After the guilty verdict: The right goes wrong!

Shocked but not surprised.

This has become a near daily mantra when reacting to the latest news from Donald Trump — and the entire Republican party. Their actions are somehow simultaneously beyond belief and yet entirely predictable.

The latest case in point: The GOP’s responses to the former President’s verdict of guilty to 34 felony counts last week. Rather than take even the slightest step back from their rabid support of the former President, they are hugging him even more tightly. And leading the way, of course, is Trump himself.

The trial was so not “rigged”

Trump has only a small bag of tricks. His most reliable one is to repeat a lie over and over again until people — primarily his supporters — start to believe it must be true. That’s how he convinced supporters to believe the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

And so it is with the verdict in the New York election interference trial. He continues to falsely assert that the trial was rigged; the judge is conflicted; the system is corrupt. And, perhaps most egregiously, he hammers home the lie that the Biden administration was the force behind the prosecution — despite never citing a shred of evidence to back up that claim.

On  the contrary, as effectively detailed by Andrew Weissmann, the record clearly shows how incredibly fair the trial actually was: (1) the prosecution laid out a clear and compelling story — with the most damaging evidence coming from people who were and continue to be supportive of Trump, people such as David Pecker and Hope Hicks; (2) the Judge was even-handed to a fault, frequently sustaining defense objections and giving Trump a longer leash to violate the gag order than any other defendant would have received; (3) Trump was ultimately judged by a jury of his peers. As Robert Reich put it: “Those jurors were not Democrats. They were not politicians. They were not people who had a bias against Trump. They were Americans. Trump’s lawyers allowed them to become jurors because they showed no bias.” They deliberated for two days, reviewing testimony and re-hearing the judge’s instructions, before coming to a unanimous verdict of guilty on all 34 counts! This is the way our justice system is supposed to work — no matter who the defendant is. What could be more fair?

And, if you have any doubt, it’s all there in black and white — in the transcripts of the trial. Of course, Trump’s defenders are unconcerned with what took place in the courtroom. They denounce the verdict anyway — to the point of outright lying.

One especially egregious example is Republican Senator Susan Collins, who falsely claimed that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg “campaigned on a promise to prosecute Donald Trump” and “brought these charges precisely because of who the defendant was rather than because of any specified criminal conduct.” Actually, Bragg never made such a promise and never campaigned on it. Collins just made this up. And, even it were true that Bragg had some sort of bias against Trump, it wouldn’t mean the trial was unfair. A prosecutor’s bias does not lead to a conviction. He still has to prove his case to an unbiased jury — beyond a reasonable doubt. And that’s what Bragg did.

Similarly, you have Speaker Mike Johnson, second in line to the Presidency, saying: “I do believe the Supreme Court should step in. I think this court will do the right thing, because they see the abuse of the system right now.” No…there is almost no basis for the Supreme Court to ever weigh in on this state court decision. And Johnson did not specify even one instance of what qualified as “abuse.” Again, he’s just making it up as he goes along.

Not to be outdone, Texas Governor Greg Abbott went completely off the rails: “This was a sham show trial. The Kangaroo Court will never stand on appeal. Americans deserve better than a sitting U.S. President weaponizing our justice system against a political opponent— all to win an election.” Again, there is no evidence that Biden had any influence on the trial.

And if a Republican dares to call for even the most muted acceptance of the results, as Larry Hogan did, he/she is immediately castigated by Trump’s minions.

Then there’s Trump himself. Falsehoods spew from his mouth with the force of water gushing out of an open fire hydrant — in speeches that increasingly swing from rambling to delusional.

Such comments serve to undermine the country’s faith in the entire system of justice — beyond just this trial. While this grievance-filled rhetoric is exactly what Trump wants to promote, it’s very disheartening to see the rest of what’s left of the Republican Party follow down this dangerous path. They see no problem with putting the very foundation of our democracy in peril — for their short-term political gain. It’s shameful. Unfortunately, Trump and his minions are incapable of shame.

