How Trump Distracted from Results of His Incitement by Recruiting Journalists to Spread More of It

On Wednesday, numerous journalists reported on a filing submitted in support of Judge Arthur Engoron’s limited gag on Donald Trump. It included an affidavit from an officer from NY’s Department of Public Safety describing the threats that Judge Engoron and his chief clerk have suffered as a result of Trump’s targeting of them (this link doesn’t work for me, but should for you; here’s a DC Circuit filing including it).

Specifically, it described how, after Trump posted a picture claiming that Engoron’s chief clerk was “Schumer’s girlfriend” on October 3, Engoron and the clerk got hundreds of threatening voice mails. People started calling the clerk’s personal cell phone 20 to 30 times a day and harassing her on her private email and on social media sites.

According to the affidavit, when Trump attacked, the attacks went up. When he was gagged, the attacks went down.

The affidavit transcribed just seven of the calls targeting Engoron or the clerk, replacing the expletives with asterisks. Those transcripts are shocking and ugly — and make it clear how Trump’s deranged followers are internalizing and then passing on his attacks.

The filing was a concrete example of how Trump’s incitement works. It shows how his own language gets parroted directly onto the voice mails and social media accounts of those he targets.

A number of people shared these threats on social media. It was a vivid demonstration of the effect of Trump’s incitement.

The next day, on Thanksgiving, Trump posted another attack on Truth Social, attacking Tish James, Engoron, the clerk, Joe Biden, and “all of the other Radical Left Lunatics, Communists, Fascists, Marxists, Democrats, & RINOS,” after which he promised to win in 2024.

It was, at its heart, a campaign ad. Trump has repeatedly said in court filings that he is running on a claim that he is being unfairly treated like other American citizens and if he is made President again, he’ll retaliate against all the people who thought to treat him just like everyone else. His promise of retribution is how he plans to win the election.

A bunch of people purporting to engage in journalism or criticism disseminated the attack on Xitter, where it went viral. As of right now, for example, Jonathan Lemire’s dissemination of Trump’s incitement and campaign ad, to a platform riddled with right wing extremists, has 4 million views.

Rather than focusing on family or the Lions losing at football, a number of people were disseminating Trump’s campaign ad, disseminating the campaign ad because he incited violence.

Importantly, these self-imagined journalists and critics disseminated Trump’s attacks in the form he packaged it up, including with the clerk’s name unredacted. They disseminated it in the way most likely to lead to more attacks on the clerk.

There’s a conceit among those who choose to disseminate Trump’s incitement and campaign ads in precisely the way he has chosen to package them up that doing so is the only way to alert Americans to the danger he poses. Brian Klass (whose book on corruption and power is superb) recently suggested that those of us who oppose platforming Trump’s incitement in the spectacular form he releases it are arguing you shouldn’t cover it.

On the political left, there has long been a steady drumbeat of admonishment on social media for those who highlight Trump’s awful rhetoric. Whenever I tweet about Trump’s dangerous language, there’s always the predictable refrain from someone who replies: “Don’t amplify him! You’re just spreading his message.”

The press, to an astonishing extent, has followed that admonishment. I looked at the New York Times for mention of Trump calling to execute shoplifters, or water the forests, or how he thinks an 82 year-old man getting his skull smashed in his own home by a lunatic with a hammer is hilarious. Nothing. I couldn’t find it.

If it was covered, it was buried deep. Scrolling through my New York Times app on Saturday, I saw dozens of political stories before getting to a piece titled “The Pumpkin Spice Latte Will Outlive Us All” and “DogTV is TV for Dogs. Except When It’s For People.” But there was nothing about Trump’s speech.

This approach has backfired. It’s bad for democracy. The “Don’t Amplify Him” argument is disastrous. We need to amplify Trump’s vile rhetoric more, because it will turn persuadable voters off to his cruel message.

Right now, Trump is still popular, still getting his message out. The people most likely to be radicalized by him, or to act on his incitement already hear him loud and clear.

Klass’ Tweet, disseminating Trump’s incitement and campaign ad, has 34K views.

That’s not what we’re arguing. It’s certainly not what I’m arguing.

You always have a choice.

You always have a choice whether to discuss Trump’s danger in the form he chooses — in the form he has carefully perfected to have maximal effect — or to disseminate and discuss it in other forms, at the very least using an “X” or something else to break up the spectacle he has crafted.

The choice particularly mattered yesterday.

