Trump’s DC Trial Strategies, Helsinki, and Dumb and Dumber

After Trump was indicted in DC, the speculation — informed and otherwise — went to his possible defense strategies. “Delay delay delay” was an early one, following his increasingly successful efforts to do so in the Mar-a-Lago case before Judge Cannon. Judge Chutkan, however, is no Judge Cannon, and she has been pushing hard to move things along briskly. Trump sycophants have been putting some trial balloons out there, to see what might fly with the base, if not with the court, such as cries of “Free Speech!” and “First Amendment!” which pointed to a possible defense strategy. Another was the claim that Trump was relying on the advice of counsel, and thereby cannot be held liable.

That last one I found rather  . . . what’s the correct legal term of art? Oh yes . . . silly.

White House Counsel Pat Cippolone told Trump that his claims of fraud were silly. He was more polite about it, but that’s what his advice boiled down to. Trump’s AG, DAG, Acting AG, head of OLC, and numerous other lawyers at the DOJ told Trump that his claims of fraud were silly. Christopher Krebs, a lawyer and the first head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS told Trump that his claims of fraud were silly for multiple reasons. DNI John Ratcliffe (per Cassidy Hutchinson) said Trump’s claims were silly and dangerous.

But apparently the advice of all these lawyers he appointed to positions in his own administration wasn’t enough for Trump, because Rudy et al. said all these lawyers were wrong.

Out in the states, there were other lawyers weighing in, too. Ryan Germany, the general counsel to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, told him that his claims about fraud in Georgia were silly. Some of Trump’s own lawyers in Pennsylvania and Arizona withdrew from representing Trump before the courts in their states, which is a strong sign that their client would not listen to them and take their advice that his claims were silly. Then more of his PA lawyers did the same. Even the lawyers who stayed on to represent Trump in these election cases told the judges in their cases that Trump’s claims of fraud were silly, as there was no evidence to back up those claims.

But apparently the advice of all these lawyers wasn’t enough for Trump, either.

Which brings us to the judges. State judges and federal judges. Trial judges and appellate judges. The justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. In more than five dozen separate cases, the rulings issued by all these courts said that as a matter of law, Trump’s claims were silly. Let’s let US Judge Matthew Brann of the Middle District of Pennsylvania speak for the all lawyers who wear the black robes, who passed judgment on one or more of Trump’s claims. As Brann wrote in the Introduction to his ruling in DONALD J. TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT, INC., et al. v. KATHY BOOCKVAR, et al.:

In this action, the Trump Campaign and the Individual Plaintiffs (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”) seek to discard millions of votes legally cast by Pennsylvanians from all corners – from Greene County to Pike County, and everywhere in between. In other words, Plaintiffs ask this Court to disenfranchise almost seven million voters. This Court has been unable to find any case in which a plaintiff has sought such a drastic remedy in the contest of an election, in terms of the sheer volume of votes asked to be invalidated. One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, such that this Court would have no option but to regrettably grant the proposed injunctive relief despite the impact it would have on such a large group of citizens.

That has not happened. Instead, this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more. At bottom, Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Therefore, I grant Defendants’ motions and dismiss Plaintiffs’ action with prejudice.

Short Judge Brann: Mr. Trump, you’re being silly. Go away, and don’t bring this crap into my courtroom again.

So back to the case before Judge Chutkan. If Trump’s team tries to raise the “reliance on the advice of counsel” defense, I would hope that Jack Smith and his team would run through the list of each one of the Trump administration lawyers who told Trump his claims were silly, and each one of the judges who ruled that as a matter of law, these claims were silly, and ask whoever is representing Trump one simple question: how many MORE lawyers need to tell Trump he’s wrong before he accepts their conclusions?

Which brings me to the final question asked at Trump’s infamous July 2018 press conference alongside Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Jonathan Lemire: Thank you. A question for each President. President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. What – who – my first question for you, sir, is, who do you believe? My second question is, would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin – would you denounce what happened in 2016? And would you warn him to never do it again?

Donald J. Trump: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months, and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server? And what is the server saying? With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me – Dan Coats came to me and some others – they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.

I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have – I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? Thirty-three thousand emails gone – just gone. I think, in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails. So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer; he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Okay? Thank you.

Given a choice between believing the conclusions of every US intelligence agency on Russian interference in the 2016 election on the one hand and the extremely strong and powerful denial by the leader of Russia on the other, Trump chose Putin.

