The Trump Trial

Can you be fair and impartial?

That question, asked of jurors, has been bugging me since the beginning of The People v. Trump, aka the “hush money” trial, now proceeding in a downtown New York City courtroom.

Among other things, the former president is charged with falsifying business records in connection with the payment he made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels in 2016.

Even if you think you could be a potential juror, these days, who could come up clean after teams of lawyers comb through your social media posts?

Though it’s hard to pick a jury in any trial, the degree of difficulty here is nuclear.

For starters, the case involves the prosecution of one of the most powerful people in the world, an overwhelmingly polarizing personality who has not only been president, but is now running for that office again, and arrives in court protected by a phalanx of Secret Service agents. 



So far, the media has worn out the word “unprecedented.”

Adding to the challenges of jury selection, Trump, who has long believed that the U.S. justice system is weaponized against him, has not stopped posting complaints about the trial, the venue, and the judge to Truth Social. That’s in defiance of gag orders, just as he did in the E. Jean Carroll case, for which he was severely penalized.

This week, after day one, the defendant came in hot, attacking the number of peremptory challenges that each side’s lawyers get in the trial. “I thought STRIKES were supposed to be 'unlimited' when we were picking our jury? I was then told we only had 10, not nearly enough when we were purposely given the 2nd Worst Venue in the Country," he wrote.

He went on to describe the case as "election interference" and part of a "witch hunt,” two of his regular go-tos.

Of course, even before proceedings began, and while Trump and his legal team were still attempting to delay, he was excoriating both New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan (“who “HATES ME,”) and attacking the judge’s daughter for being “Super Liberal.” 

But part of his brand, which he’s a genius at building, is being persecuted and taking on the mantle of the victim. It delights his followers, who also feel like victims of a liberal conspiracy, and  are moved by his contention that he is taking the slings and arrows for them. 

Still, while sitting in court, looking a bit flattened, especially while sleeping, Trump has almost been reduced to human size, an ordinary man with foibles, which is weird to consider.

And being a juror in any case Is about putting away biases and acting on the evidence.

On the first day of the trial, the judge asked 97 prospective jurors if they couldn’t be fair and impartial in the case.

Fifty-seven out of 97 raised their hands and were dismissed. Still, the court managed to eke out seven potential jurors that day. 

By Thursday, two jurors were let go, one due to the fear of being identified, a legitimate worry, considering the doxxing, threats, and direct attacks that are part of the MAGA arsenal.

So are there any precedents for this trial?  

There’s that other “Trial of the Century,” involving O.J. Simpson, which has some similarities in that O.J. was also a celebrity and enormous personality, and people thought they knew him through his performances on television.

In the book “The Run of His Life,” Jeffrey Toobin contended that lead prosecutor Marcia Clark lost the case due to sheer arrogance, believing that she knew better than the jury consultant, who tried to advise her that African Americans (and African American women in particular) tended to be supportive of Simpson. She had previously prosecuted domestic violence cases successfully, and believed that she’d win over the women on the jury by focusing on the horrors of what O.J. did to Nicole.

She was entirely wrong.

Of course, Trump is sui generis. He has no peers.

But presidentially, Richard M. Nixon comes closest, as the first president to resign from office when the evidence of his illegal conduct during Watergate became overwhelming.

Nixon avoided trial and possible imprisonment when his replacement, Gerald Ford, pardoned him “in the interest of the country.”  It was not a popular decision.

Nixon remained defiant. Afterwards, in a famous TV interview with David Frost, he proclaimed “"Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

Though not according to the law. 

Can the jumpy and quick-to-anger Donald Trump sit through a trial? He’ll have to. And that will be difficult.  But I do believe that with persistence, a jury will be found, and that the former president will get a fair trial, even in that  “hellhole,” New York City.

Despite all the hitches, I think People v. Trump will show that democracy and justice can work.

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