Not only was Trump’s incitement a campaign ad. Not only did it name the clerk he is trying to target. But he is also setting up a Supreme Court argument that these threats are not the result of his own incitement, but instead a heckler’s veto trying to frame Trump for violence against his targets. There’s a non-zero chance Trump will cite all the critics who think they’re helping in his bid to get Sammy Alito and Clarence Thomas endorse this incitement as protected campaign speech. Trump is already arguing that courts can’t limit his incitement because so many other people, including critics, disseminate his speech.

But the choice of what form to disseminate Trump’s speech was particularly stark yesterday, as it was equally easy to show the results of Trump’s incitement, those calls to the judge and his clerk, as it was to disseminate the one best designed to incite more threats and reinforce divisions between those who criticize Trump’s speech and those who relish it.

You always have a choice how to disseminate Trump’s incitement.

Trump’s Retribution Promises and Media Complicity

I have been critical of NYT’s serial effortnow joined by WaPo — to predict retribution in a second Trump term, without doing any recent reporting on how that represents a continuation of Trump’s first term, not anything new. Rather than assign three reporters (including reporters who played key roles enabling past retribution efforts) to treat this as a hypothetical future endeavor, why not assign one to report on newly disclosed details of how Bill Barr ordered Scott Brady to dig up more evidence against Joe Biden’s son?

The attention on the WaPo, especially, has sucked up attention that might otherwise be focused on an excerpt from Jonathan Karl’s new book. It’s about the same thing — retribution. But not about past retribution, nor future retribution, but the way that Trump is leveraging cultural cues about retribution, starting with the launch of his campaign from Waco, TX on the thirty year anniversary of the raid (connotations that were evident in advance).

Given the excerpt, I’m not entirely sure whether Karl thinks Trump is doing this out of a sense of weakness, or because he knows the cultural connotations retribution invokes will elicit a certain kind of response from his followers.

Karl describes how Trump turned to this theme after being rattled by his first indictment (and elsewhere describes Trump’s fury at Todd Blanche to agreeing to a trial data in the Alvin Bragg case prior to the end of the primaries).

The problem was that the indictment had rattled him. For all his bluster, Trump desperately wanted to stave off an arrest, and he was embarrassed he hadn’t been able to. When it came time to turn himself in, he slipped out of Trump Tower and got into a black SUV.


D.A. Bragg and Juan Merchan, the presiding judge, were met by a version of Donald Trump that was much quieter, more somber—more timid—than the man he appeared to be on television and social media. The night before, he had said that Bragg should “INDICT HIMSELF.” But finally given a chance to confront them face‐to‐face, Trump was mostly silent. During the 57‐minute proceeding, Trump said just 10 words—“not guilty,” “yes,” “okay, thank you,” “yes,” “I do,” “yes”—and spoke so quietly that reporters had to strain to hear him.

For the first time in years, Donald Trump was not the most powerful person in the room.

Karl also describes Steve Bannon revelling in the explicit Neo-Confederate iconography of the speech Trump gave at CPAC.

“The sinister forces trying to kill America have done everything they can to stop me, to silence you, and to turn this nation into a socialist dumping ground for criminals, junkies, Marxists, thugs, radicals, and dangerous refugees that no other country wants,” he said. The speech was ominous, but one rhetorical flourish stood out. “In 2016, I declared I am your voice. Today, I add: I am your warrior; I am your justice,” Trump said. “And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.” He repeated the last phrase—“I am your retribution”—and promptly the crowd started chanting: “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

When I spoke with Bannon a few days later, he wouldn’t stop touting Trump’s performance, referring to it as his “Come Retribution” speech. What I didn’t realize was that “Come Retribution,” according to some Civil War historians, served as the code words for the Confederate Secret Service’s plot to take hostage—and eventually assassinate—President Abraham Lincoln.

Both can be true, of course. Faced with a kind of vulnerability he has never before faced and willing to burn everything down to find a way out, Trump is all too happy to mobilize far right extremists as his instrument (in his description of the Waco event, Karl describes Trump celebrating January 6).

To the extent that Trump’s campaign logic is retribution, then, the spate of stories — both the NYT one and the WaPo one featuring Trump-whisperers — simply reinforce Trump’s campaign message while downplaying the way Trump has always engaged in retribution, often backed by threats of violence.