Can you see why Helsinki came to my mind?

Trump has a pattern when it comes to getting advice from others, that revolves around two immutable statements:

  1. Trump wants advice that supports his current thinking, OR advice that will provide him some kind of immediate or future benefit.
  2. Trump does NOT want advice that tells him he is wrong about something, that he lost a court case or election, or that he otherwise failed.

When confronted by failure, Trump will seize on anything that suggests even the slimmest possibility of ultimate success.

Again, look at Helsinki. Sure, the unanimous conclusion of the US intelligence community was that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, but if Trump accepted that conclusion in public, while standing next to Putin, any hope Trump had of a grand Trump Tower Moscow (something he had worked on for years) would be gone. Also, if Putin held some kind of compromising information on Trump (a conclusion that Marcy leaned toward in her post on the press conference), Putin would surely release it. The result of backing the US IC would be immediate harm and future failure for Trump. Not good.

Would this loss and damage be outweighed by some other benefit, like being seen as the heroic leader of the US intelligence community? Hardly. In Trump’s eyes, these were Deep State folks who were out to get him, and even if he accepted their advice, they’d never accept him as their leader, and he’d piss off his other supporters who had been backing him against the IC. Also not good. Thus, Trump’s answer to Lemire’s question was simple: I believe Putin.

Faced with a mountain of evidence against him, either in Helsinki or in courtrooms across the country, Trump will always reject the advice of those who say definitively that he has lost and cling for his life to the advice of whomever tells him otherwise. Trump lives by the immortal line of Lloyd Christmas: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance . . . Yeah!”

Trump is not seeking out folks like Rudy “Four Seasons Total Landscaping” Giuliani, Sidney “Release the Kracken!” Powell, or any of his other lawyers to guide his legal strategy. He keeps them around because they keep telling him that there’s a chance.

Spoiler alert for Trump and anyone who hasn’t seen Dumb and Dumber: Lloyd’s 1 in a million chance did not come through for him, and he didn’t get the girl.



106 replies
  1. scroogemcduck says:

    Thanks Marcy. As Charlie Sykes keeps saying, we are not the crazy ones.

    In addition to your comprehensive list above, Bill Barr has said he will testify at the trial, and Jared Kushner is on the record as saying that the entire WH Counsel office repeatedly threatened to resign in the lead up to J6, to the point where Kushner apparently considered it just to be a day ending in a Y when another resignation threat came through. I look forward to seeing what Cippilone has to say about that.

    • Konny_2022 says:

      The TY goes to Peterr this time. I have been wondering since 2018 what will come out about the Helsinki presser. So I appreciate that Peterr recalled that infamous press meeting and puts it in perspective with what happened thereafter.

      • Lisboeta says:

        Yes, all silly (your euphemism!). What’s not silly is the damage that Trump’s tenure did, not only to America, but to the world at large. Biden has gone some way to restoring faith but, with the prospect of another Trump presidency looming, trust in America is provisional. A bit like spousal abuse: after giving you a black eye and some broken bones, he now says he “loves you”.

        • TexasODB says:

          I concur. Boris Johnson was ‘silly’ and yet also quite harmful. In the end, though, he is no great threat to global peace and democracy. Trump is beyond silly. Trump is dangerous.

        • RealAlexi says:

          In this case the spouse has hand around our neck and is still squeezing. He’s not apologizing, he’s not saying I love you; he’s saying “shut-up and get back in the kitchen when I tell you to”. “If you don’ t, I’ll tie you to the f’ing stove and burn the house down.”

      • BRUCE F COLE says:

        That’s why Rayne always has “check the byline” at the beginning of her stories; we are only a marginally trainable lot.
        You can usually tell bmaz by his titles, so no attention whistle is necessary for him.

        And who knew Putin is a lawyer? So that was an in camera meeting they had where His Honor Vlad said no Americans were allowed except the translator who could’t divulge…~

        On a serious note, that Translator, is she still alive?

        • JAFO_NAL says:

          Unfortunately there is likely a toilet somewhere in Helsinki that received the meeting notes Trump confiscated from the translator. Whatever she would say now would invite his attacks and death threats from his “associates”.

          • HikaakiH says:

            I would be highly surprised if that translator wasn’t debriefed shortly after Helsinki by someone in the IC. Whether the details ever see the light of day, who knows?

