The former president, who is known for his aggressive tactics, will no longer have exclusive control over his future.
On Tuesday, when Donald Trump is officially charged with a crime, he will be subject to a legal system that is beyond his control.
Throughout his tenure, Trump has utilized political chaos, disinformation campaigns, legal complications, and media distractions to obscure facts and delegitimize institutions that have sought to limit his unconventional actions. However, this ability will be lost when he appears in court for his arraignment in connection to a payment made to an adult film actress to keep her silent.
There are growing indications that this new situation – which will entail substantial financial costs in terms of legal fees and constraints on Trump’s schedule – could be compounded at a time when he is already grappling with the intense demands of another presidential campaign.
The former president, who is the first to be confronted with criminal charges, seems to be confronted with even more serious problems in a potentially more dangerous case related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents, which is being investigated by special counsel Jack Smith. As the Justice Department gathers more evidence about Trump’s handling of classified documents after leaving office, it appears that charges are becoming more likely.
]According to CNN reporters Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez, special counsel Jack Smith’s team has gathered daily notes, texts, emails, and photos related to how former President Trump handled classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, as well as individuals who may have seen him with such records. These developments come as the Justice Department appears to be taking actions consistent with the end of an investigation.
According to Ty Cobb, a former lawyer for Trump, the recent developments in the investigation represent a serious turning point for the ex-president. “We’ve been aware that investigative steps were being taken, but we didn’t know about the alleged results until today,” Cobb told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “I think this is very significant.”
There could be further legal trouble for Trump beyond the documents case. Special Counsel Jack Smith is also investigating Trump’s actions leading up to the January 6th insurrection at the US Capitol, and there is a potential prosecution in Georgia related to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state.
In all of these investigations, Trump maintains his innocence and denies any wrongdoing. He has characterized his behavior in Georgia as “perfect,” and he has criticized the sealed indictment in New York, where he is facing more than 30 counts related to business fraud, as an instance of justice being politicized.
As the ex-president and a current presidential candidate is about to face court, the gravity of the moment for the country is palpable. There is a sense that mounting pressure on Trump will make it increasingly difficult for him to evade accountability.
Trump attempts to steer his own media spectacle
On Monday, Trump staged a grand spectacle of his return to New York in preparation for his arraignment. The long procession of black Secret Service SUVs that accompanied his private Boeing 757, gleaming with its new design, resembled a presidential procession and was intended to convey an image of power and authority.
Following his court appearance on Tuesday, Trump is expected to head back to his Mar-a-Lago resort where he plans to deliver a primetime speech aimed at reclaiming the media spotlight. In the speech, he is likely to proclaim his innocence, denounce the New York case as a politically motivated persecution, and attempt to divert attention from the fact that he will be facing criminal charges.
Despite his confident demeanor and predictions from analysts that he will turn his legal woes into a political victory, Monday marked a somber day for Trump. He was compelled to return to his former base in Manhattan to surrender himself on Tuesday for the first-ever criminal charges leveled against a former president. Trump has always been a powerful force who resists boundaries, and his staff has never been able to manage him effectively. However, he will now be subject to the commands of a judge and the legal system’s regulations and customs, which will be considerably more challenging for him to circumvent than the political accountability systems he has manipulated.
There may be occasions when he will have to appear in court, and the pre-trial process will be grueling, with numerous deadlines for legal arguments and piles of evidence for the defense to sift through. This process will place significant demands on a legal team that has often struggled to act cohesively. Ahead of his Tuesday appearance, Trump made a late change to his legal team by bringing in Todd Blanche as lead counsel, which some saw as sidelining Joe Tacopina. However, the ex-president’s camp pushed back against this interpretation.
Dealing with one criminal prosecution can be extremely challenging. Trump hasn’t been charged in any of the other cases, but if he had to mount a multi-front defense in multiple cases, it would represent an unprecedented challenge. Additionally, it would further undermine the ex-president’s ability to dictate his political schedule and control his own destiny. When he was under investigation in the Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller or during his two impeachments, Trump exploited his enormous popularity with Republican voters to discredit allegations against him. He also put pressure on most GOP senators who were aware that voting to convict him in an impeachment trial would cost them their political careers.
The role of public opinion cannot be ignored in determining the political ramifications of the New York case against Trump, but the prosecution itself will be protected from political influence. The judge presiding over Trump’s arraignment, Acting New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan, is immune to any pressure Trump may try to exert. In fact, any attempts by Trump to attack the prosecutors or judge could potentially harm his legal position. Even as a former president, Trump is still obligated to comply with the legal procedures and regulations of a court case.
In 2020, the outcome of the election was ultimately determined by the will of the voters. This was because Trump’s attempts to challenge the election results through the courts failed due to the strict standards of evidence and adherence to the law.
On Monday, Trump’s legal team tried to assert some authority over the court proceedings by opposing a request from news organizations, including CNN, to permit television cameras during Tuesday’s arraignment. The media argued that the case was of great public interest and thus should be televised. Trump’s attorneys, on the other hand, argued that it would result in a circus-like atmosphere, pose unique security concerns, and go against President Trump’s presumption of innocence.
Merchan has rejected the request for broadcast cameras in a late-night ruling. However, five still photographers are allowed to capture photos of Trump and the courtroom prior to the start of the hearing.
It is quite ironic that the former president, who owes much of his political career to his ability to generate media circuses, is now complaining about being the subject of one. Trump’s talent for creating publicity stunts, which he honed in New York by providing fodder for the city’s tabloids through his celebrity feuds, personal life, and business endeavors, was a key part of his “Art of the Deal” mythology. His entire presidency was marked by scandal, outrage, and lawlessness, often fanned by his unfiltered tweets.
Trump is no stranger to thriving in a media circus, but the difference in this case may be that he is afraid of being involved in a media frenzy that is beyond his control.