Donald Trump spent much of Tuesday glowering angrily as he was herded through the booking process and into court for his arraignment, where he pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Tuesday night, though, he was where he likes to be: at Mar-a-Lago in front of an adoring audience.
“I never thought anything like this could happen in America. Never thought it could happen,” Trump said, referring to the criminal charges against him. “The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.” Quite the noble martyr, isn’t he? In 2016, Trump ran on a platform of “lock her up,” so the “anything like this” he never thought could happen is not criminal charges against a prominent political figure—it’s just about himself. As usual.
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“Please refrain from making statements that are likely to incite violence or civil unrest,” New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan had told Trump during his arraignment, including by “making comments that have potential to incite violence, create civil unrest or jeopardize the state or well-being of any individuals.”
Outside of the court building, Trump lawyer Susan Necheles had insisted, “He’s not going after the judge. He has commented that he thought there were some issues that may cause a conflict. That’s not going after the judge. He is not threatening the judge. He is not going after the judge.”
At Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday night, Trump claimed, “This is a persecution, not an investigation,” calling Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg a “George Soros–backed radical-left prosecutor” before turning to Merchan, about whom he said, “I have a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris.” So that’s going about how you’d expect.
Trump also had plenty of other investigations to complain about and prosecutors to attack, calling special counsel Jack Smith “a radical-left lunatic known as a bomb thrower”; Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis “a local racist Democrat district attorney in Atlanta”; and New York Attorney General Letitia James a “racist.” (So apparently “racist” now means “Black person.”) One problem he faces here is that while it’s easy to downplay the seriousness of charges of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels (who is also, she wants it noted, a porn writer-director), it will be harder to downplay the seriousness of any charges that result from Willis and Smith’s investigations into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election or, in the latter’s case, his hoarding of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and obstruction of government efforts to recover those documents.
Trump’s speech was attended by far-right members of Congress including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Matt Rosendale, and Ronny Jackson, as well as Trumpworld figures like Roger Stone (who got a pardon from Trump in the final days of 2020), MyPillow man Mike Lindell, and failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake. Although the event had a campaign atmosphere and Trump touched on many of his common stump speech topics, he only spoke for slightly more than 20 minutes, in contrast to his typical long, rambling campaign speeches. To be fair, he must have been exhausted after his day of being fingerprinted and having to hold open doors for himself and appearing in court.
Melania Trump did not appear during Trump’s Tuesday night event.
Our planned Ukraine episode will have to wait, as Donald Trump is being arraigned in New York City for his role in falsifying records to hide hush money paid to Stormy Daniels. This is the first of a potential slew of indictments coming Trump’s way, and we are here for a celebration of karmic justice—and to talk about what happens to the Republican Party after this.
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