      • Seashell says:

        I checked when I say the word “silly” the second time. Marcy usually uses more colorful words when describing silliness.

  2. Rugger_9 says:

    That kind of strategery lasts until reality intrudes, such as by the change from Cannon to Chutkan.

    In a small part of “Good Will Hunting” the Matt Damon character would run rings around the prosecution when in court for various petty peccadillos with his Southie friends, getting dismissals. His friends were suitably impressed until Will got sent to detention by a judge who pointed out “You got a cop this time”.

    Ergo, Defendant-1 got a cop this time.

    • Charles Wolf says:

      I saw the whole Helsinki thing more like the orange puke got caught fukking a goat, Black Mirror style.

    • ExRacerX says:

      If you want the dumb without the funny, yes.

      If you still want the funny, the film is better.

  3. Ebenezer Scrooge says:

    If Trump actually invoked an advice of counsel defense (he won’t!), he and his clown lawyers lose the protection of the attorney-client privilege. A jury will doubtless be impressed when Smith asks Rudy & Co. for the content of their advice, and Rudy & Co. reply: “I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may tend to incriminate me.”

  4. Rugger_9 says:

    Reality comes back eventually, like the judge in ‘Good Will Hunting’ that shut down Matt Damon’s character in a hearing from his usual dismissal: “You got a cop this time”.

  5. Greg Schorr says:

    Nice write up, tying in the Putin press conference fiasco into the current indictment. Here’s a quote I love…in a sick sort of way.

    “We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.” – Rudy Giuliana

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. Your previous comments have been published as “Greg Schorr”; I am changing this one from “Greg” this once. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Rugger_9 says:

      Speaking of which, Gym Jordan has ‘smoking gun’ evidence of Biden fraud that hasn’t been made public. China this time, I think.

      • P J Evans says:

        Apparently The House FreeDumb caucus wants Biden to show them his banks accoutns to “prove” he didn’t get money from Ukraine.

        • Rugger_9 says:

          Apparently they can’t read the already public tax returns (for decades, BTW as opposed to Defendant-1).

  6. RitaRita says:

    One of the causes of the Savings and Loan crisis was shoddy real estate appraisals. Although the appraisals were typically done by MAI appraisers, some appraisals looked like the price was adjusted to fit the loan requested. It happened often enough that people suggested that MAI stood for “Made As Instructed” appraisal instead of Member, Appraisal Institute.

    The lawyers Trump listens to, for the most part, seem to be MAI lawyers, lawyers who will do what he wants them to do. When things fall apart, he blames the lawyers, even if the lawyers may have counseled against doing what he did. Unfortunately for Trump’s defense, he will have to overcome the fact that many lawyers not only counseled against his plans but gave him supporting facts and law, while his attorneys kept losing in court on their facts and law.

    The lawyers he listened to, like Giuliani, Powell, Mitchell, Clark, and others, didn’t tell Trump he was silly. The question in my mind is whether they knew that what Trump wanted to do was silly or, if somehow, they had convinced themselves that their plan was feasible. Was the country the victim of a bunch of whack a doodles who lived in their own private world where any of their plots actually sounded proper and rational. Eastman, in the last few days, seems to have gone off the deep end and is a True Believer. Trump thought Powell was crazy. So he relied on crazy lawyers?

    PS Trump’s answer to Lemire’s question show a substantial bit of pathology – inability to stay on topic, inability to separate his interests and the country’s interests, grievance, and abasing himself in front of Putin, who he obviously regards as superior to him. Silly, indeed.

    • Lisboeta says:

      In these latest high-stakes cases, Trump’s lawyers will be attempting to put a ‘better complexion’ on his actions. Meanwhile Trump, who can’t keep his mouth shut, is digging himself a deeper hole. How can any lawyer deal with a client like this? (Clearly, a number of them couldn’t.) Also, how can any court take Trump’s lawyer’s statements at face value, knowing the client probably doesn’t subscribe to them?

  7. Badger Robert says:

    Good comparison. Its comparable to an autocrat that losing a war creating an imaginary world in which his nation is winning, There are past and current examples. Its a psychological strategy that has killed millions, and one of the examples might be the Richmond newspapers in 1863-1865. Why does it work? Why do the supporters of the fake world prefer to think, There’s still a chance?

