As his first criminal trial begins, Trump has been emoting on social media calling himself “a very popular and successful President of the United States, getting more votes than any sitting President in history,”

No, he didn’t.

On Monday, April 15th, Trump sat in the dingy Manhattan courtroom for the first day of his criminal trial, while a bevy of lawyers argued about what could be admitted into evidence and some of the hundreds of potential jurors filled out forms that helped to weed out who would or would not be fair and impartial and follow the law and the rules for criminal trials.

Trump looked haggard, tired and old. When Trump spoke directly to Judge Juan Merchan, the man he has been maligning on social media, Trump said “Yes, sir.” more than once. He made his requests through his counsel: could he avoid coming to court on certain days? go to his son’s graduation from high school? get to go sidebar with the lawyers when there was a question to discuss involving counsel? Trump has to adhere to the rulings of Judge Merchan, a man that he has excoriated on social media. He is very lucky that Judge Merchan is fair, contrary to the way Trump has characterized him.

At one point Trump appeared to doze off.

  • In the early hours of his criminal trial, Trump “appeared to nod off a few times, his mouth going slack and his head drooping onto his chest,” the N.Y. Times’ Maggie Haberman reported.
  • Trump “appeared to jolt awake” after several minutes of his lawyer passing him notes, Haberman wrote.

That also happened on the second day of trial. Trump might call Joe Biden Sleepy Joe, but Biden is full of beans compared to criminal defendant Trump at least on the first two days of trial. This guy sure doesn’t look like the blessed savior his cult followers want to worship. Being a criminal defendant really isn’t a great look if you are auditioning to be a dictator and a strongman.  He might be able to lean into grievance, but that only goes so far.


Much has been written and talked about when it comes to Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial. We may know many of the facts but there could be some surprises especially when it comes to the National Enquirer and David Pecker.

Trump paid off a porn star to keep her from speaking out after the Access Hollywood tape came out on the eve of the 2016 election. Trump was plummeting in the polls after the Access Hollywood reveal. He paid off Daniels and tried to cover it up by falsifying business records and tax records. We will never know what the impact might have been if Stormy Daniels had exposed Trump’s affair with her after the sordid “grab em by the pussy” comment Trump was caught on tape saying in the Access Hollywood reveal. But we do know that Trump’s team was very worried after that tape aired.  Trump had to get the evangelical vote to win the 2016 election and he was trying to pretend he was a moral man back then.

Trump won the presidency by 80,000 votes in key districts of key battleground states. If Americans had learned that Trump lied about paying off Daniels and used Michael Cohen, his fixer, to get around laws governing political contributions thereby violating financial and tax laws, and had a nefarious arrangement with the National Enquirer to feed fake news to the tabloid readers to help Trump win, would that have turned off enough voters so that they would have stayed home even if they didn’t choose to vote for Hillary?

Well…that was a time before

  • Trump had appointed three anti-abortion Supreme Court justices to appease the rabid anti-abortion rightwing and condoned White supremacy, winning him the loyalty of white evangelicals.
  • Trump and his enablers had extensively eroded our political process and threatened people who would not comply.
  • Right wing Russian influenced social media eco-chamber was in full, unencumbered propaganda mode.

So, yes, it might well have made the difference.

Imagine what the last eight years could have been like if Trump had gone back to playing golf and getting paid to put his name on buildings instead of trashing America, helping Putin and going all in on dividing our country.


The case in Manhattan starting with jury selection is being framed as an election interference case because it was the first of many Trump schemes replete with lies and cover ups to get elected and stay in power.  Alvin Bragg has described the case as follows:

“We would say it’s about conspiring to corrupt a presidential election and then lying in New York business records to cover it up. That’s the heart of the case.”


Many pundits have said that the Manhattan case is the weakest one when it comes to Trump’s culpability. What they don’t understand is that what Trump fears most is the loss of his IMAGE with his base. Rightly so.

When it comes to the documents case he can claim he did not steal them because they should have belonged to him as president. When it comes to the Georgia RICO case and Jack Smith’s case where he tried to overturn the election he can claim he was just trying to make sure the election was fair. He can still be larger than life and a cult leader with those fantasy reinventions.

But when it comes to this case in Manhattan where he paid off a porn star and lied about it, it is the most damaging for his image with his base which consists of a lot of older white evangelicals. He will be exposed to be an immoral man, not a role model. Even the fact that Stormy Daniels swatted his butt with a magazine exposes him as an unmacho man who let a woman dominate him. His wife was home with a 4 month old baby when Trump had that affair with Stormy Daniels which will not win the hearts and minds of most women. There were other affairs that will come out in the evidence at trial as well. He will also be exposed to have been in a plot to gain the presidency with the help of the seedy National Inquirer dude, David Pecker.