Indeed, they help Trump provide assurances that in the future, he’ll find better prosecutors than John Durham, who was every bit as corrupt as the prospective stories predict Trump’s select prosecutors might be in the future, every bit as much about retribution, but who never found evidence that could sustain a conviction. He’ll find better prosecutors, more corrupt ones, Trump needs to tell his mob, because quite honestly, he made these very same promises in 2020 and failed to deliver, though did untold damage in the process.

And those failures weren’t for want of trying or any kind of ethical compunction on his part or the instruments of his retribution.

The reason I think Karl’s descriptive piece is more useful than the predictive pieces (aside from the way the predictive pieces totally whitewash Trump’s past unprecedented focus on retribution) is because he identifies the puzzle at the core of Trump’s success running on retribution: What’s in it for his mob? Why does this focus on retribution work?

“If they can do it to him they can do it to you,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted. Noticeably absent from Trump’s obsession with his own victimization was any real focus on helping Americans who weren’t under criminal investigation, but his advisers were convinced that the ploy would work. “This week, Trump could lock down the nomination if he played his cards right,” Bannon told me as rumors began to swirl of Bragg’s indictment. “‘They’re crucifying me,’ you know, ‘I’m a martyr.’ All that. You get everybody so riled up that they just say, ‘Fuck it. I hate Trump, but we’ve got to stand up against this.’”


“The DOJ and FBI are destroying the lives of so many Great American Patriots, right before our very eyes,” Trump posted on Truth Social the day after four members of the Proud Boys militia were convicted of seditious conspiracy for their role in the storming of the Capitol. “GET SMART AMERICA, THEY ARE COMING AFTER YOU!!!”

But “they” weren’t coming after Trump’s law‐abiding supporters—they were coming after Trump. Decades earlier, the presidential candidate Bill Clinton told voters that he felt their pain. Trump was now doing the reverse, trying to persuade his supporters to feel his pain as if it were their own. [my emphasis]

The answer this question is both obvious, and urgent.

It’s obvious, because Trump really is keying into something that isn’t entirely about extremism. And/or Trump is in many cases the gateway drug to radical extremism, something that has shown up over and over in January 6 cases. People respond to something in Trump and then, because Trump’s networks include large numbers of right wing extremists, their ideology gains traction where they might otherwise not. And then the cultural coding of retribution starts to resonate.

It’s urgent, because whether or not Trump wins election, if he primes his mob to embrace political violence again, January 6 will look like elementary school recess. On January 6, many people were armed, but even the ones who brought guns — and plenty did — kept them holstered. That won’t be true the next time.

It is more urgent to show how Trump’s past obsession with retribution hurt people, from his targets, to American security, to the wives of Republican Congressmen, than it is to report that he’ll do more of the same, only earlier this time. It is more urgent to understand why Trump’s mob buys into his messiah syndrome and puncture its power.

I’m not suggesting we return to a moody contemplation of the Deplorables. Nor am I hoping NYT reverts from its prospective reporting on retribution to its past obsession with Trump supporters in diners.

I’m asking for a focus on the continuity of retribution in Trump’s power — past, present, and future — along with some soul-searching about the media’s cooperation in that retribution dynamic.

Of particular note: the media’s coverage of Trump’s legal woes has only helped him create this dynamic.

Take the coverage of Trump’s testimony in his fraud trial yesterday. The NYT was one of the rare outlets that got into something substantive — that Trump did have a role in the valuations that Judge Engoron has already ruled to be fraudulent — in a headline; and it reported on that substance after six paragraphs describing Trump’s stunts. Most of the rest, however, reported nothing but conflict, virtually all of it staged or baited by Trump. Trump succeeded in entirely flooding out any reporting on his fraud — something that goes to the core of his ability to govern, something that goes to his success at fooling supporters and lazy journalists — by distracting everyone with spectacle, a strategy Rolling Stone reported he would adopt a month ago. Rather than reporting on all the evidence — even presented yesterday, amid the circus stunts — that Trump is actually the guy sticking it to the little guys, not the one vindicating them, most outlets just printed one after another of Trump’s taunts.

And in the process, just like any other staged wrestling match, spectators pick one or another side and root loudly, brainlessly. Even for those rooting for law and order, that’s unhealthy, because it invites hero worship and a false belief that prosecutions are easy and quick. It encourages people to outsource defense of democracy to prosecutors rather than do the hard work of organizing themselves. It invites people to engage in mockery rather than rational assessment of the legal case.