    • bloopie2 says:

      They have to be seen as being right. Like people who jump to answer a group question first, so they can be seen not only as being smart but also as having total command of the subject without even having to think about it. There is no satisfaction in coming to the right answer after some (even small) period of deliberation, or after consultation with others. And there is no willingness to accept, so as to achieve a better result, that the other may be right.

    • HardyWeinberg3 says:

      In my experience this level of denial is mid-level salesmanship. It’s the basics of becoming a good salesman, denying there is a world where a customer won’t buy what you’re selling.

    • BirdGardener says:

      Why does it work? Aside from those who have strong financial (etc.) reasons to maintain the pretense, some of those who choose to keep believing these blatant falsehoods do so because they lack the ego strength to accept that they were wrong. If they have also done wrong, there’s the additional layer of admitting their wrongdoing. Some people do not have the ego-integrity to accept that they can do wrong, or be so wrong. It’s too threatening to their sense of self. And they are getting social support and validation from other believers, which they would lose if they acknowledge reality. Worse, they’d face the attacks of their former fellow cultists.

      • Peterr says:

        In Trump’s case , I think you nailed it with “It’s too threatening to their sense of self.”

        • BirdGardener says:

          Yes, Trump is a prime example of someone with a weak ego—that’s actually part of the definition of narcissism. It’s been ages since I studied psychology, so my terminology is old and my explanations incomplete, but I can try to pass on the self-description one of my fellow students, who had a narcissistic personality disorder, gave in one class: that the core of their being was hollow, a vast emptiness that they felt a desperate need to fill, fill with something, anything. This person was aware of their condition, and worked hard to understand their needs and meet them in a healthy and non-damaging way. Trump, in contrast, does not do the work, and we all bear the consequences.

        • earthworm says:

          this makes me yearn for peacermes (?) posts, insightful observations about human motives and means that elude the understanding of their subject.

        • earthworm says:

          this makes me yearn for peacerme’s (?) posts, insightful observations about the human motives and means that elude the understanding of their subject.

      • HikaakiH says:

        I am just a poor boy
        Though my story’s seldom told
        I have squandered my resistance
        For a pocketful of mumbles
        Such are promises

        All lies and jest
        Still a man hears what he wants to hear
        And disregards the rest

        The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel

        Not so sure about the second line there these days, but the first five lines fit the MAGA believers pretty well and those last three lines there fit Trump like a well-made glove.
        Of course, to draw these comparisons, I’ve left out the remainder of the song. We all do this to varying degrees but Trump is an outlier (that’s a bit of a weak joke for those with training in statistics) and his followers are far from the happy medium.

  8. David F. Snyder says:

    Right! I was thinking along the same lines.

    To be sure, a vast majority of experts in a focused area can be wrong about something. The case of young Albert Einstein comes immediately to mind, though that is not a lone example (by far!). So one is led logically by the empirical evidence to the conclusions (1 and 2) that Peterr arrives at so brilliantly. We can dig back to even farther than Helsinki. Though, sometimes this strategy, along with bullheaded stubbornness has, by luck, to too many successful outcomes for Trump. But Trump falls for his own ego: when somebody has a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  9. Spencer Dawkins says:

    I’m really liking the way Judge Chutkan seems to be dealing with silliness, and that’s especially because of the “we’re not going to have this trial in the media” work she’s doing now.

    Having charges and defenses raised in court, under oath, isn’t the only way that people can stop being silly, but when some of your defenders are saying “he was relying on advice of council” and others are saying “his lawyers are crazy” (to pick on two points that seem to be coming up again), there’s really no other way to get people to slow down long enough for us to figure out what’s real.

  10. Anvil Leucippus says:

    There’s an episode of Barry in the last season that comes to mind, where he’s listening to increasingly-fringe Christian podcasts in order to get the go-ahead to commit murder. But the analogy falls down where it requires Trump to actually possess conviction in the first place.

    I saw today he did the “First Amendment!” defense while “speaking” at a “rally” with supporters. My money is on him using an overall “throw as much shit as possible at the wall, and whatever sticks, works” strategy. He’s like your least-capable co-worker that’s utterly butchering the telling of a joke — just nonsense of repeating some of the words that he can remember.

    • Peterr says:

      Throwing shit against the wall, you say?

      After then-Attorney General William Barr gave an interview to The Associated Press in December 2020 saying there was no widespread voter fraud, Trump was so enraged that he threw his plate of food at the wall, smearing it with ketchup, Hutchinson said.