This crime makes Trump look weak. It is arguably more image-shattering than his other criminal cases. Melania, you might have noticed, is not in the courthouse to support Trump. You can probably guess why.  And, most tellingly, Trump is not mentioning this case at his rallies while he talks about the other cases all the time. His defense will be that he thought what he did was lawful. But the documents and testimony will tell a different story. To convince the jury that he did not think what he did was unlawful Trump would need to take the stand and be subjected to cross examination. It is unlikely that he will take the stand no matter what he says he plans to do. He could be cross examined extensively on his prior bad acts that are similar to what he has done in this case. There are many instances of prior adjudicated financial crimes that the prosecution will ask to ask Judge Merchan to allow them to use in case Trump does decide to testify.


Trump is always reshaping reality in an image that suits him best and trying to pass it off as truthful reality. He is the perfect vessel for the infusion of Russian propaganda (alternate reality) into the GOP and he has been teaching the MAGA Republicans how to create the alternate universe and hug it tight come hell or high water. This behavior has gotten Trump impeached, sued and indicted. Because it requires that Trump lie and insist the lie is true over and over again. Trump has been impeached twice, lost a huge civil fraud trial, is being forced to pay millions for sexually assaulting E. Jean Carroll, and faces 4 criminal trials. In each instance the MO is roughly the same.

He lies to get something he wants. He gets others to help him amplify the lies. He doubles down on the lies. He acts to cover up the lies and gets others to help him. Over and over and over again. This is what Trump does. This is who he is.

While in office he was caught by fact checkers boldly asserting over 30,000 consequential lies. He mostly got away with it. The lies get him in trouble when he interfaces with a system of justice, namely, the courts (or the House when it investigated him and found out what he was up to in the impeachment trial). He gets in trouble anywhere evidence has to be truthful and lies get punished.

The world of real estate was permissive about lying and puffing although you can get in trouble if you don’t tell the truth to financial institutions as Trump learned in the financial fraud case he just lost bigly. In the world of sales and public relations lying is not only permitted but expected. In politics there are lies that go unchecked as well.  But the legal system, FBI and Department of Justice are built to function like a referee of last resort. In a democracy we need that referee. because there are times when the consequences are too important to overlook. Lying and cheating to become president should be one of those times.


The courts have to hold the line in a democracy. If people like Trump are above the law, then we are sliding into an autocracy where the alternate reality is all you get and you suddenly realize you are living in a dictatorship where the world is upside down because you are fed a steady diet of disinformation.

Trump was warned in every instance but consciously chose not to listen when he was advised about the lines he should not cross. He crossed them anyhow. And over time he has gotten ever more emboldened. Why? Because he has gotten away with so much by not listening to advisors who warn him not to do what he is going to do. His incentive has been to break more rules and norms. No one stopped him.

The law is now catching up to Trump, but it is only happening because he has been out of the presidency long enough for these cases to be investigated, developed and now come to fruition. Out of power, Trump has been unable to use the levers of power he availed himself of as president to suppress information and get sycophants to help him by taking fixer roles like the one Michael Cohen had. Bill Barr played that role, for example. at the Justice Department at least until Barr saw that Trump was going to lose. Barr pretended that DOJ was pursing the Stormy Daniels case, which caused the NY States Attorney to hold off on its investigation, only to announce the matter was dead after Michael Cohen was sent to jail for getting caught doing what Trump directed him to do to help Trump out of his jam. This happened because of Trump’s behind the scenes manipulation with the help of Bill Barr.

While president Trump had many others willing to play the fixer role he always needs because he is always breaking the laws, the norms and the rules that get in his way. If Trump wins re-election these fixers will be back along with a bigger cast of miscreants to help Trump become the first American dictator he has promised to be on Day One.

At least for the time being, Trump is facing consequences and so are many of his lawyers as well as others who aided and abetted him. The huge New York felony fraud trial he lost before Judge Engoron will cost Trump millions and the likely eventual loss of some of his flagship properties. E. Jean Carroll will get her $83.3 million and bragging rights for taking Trump down for telling lies about her. We will see what happens next with this Manhattan criminal trial.


What is at stake for our country is nothing less than the future of our democracy. And what’s at stake for Trump is HIS future. If Trump loses this trial, he might try to get his MAGA goon squad to rise up for him in the streets of New York like he did on January 6th. In fact, he is already trying to do that by urging his followers on social media to rise up. But there was hardly anyone there in front of the court rising up for Trump on the first day of his trial. Sure, there were a few weirdos walking around in front of the courthouse wearing Trump flags, but this was not the show of force that Trump had hoped for over social media

We will face a stark choice in November: do we want to preserve Trump or do we want to preserve our country? And it will be up to us, the voters of this country, to choose. Tribal Republicans will be faced with the biggest challenge. Will enough of those Republicans put country over party and vote for Biden? Will those all important independent voters in battleground states get to the polls? Will those of us who care about preserving our democracy turn out to vote for Joe Biden no matter what other beefs we might have with the guy?

If nothing else, the Manhattan criminal trial should help everyone remember the insanity, the lying, the scheming, the cheating, the covering up we get when Trump is at the helm of our ship of state. This trial is just one more instance of Trump being Trump.  He’s not only a criminal at his core, he is also weak and pitiful these days.

Trump doesn’t look like the strongman his followers want him to be.