But for those who’ve been convinced by unrelentless propaganda about the Russian investigation — which showed that five top Trump aides lied to cover up Trump’s ties with Russian, for those who bought into Trump’s sustained attack on the legitimacy of democratic elections, for those who’ve been bombarded by non-stop coverage of Hunter Biden’s dick pics, the side they’ll pick is obvious. Adopt Trump’s conflict staging, and you will only ever heighten existing partisan divides.

Trump doesn’t care if a bunch of self-satisfied people mock him as a clown. Indeed, that’s what he wants. Because every time they do so publicly, it reaffirms that he’s the guy on the side of average people, fighting the pencil-headed assholes who frown at the little guy. Plus, if you mock something as serious as a lifetime of defrauding financial institutions as a circus, rather than explain how it allowed Trump to get something he hadn’t earned, it tells everyone that Trump’s adjudged fraud isn’t really serious. In your actions, you confirm the argument he is making.

And all the while, it prevents anyone from talking about how Trump has disavowed all the January 6ers who are facing the consequences of following Trump, claiming he has no role in their crimes. It prevents anyone from talking about why leaving nuclear documents in your bathroom requires spooks to shut down collection programs, leading directly to diminished US influence as war breaks out overseas. It prevents anyone from talking about how all of Trump’s brand has been built off lies claiming he, his net worth, his gaudy penthouse are much larger than they are.

Regular life may be screwing over the little guy (or, under Biden, regular life might have delivered financial gains and a resurgence of organized labor strength that never gets covered). But that’s a different thing than saying that “they” are coming for the little guy.

Yet Trump continues to convince people differently, in large part because the media plays along with Trump’s staged circus.

Like Taylor Taranto, Trump Tries to Excuse Threats by Invoking the First Amendment

The government responded to Trump’s motion to stay Judge Tanya Chutkan’s gag order.

As many people note, it cites the new threats Trump has made — against Judge Arthur Engoron’s clerk (for which the judge fined Trump $10,000 yesterday), against Mark Meadows — since Chutkan temporarily stayed her own order. DOJ used those examples to show that as soon as Chutkan stayed her own gag, Trump resumed his normal incitement.

I find two footnotes raising things that happened months ago more telling. First, a footnote describing the Trump supporter charged with making death threats against Judge Chutkan herself, along with Sheila Jackson Lee, presented as yet another example of how Trump’s attacks lead to credible threats.

Such risks are far from speculative here, the Court found, given uncontradicted facts submitted by the Government showing that when the defendant “has singled out certain people in public statements in the past,” it has “led to them being threatened and harassed.” ECF No. 103 at 66-67.1

1 Shortly after being assigned to the case, the Court itself received a racist death threat explicitly tied to the Court’s role in presiding over the defendant’s case. See United States v. Shry, No. 4:23-cr-413, ECF No. 1 at 3 (Criminal Complaint) (S.D. Tex. Aug. 11, 2023) (caller stating, among other things, “‘If Trump doesn’t get elected in 2024, we are coming to kill you, so tread lightly, b***h. . . . You will be targeted personally, publicly, your family, all of it.’”). This incident, like many of the others the Government cited, was widely publicized and surely well known to the defendant.

And then, a footnote describing how Jan6er Taylor Taranto, a Navy veteran with long-standing mental health issues, invoked the First Amendment after he responded to Trump’s publication of Barack Obama’s DC address by stalking the former President’s Kalorama neighborhood in a van with (locked) weapons.

7 The Government’s submissions, while extensive, did not purport to be a comprehensive account of every occasion when the defendant’s public targeting of perceived adversaries has resulted in threats, harassment, or intimidation. The public record is replete with other examples. See, e.g., United States v. Taranto, No. 1:23-cr-229, ECF No. 27 at 4-6 (D.D.C. Sep. 12, 2023) (affirming detention order for Taranto and explaining that, after “‘former President Trump posted what he claimed was the address of Former President Barack Obama’ on Truth Social,” Taranto— who had previously entered the Capitol on January 6, 2021—reposted the address, along with a separate post stating, “‘See you in hell, Podesta’s and Obama’s’” [sic], and then proceeded, heavily armed, to the area the defendant had identified as President Obama’s address, while livestreaming himself talking about “getting a ‘shot’ and an ‘angle,’” adding, “‘See, First Amendment, just say First Amendment, free speech’”) (quoting Taranto, ECF No. 20).

Here’s more of the Taranto detention memo from which DOJ cited.