      “There was ketchup dripping down the wall and a shattered porcelain plate on the floor,” Hutchinson testified, noting that aides nearby conveyed the president was “extremely angry” at the Barr interview. She told the committee that she then grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off the wall alongside a presidential valet.

      Click through for video of Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony.

      Sounds like you’ve put your finger on another Trump pattern.

      • RealAlexi says:

        If he’s finally convicted in criminal court I really hope somebody puts out a cover of Drowning Pool’s hit…

        “One, something’s got to give
        Two, something’s got to give
        Three, something’s got to give

        Let the ketchup hit the wall
        Let the ketchup hit the wall
        Let the ketchup hit the wall
        Let the ketchup hit the wall


  11. paulka123 says:

    So, what you are saying is if I ask 40 lawyers whether it will be legal for me to rob a bank and they all say no and the 41st lawyer says yes, it is legal; I can rob the bank and it will all be all good because I can say I relied on the advice of counsel.

    That is some singular republican logic right there. Or the fruits of a guilty mind.

  12. Rikki-Tikki-Deadly says:

    I’ve come to expect most mainstream media to summarize Russia’s actions in the 2020 election as “meddling”, but I am beyond disappointed to see such tepid framing here, too. Is there a reason you didn’t choose a word like “disrupt” or “interfere” or “subvert”, or any other word that would imply that what they did was something more than a bunch of adorable rapscallions committing a juvenile prank?

  13. massappeal says:

    I’m not saying anything people here don’t know but I mention it because it’s not been the main focus of this thread: delay, delay, delay is Trump’s fundamental legal strategy. It has served him pretty well for the last 50+ years in thousands of court rooms and that’s what he’s attempting in Judge Chutkan’s courtroom.

    Fortunately, as Spencer Dawkins noted above, it seems Judge Chutkan has limited patience both for that strategy and for the accompanying tactical histrionics from Trump and his team. This is how to deal with a spoiled brat/bully like Trump: enforce consequences for his actions, teach him that “if you don’t choose, people choose for you”, and calmly do your job.

  14. paulka123 says:

    One thing to always keep in mind when considering Trump is that despite the incredible achievement of being elected to the Presidency of the United States, an achievement that cannot be taken away from him, he did it, which is no small feat (and 7 years later still fills me with disbelief), despite that objective success, he is always a miserable son of a bitch. No one could create a hell worse than what goes on in his addled brain. He lives in fear and anger and as was stated above, he has this black hole within him that he cannot fill. Even winning the presidency couldn’t put a dent in it.

    When I listen to him speak, I hear nothing but misery and a profound self-hatred that manifests through whining mewling of a professional victim and the vile attacks on others. Consider the mental weight of having to live with that narcissistic burden and the weight of the constant lies (cause at some deep deep level he knows they are lies), the dissonance that causes. If he weren’t such a mean spirited and ugly human being there would be much to pity there.

    So remember, when considering Trump’s ability to avoid justice, that the man lives in a rotten, maggot infested prison of his mind and soul. No one could craft a worse experience for the man than the Sisyphean task he faces daily of feeding his ego, no matter what he does in his life, he gets more and more miserable.

    Unfortunately, he takes us all for the ride with him.

    • drhester says:

      I recall within 3 weeks of his inauguration i posted somewhere that despite winning the office he sounded aggrieved. All the time. It was so bizarre. Now I understand it a bit better.

    • Bobby Gladd says:

      Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner.

      I am beyond SICK of thinking about him.

      There is no cure for Moral Rabies.

      In 2016, I had increasingly anxious foreboding that he was going to win. A month after his inauguration, my late younger daughter was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. We had to deal with that in the ensuing 13 months to her demise amid the total Fellini shitshow of Trump as president. Just continue to get worse, as it does to this day.

    • RealAlexi says:

      IMO (and apparently ONLY my opinion),

      Trump NEVER wanted to be POTUS. He wanted to get paid for helping Putin enfeeble a Hillary Presidency with a glistening Trump Tower Moscow and a media empire run with the assistance of Steve Bannon of Breitbart.

      So yeah, now he’d won the White Elephant of his dreams He had to be responsible and accountable to the whole country 24/7/365 and still treated as the revolting sick demented piece of human filth that he truly is by some of the press and his adversaries as opposed to being treated like a King.