The more you think about what the GOP is saying, the crazier it all begins to sound. The Democrats were unable to salvage a POTUS victory for Gore in 2000. They were similarly not able to eke out a victory for Clinton in 2016. They weren’t able to prevent the GOP from regaining control of the House in 2022. And they haven’t been able to halt the trials of Hunter Biden or Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. Yet, these same Democrats were somehow able to determine the outcome of Trump’s criminal trial — which could require illegally influencing all twelve jurors?

Get real. That’s not what happened. The New York trial was not rigged. Not even close. Period.

 After the Trump guilty verdict, these are the Republican leaders standing up and putting country before party. [image from Washington Post]

The false equivalence of left vs. right

The media have a long and sad history of presenting the opposing views of the right vs. the left as equally legitimate. Don’t fall for that trap here.

As I’ve already covered, the right’s totally false assertions that the trial was rigged should demolish any notion of equivalence. But allow me to return to Andrew Weissmann — who puts the final nail in the coffin of this misconception. He notes that, in the weeks that he and Mary McCord covered the trial, they consistently proclaimed the fairness of the process. They did this in the complete absence of any knowledge of what the verdict would eventually be. Had Trump been acquitted, it is certain their perspective would have remained unchanged. They would have likely expressed disappointment in the outcome; they might have even opined that the verdict was wrong (although I expect they would instead focus on weaknesses and mistakes in the prosecution’s case). But they would have accepted the outcome as the result of a just process — and moved on. They certainly would not have railed on and on about how Trump and the GOP had conspired to rig the trial. I believe most on the left (including myself) would have done the same.

Contrast that to Trump and the GOP — who reacted with “immediate fury“as they embarked on a “campaign of vengeance.” “Republicans in Congress are embracing Donald Trump’s strategy of blaming the U.S. justice system after his historic guilty verdict.” “The ferocity of the outcry was remarkable, tossing aside the usual restraints that lawmakers and political figures have observed in the past when refraining from criticism of judges and juries.” You almost get the sense that there is desperation here — as if they need to scream louder and louder the worse the news gets.

No, there is no equivalence here to what would have happened if the situation was reversed.

Heads Trump wins; tails we lose? Nope!

It’s almost magical. No matter what happens, it seems to work out to Trump’s advantage. While the media seem uber-obsessed with pointing this out, it does have a degree of undeniable truth. After Trump was indicted last year, his standings in the polls actually increased. What would have been a career-ending catastrophe for almost anyone else only added to his popularity. [Books have been written about why this is so; but that’s beyond the scope of this post. However, for some insight, I recommend this post from Robert Reich.]

And so it has been in the aftermath of Trump’s guilty verdict: “Trump and his allies believe that criminal convictions will work in his favor.” Certainly, a surge in donations occurred immediately following the verdict. And numerous pundits, on the left as well as the right, are concurring that the verdict will be largely forgotten by the November election.

So what was the preferred alternative here? An acquittal? Hardly. Without a doubt, an acquittal would have helped Trump much more than the conviction. So is there no outcome that works against Trump?

Yes, there is such an outcome. It’s already happened. This verdict will hurt Trump. And his inevitable “shoot-yourself-in-the-foot” reactions will further erode his standing. We are already seeing signs of this in the latest polling.

I still believe there comes a time — after impeachments, indictments, civil judgements, an insurrection and now a felony conviction — that a majority of the public will say “enough is enough” and Trump’s candidacy will be doomed. The teflon will begin to wear off.

I believe this is the time. The New York trial will prove to be the pivotal point that initiates a shift in direction. Hang in there!

What can you do?

Some Democrats are already warning against talking about Trump’s legal woes on the campaign trail — lest it backfire and play into the GOP’s fabrication that the Democrats were the force behind the prosecution. I disagree. That may have been a reasonable strategy before the verdict — but not now. All of us can — and should — stress the truth that Trump is a felon. Because it matters! Spread the word. Shout it from the rooftops. We shouldn’t fear making this a campaign issue. Make it a central issue — because it is a central issue.

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