called on Republicans to defend the former president and baselessly argued that Mr. Bragg, a Democrat in a majority Democratic county, was acting on orders from Mr. Trump’s political opponent, President Biden.

They also attempted to use political arguments to justify Mr. Trump’s actions in this matter. At Tuesday’s gag hearing, Mr. Blanche sought to excuse a series of verbal attacks by Mr. Trump against Mr. Cohen and Ms. Daniels. He argued that by attacking them, the former president was responding to the political attacks of his adversaries – who happen to be witnesses in the case.

The judge didn’t believe it. He told Mr. Blanche that he planned to ask, in each example, “What exactly is your client responding to?” When Mr. Blanche did not have the requested information at hand, Judge Mercan reminded him of the purpose of the hearing.

“I will decide whether your client is guilty of contempt or not,” he said, adding: “I keep asking you for a specific example, and I don’t get an answer.”

Judge Merchan has not yet ruled on whether to find Mr. Trump in contempt. While prosecutors have argued that Mr. Trump is “looking” to be arrested, some people close to Mr. Trump privately insist that, for all his bravado, he desperately wants to avoid prison.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump has continued to make comments that test the limits of what he can say. Two days after the hearing, prosecutors proposed four new cases in which they said he violated the silence order.

Two of them were during political interviews. One was in the hallway just outside Judge Merchan’s courtroom, where cameras are placed to capture Mr. Trump speaking before and after court hearings. There, Mr. Trump once again hammered Mr. Cohen’s credibility.

In response, Judge Merchan scheduled a new hearing this week at which, once again, the former president’s statements will be in the spotlight: dissected, examined and, ultimately, judged.

News Source : www.nytimes.com
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jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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