      • EuroTark says:

        FWIW, I agree that his original goal probably wasn’t to actually win. He probably wanted to make a strong showing and then pull out, so he could forever say that he’d been president if he’d actually wanted to.

  15. LesNoyes says:

    Terry Pratchett had the right of it: A million-to-one chance always works if the chance is exactly a million to one.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username AND EMAIL ADDRESS each time you comment so that community members get to know you. Your email address on this comment does not match that of your previous comments and could be construed as an attempt to spoof your identity. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  16. bloopie2 says:

    Since we’re on the topic of Trumpian actions, I’ll ask this. How does one debate him? When he says all the crazy stuff, what is a winning reply? Especially when he actually stays on topic.

    • LesNoyes says:

      Three ideas:
      1. Call him a loser; point out his failures. (Trump University, The Wall, etc, etc. etc.)
      2. Say “Prove it” every time he makes a (false) claim – “Did you just make that up now or what?
      3. Laugh at him! “Have you ever considered a career in comedy?”
      ALSO: Bring an air-horn for when he interrupts you. (Maybe after a while all you’ll have to do is hold it up…)

      • wa_rickf says:

        Many armchair psychoanalysts believe that during the 2011 Correspondence Dinner where Donald Trump was mocked and ridiculed by Barack Obama as the deciding moment Donald Trump decided to run for President and seek revenge on all who laughed at him.

        • -mamake- says:

          A real one here…and I knew it in my gut watching it live. And thought, holy shit! What have we (collectively) wrought?

        • Was_Alan K says:

          Yes, and Obama did himself no credit by publicly calling out someone other than himself. Roast yourself.

          • wa_rickf says:

            Good comedy utilizes bare naked truth.

            Donald Trump has never been able to laugh at himself – a sign of an emotionally unwell individual, per niece and psychologist, Mary Trump.

    • BobBobCon says:

      Watch Biden in 2020. There was pre-debate speculation that Trump would steamroll him, steal the stage, etc.

      Biden did fine, and a big reason is he stayed in his lane, neither going for a knockout nor ceding all of his ground and hoping Trump would fall apart on his own.

      It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. A lot of what Trump wants to do is establish dominance, and if you can do that, he gets flustered.

      • HikaakiH says:

        Yep. There is no rhetorical coup-de-grace with Trump because he and his followers don’t buckle when hit with incontrovertible facts. They are operating on emotion and the best that can be managed is to give them nothing to work with while delivering ‘meat and potatoes’ answers to satisfy the rest of the audience.

      • Valerie Klyman-Clark says:

        ‘Member during the debate when Biden closed his eyes a moment and said to Trump, “Man, Will you Shut up?”


    • Datnotdat says:

      In my daydreams there is an alternate 2016 where, during the debate between Clinton and Trump, when he was shuffling around the stage and looms up menacingly behind her, that she pauses her answer, turns to face him, and barks, “Get away from me you creep!”

  17. Badger Robert says:

    There are many excellent comments above. I can understand why Trump doesn’t face reality. It seems to work in public because there are so many weak minded people who need a belief system to defend themselves from their deficiencies, and another group that wants to gain by manipulating the believers.
    I still consider it necessary that Attorney Smith convince the so called Republican media to say they were never in favor of the attempted coup and they do not endorse the cult that Trump created.
    Unfortunately reality doesn’t necessarily arrive until nations are destroyed and cult members engage in hopeless and lethal conduct.
    Thanks to Peterr for sharing.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Convincing the press of anything is not Jack Smith’s job.

      Convincing the American people of something is the Democrats’ job. If they can’t do it, they and the American people will be lost in the wilderness for some time to come.

      • Badger Robert says:

        Its not officially his job.
        There is a Democratic President who might want to talk to Fox e-News executives about Trump and the construction of the imaginary world in which he had won cost the company.
        Instead of arguing about it, let us consider how much it would help the nation if Hannity and Ingraham said: Not This.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Your last sentence aside, neither Smith nor Biden should touch it with a ten foot pole. Smith because he’s the prosecutor. Biden because he needs to stay out of the DoJ’s business, and because there are a passel of senior Democrats better suited to being the attack dog. But, yes, Democrats need to get much better at political street fighting.

