An ex-president who is constantly on the offensive will no longer be the single mastermind of his own destiny.
When Donald Trump is formally charged with a crime on Tuesday, he will be vulnerable to a judicial system over which he has no influence.
Trump has long created political hurricanes, alternate worlds, judicial squabbles, and media shows in order to obscure the truth or denigrate institutions that have restrained his rule-breaking behavior.
When he appears in court for his hearing in a case involving a secret money payment to a pornographic film star, he will forfeit that power.
And there are growing indications that this new reality – which will come with significant financial obligations in legal costs and schedule restrictions on Trump’s calendar – could be increased at a time when he is already dealing with the intense demands of another White House campaign.
That’s because the ex-president, who is the first to face criminal charges, appears to be in significant trouble in a possibly more serious case involving his alleged misuse of classified papers, which is being probed by special counsel Jack Smith.
Charges appear to be on the horizon as the Justice Department gathers proof about Trump’s treatment of secret papers after departing the White House.
According to CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez, Smith’s investigators have secured daily notes, messages, emails, and photos and are focused on documenting how Trump managed secret records around Mar-a-Lago and those who may have observed the former president with them.
The new information coincides with indications that the Justice Department is taking measures commensurate with the conclusion of a probe.
Trump’s former counsel, Ty Cobb, told CNN’s Erin Burnett that the events mark a significant shift in the ex-president’s case. “We knew the investigation was underway; we just didn’t know the alleged results until today,” Cobb said. “I believe these are extremely important.”
The lawsuit involving the papers may not be the end of it. Smith is also looking into Trump’s actions leading up to the US Capitol insurgency.
Then there’s the possibility of a trial in Georgia headed by a district attorney investigating the ex-president’s effort to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election in the battleground state.
In all of these inquiries, Trump has denied any misconduct. In Georgia, he characterized his conduct as “perfect.”
In addition, he has criticized the secret charge in New York, where he faces more than 30 counts of corporate deception, as an illustration of political justice.
But, at a critical juncture in the country’s history, with an ex-president and current presidential contender about to appear in court, there’s an increasing feeling that pressure is mounting on Trump, compromising his ability to avoid responsibility.
Trump attempts to control his own media spectacle.
Trump made a great deal about his return to New York on Monday, in advance of his trial.
The serpentine procession of black Secret Service SUVs to and from his private Boeing 757 in its gleaming new paint bore undertones of a presidential power play intended to send a message of strength.
Trump is eager to talk in public. Following his appearance in court on Tuesday, he will return to his Mar-a-Lago estate and regain the media limelight with a nighttime address in which he will likely declare his innocence, attack the New York case as political oppression, and attempt to deflect from the reality that he will be a criminal defendant.
Multiple individuals familiar with Trump’s thoughts tell CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Kristen Holmes that he has considered speaking even earlier, in Manhattan, even as advisors warn the former president that any spontaneous comments risk jeopardizing his cause. His address on Tuesday night is anticipated to be reviewed by law counsel before he gives it.
Despite his bravado and analysts’ predictions that he will turn his legal issues into electoral treasure, Trump had a bad day on Monday. He was forced to return to his old haunts in Manhattan on Tuesday to face the first-ever criminal accusations brought against an ex-president.
Trump has long been a force of nature who fights against limits and has proven difficult to manage.
However, he will now be beholden to the orders of a court as well as the norms and traditions of the judicial system, which will be far more difficult for him to derail and deflect than the institutions of political responsibility he has undermined.
He may be required to appear in court at times. The arduous pre-trial process, with its numerous legal argument dates and mountains of evidence for the defense to sort through, will place significant strain on a legal team that has frequently battled to act clearly.
For example, ahead of his appearance on Tuesday, Trump reshuffled his legal team, bringing in another attorney, Todd Blanche, to act as his primary counsel – a move that some saw as sidelining another attorney, Joe Tacopina. However, the ex-president’s party disputed this view.
A single illegal case is difficult enough. Trump has not been accused in any of the other cases, but a multi-pronged defense in numerous instances would be unprecedented. It would also undermine the ex-president’s ability to govern his political timetable and fate.
When he was under inquiry in the Russia probe by special counsel Robert Mueller, or during his two impeachments, Trump used his enormous support among Republican voters to undermine allegations against him.
He put pressure on most Republican senators, who realized they would lose their jobs if they voted to condemn him in an impeachment hearing.
While public opinion will play an important role in molding the political effect of the New York case, the prosecutor will be protected.
Acting New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan, who will rule over Trump’s trial, is impervious to political pressure from the president. In reality, Trump’s assaults on lawyers or judges may boomerang in court.
Even a past president cannot ignore the dance of a judicial case or the norms of the criminal process.
The scenario is similar to the 2020 election when the will of the voters triumphed because Trump’s efforts to have ballots tossed out and outcomes altered failed in multiple cases due to fact-based proof and legal standards.
On Monday, Trump’s attorneys tried to take control of the court procedures by fighting against a request by news organizations, including CNN, to allow television cameras into Tuesday’s hearing.
The media sources claimed that the case was so important to the public that it should be aired. However, Trump’s attorneys warned the court that the move “will create a circus-like atmosphere at the arraignment, raise unique security concerns, and is inconsistent with President Trump’s presumption of innocence.”
Merchan denied the plea for television cams in a late-night decision. However, five still shooters will be permitted to capture Trump and the courthouse before the case starts.
The absurdity of the ex-president whining about being the topic of a media spectacle, on the other hand, was delicious.
He would not have been president if he hadn’t had a salesman’s aptitude for inciting media spectacles.
In New York, Trump created his “The Art of the Deal” mythos by continuously supplying grist for the city’s voracious newspapers with his renowned star feuds, flamboyant personal life, and business successes and failures.
His entire 2016 campaign, as well as his one-term administration, were pageants of indignation, controversy, and anarchy fueled by his frequently unfettered Twitter posts.
Trump is the master of thriving in a media spectacle. Perhaps the distinction in this instance is that he worries about becoming a part of a media spectacle over which he has no control.
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