      • RitaRita says:

        Perhaps Democrats are in a bit of paralysis – they do not want to appear like they are trying to prejudice the legal proceedings so they don’t know how to use the fact of the indictments. I think, for example, the Documents case shows Trump as someone incredibly reckless with national defense information. The photos in the indictment speak volumes. The defenses in the Jan. 6th case that he really believed in Tinkerbelle and he relied on “his” attorneys and not the WH counsel just seem teed up for shredding. Chris Christie has the right approach. He is going after Trump’s fitness for office.

        • Peterr says:

          Donald Trump directed his AGs to go after his political enemies, and constantly talked about bringing his opponents up on charges (“Lock her up!” anyone?). Joe Biden is not Donald Trump.

          Bill Barr weighed in on the Mueller Report, trying corruptly to bury it and twist its words out of all recognition. Merrick Garland is no Bill Barr.

          John Durham wanted to put out a pre-election interim report, to give Trump an weapon to beat Biden over the head with, and was only deterred from doing so by his colleagues who had too much integrity to go along with it and would have raised hell if he did. Jack Smith is no John Durham.

          When you are in the DOJ, you are supposed to leave the party labels alone. Chris Christie can say what he wants, and so can Sheldon Whitehouse. Neither one has the authority to give orders to the DOJ, and neither has the ability to hire or fire people at DOJ or the White House. Folks like these can talk all they want; DOJ folks can and should only talk to the judge.

          An old joke with Marcy and folks who covered the Scooter Libby trial was that the most superfluous government job at the time was the Press Secretary to Independent Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. Fitz never made any public statements until after the trial was over, so the spokesman never had anything to say.

    • HikaakiH says:

      A lot of the problems of Trump’s political career are a product of having a first-past-the-post voting system which strongly favors a two-party system.
      Trump’s support is a subset of modern Republicanism and that is never going to be more than 50% of the country’s electorate. As the system is, being a majority of the Republican party is sufficient to Trump and his supporters a shot at all the power.
      Bob Altemeyer’s work showed that about one quarter to one third of people (in the US and other places, too) prefer authoritarian-style leadership. In a first-past-the-post system that is also a two-party system, this gives the authoritarians are pretty fair chance of gaining power over the entire country. In a proportional representation system (or a diverse instant run-off system where the existing two big parties are divided into smaller more focused parties) the one third authoritarians lose that big chance and only get to have their say alongside everyone else.

  18. boloboffin says:

    To reference another comedy classic:

    Why are all these crappy lawyers giving me such terrible legal advice that I accept on good faith to commit what otherwise would be crimes?

  19. rattlemullet says:

    New word suggestion for the current state of trumps actions. Distrumptive – (adjective or verb) depending on use.

  20. scroogemcduck says:

    Latest filing from Trump’s team:
    Application to exclude time between indictment and first status conference from being counted under the Speedy Trial Act.

    “We anticipate, among other things, reviewing terabytes of electronic information and hundreds of thousands of pages of hard copy documents; filing numerous critical motions; interviewing hundreds of witnesses; issuing dozens of Rule 17 subpoenas; retaining expert witnesses, etc”

    • bmaz says:

      So, the defense actually asked for this as opposed to Smith? That is how it should always be, and the defense uttering “time excluded”.

      • Peterr says:

        Serious question for you: does this look like a standard motion to you?

        To me, it sounds like the legal world’s equivalent of the management consultant who comes in and talks about “maximizing synergy” and other MBAisms, filled with assertions attached to no actual facts. When Lauro wrote “to say nothing about the issues of first impression . . .”, I kind of expected to see a “such as” clause with an example. Instead, Lauro went to to say nothing about what those issues might be. it strikes me as throwing important-sounding legal jargon around without giving it any particular grounding. Wouldn’t a judge want to hear at least one example of what one of those possible issues of first impression would be?

        Or am I expecting too much from a (boilerplate?) motion to delay?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Looks like a little standard exaggeration and some smoke and mirrors, without, as you say, examples or factual support. Chutkan seems like the kind of lawyer and judge who would demand more.

        • HikaakiH says:

          IANAL but I reckon that in most cases motions are written with a strong (sole?) focus on impressing the judge, while in this case Lauro also has to give great weight to what Trump thinks of his work.

          • 2Cats2Furious says:

            IAAL, and I agree with that assessment. I once represented a plaintiff corporation whose owner/CEO was rather “Trumpian.” We had lots of information obtained through discovery that defendants did X, but the CEO wanted to argue that defendants did Y (for which we had no evidence). We went through this argument at every meeting.

            I finally told the CEO that I couldn’t guarantee that we’d win based on X, but I could guarantee that we’d lose by arguing Y, because there was no evidence. I told him that he either had to trust that I knew what I was doing and let me base the case on X, or he could fire me and get another attorney to argue Y. That finally shut him up.

            The court ultimately ruled in our favor based on X, so it all worked out. But, I certainly would never want to work for a client like Trump ever again.

            • bmaz says:

              Have you ever been involved in an actual criminal case “Cats”? I will guess from your insistent commentary, the answer is no. You do not know squat about criminal law, much less its nuts and bolts process.

  21. sfvalues says:

    What worries me is that Trump is repeating the same strategy that he successfully used for the coup: scream one thing in public (Fraud!), and quietly argue something different in court. Not that the coup was a success, but this strategy did succeed in inciting others. It was never about succeeding in court, because judges are apparently less easy to fool than journalists. The strategy is to find the next big lie (Free speech! Censorship!) to prime the base for coup #2.

    • Rugger_9 says:

      Indeed, in those 60 or so cases, there were no allegations of fraud IIRC, and even when asked point-blank if fraud was alleged, Team Kraken answered ‘no’ every time.

      Defendant-1 had his 60 days in court and whiffed despite what Lauro is saying now.

  22. Chris Perkins says:

    Supposedly Roger Stone joined Trump on his private plane about a month ago. This surprises me somewhat.
    From Trump’s view, I’d say it is really Stone who is to blame for Trump’s current J6 woes. If I were Mr. Trump, I’d be furious with him. Especially the way Stone sometimes bad mouths Mr. Trump or his family (Ivanka) to the press, and cried over not getting a second pardon. Stone complaining about not getting a pardon, and now not even named in this latest indictment ? That’s rich.

    I’m sure it’s Stone that lead him down the path of trying to impede the vote count with a protest/riot – a big enough interruption that could force congress to end the days session with the count incomplete, giving Trump the opportunity to push for a house of reps vote instead. Or, alternately, enough violence and conflict that Trump could have invoked the Insurrection Act and stopped it that way. I get the impression that Stone was whispering stories about “Antifa” and the chaos that would reign, but he was clearly wrong. And that’s on him. Moreover, that mistake was avoidable. If they could arrange for Oath Keepers and Proud Boys to be there to kick butt, shouldn’t they have also arranged for some antifa or other violent counter protesters, thus guaranteeing the sort of conflict that would require the National Guard or the Insurrection Act?

    Anyway, don’t know why I decided to post my poorly formed thoughts today, but it’s been nagging me. Trump might not yet be ready to lash out publicly at his advisers, but it’s hard to imagine he doesn’t blame them, especially Stone.

    Thanks Peterr for the great article today, and Marcy for countless others, along with bmaz, rayne, ed and the other contributors. Great site.

    • RipNoLonger says:

      I think you’ve voiced quite a few items that many of us have thought, and perhaps not enunciated. Stone’s involvement seems left out of many of these public discussions. But Stone is channeling the same evil forces that Cohn, Gingrich and others have been spreading.

      • Valerie Klyman-Clark says:

        Is Stone’s pardon airtight? Dumb way to phrase it maybe, but is that ratfucker still potentially on the hook for any of his ugly shenanigans?

        • Rugger_9 says:

          The ones specified in the pardon, probably not. Unspecified, and anything after the pardon, probably is. IIRC Stone’s pardon did not include J6 topics, just his bust tied to Mueller’s prosecution for the 2016 election.

  23. RobertaM says:

    Something that’s been grinding my gears lately (or for quite a while), is that his defenders often blame the advisors/lawyers for putting “bad ideas” in Trump’s head. You are super correct here that Trump comes up with the idea and then finds the lawyer/advisor who tells him he can do what he wants. He could have 50 of the best lawyers in the country telling him that trying to overturn the election is illegal and he’d rather listen to folks like Sidney Powell, who he admits is “crazy” because she says what he wants to hear. Honestly, in scandal after scandal, everyone blames the people around Trump. How many people have they thrown under the bus for this? I can’t believe that people are still using these excuses and are able to do so with a straight face, when the only common denominator in all of his scandals is Trump.

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