Taranto parked his van on the street and began walking around the neighborhood, continuing to film. Taranto made several references to “the Podestas” and stated several times that he was trying to get an interview. Taranto’s continued narration made it clear that he intended to access or enter the private residences of his subjects. For example, Taranto panned the camera to show several sewer grates on the street – calling them “entrance points,” and stating that the grates were an “entrance” to reach “them.” Throughout the video he also stated,

“So if you go down there, there’s obviously tunnels down there. I don’t know how close they’ll get you in terms of access;”

“We’re gonna find a way to the tunnels, underneath their houses;” and,

“We’re looking for tunnel access so we can get the interview, in case they try to weasel their way out. No in or out now! See, First Amendment, just say First Amendment, free speech. Free, it’s free.”

Throughout the video, Taranto repeatedly attempted to couch his actions in terms of “First Amendment” or free speech, as if he believed that simply saying the words, “First Amendment” absolved him from any trespass. When initially approached by Secret Service, Taranto stated, “Hello, just trying to get an angle, for First Amendment, free speech. Thanks. That’s Secret Service, she’s alright.” He also said, “See how it works? Just say, ‘First Amendment.’” Taranto made additional concerning statements during the video including the following statements about getting a “shot”:

“Gotta get the shot, stop at nothing to get the shot. This is where other people come to get the shot;”

“We’re gonna see what we can get, as a shot. If I were them, I’d be watching this, watching my every move;” and,

“This is where everyone goes to get the shot. It’s just me today though. This is an easy way around. Yeah, they can’t stop me from walking through here. Just don’t step foot on the street.”

Regarding getting an “angle,” Taranto states several times, “Let’s see what angles we can get,” and, “Just trying to get an angle, for First Amendment, free speech.” Additional concerning statements included:

“I don’t have any ID, so in case I get detained or something, they’re just going to have to use their cellphone to figure out who I am.”

“So yeah, more than likely, these guys also all hang for treason. See how I said that? You gotta be very safe and careful. Someone warned me.”

“I control the block, we’ve got ‘em surrounded.”

“Oh, is this intimidating? I don’t think so.”

The reference to the threat against Chutkan puts that example into the record before the DC Circuit hears this appeal. DOJ provided the reference to Taranto (Judge Carl Nichols’ affirmation of his detention order post-dates when DOJ initially submitted this motion on September 5) to support this passage, in which DOJ notes that the catalog of past incitement it has presented thus far is in no way comprehensive:

The defendant does not meaningfully dispute the accuracy of any of these findings. Instead, he first argues (ECF No. 110 at 8-10) that they lacked adequate evidentiary support. But the Government’s uncontradicted filings (ECF No. 57 at 2-13; ECF No. 64 at 9-12) documented a long history of targeted tweets as well as a litany of individuals who have described (sometimes in sworn testimony) the repeated and foreseeable effects of his targeting. E.g., ECF No. 57 at 3 (quoting congressional testimony stating, “After the President tweeted at me by name, calling me out the way he did, the threats became much more specific, much more graphic, and included not just me by name but included members of my family by name, their ages, our address, pictures of our home. Just every bit of detail you could imagine. That was what changed with that tweet.”); id. at 5 (quoting congressional testimony stating, “[W]hen someone as powerful as the President of the United States eggs on a mob, that mob will come.”).7 As the Court explained, these citations to public statements and testimony were “[u]ndisputed,” ECF No. 105 at 2, and there was no need to submit the same material as part of an affidavit, ECF No. 103 at 57. Cf. United States v. Smith, 79 F.3d 1208, 1210 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (per curiam) (holding that the parties may proceed by proffer at a detention hearing). The factual findings here were adequately supported and readily distinguish this case from Ford. Cf. Ford, 830 F.2d at 597 (noting that the order was issued sua sponte); id. at 603 (Krupansky, J., concurring) (noting the absence of factual findings). And the defendant will not be able to demonstrate that they are clearly erroneous on appeal.

The Chutkan and Taranto examples reinforce the overall point DOJ makes with this filing: Trump has not contested the proof in their original submission that after he targets people, the mob soon follows.

He has simply ignored that evidence.

Indeed, I called John Lauro out for ignoring that evidence in real time.

Lauro ignores the multiple cases, cited in prosecutors’ filing, where people told Trump directly that his incitement had ratcheted up threats against people like Jeff Duncan, Chris Krebs, and Ruby Freeman.

Trump’s lawyers have now established a pattern.

In the recusal fight, prosecutors pointed out that the two sentencing hearings which Trump cited to justify recusal included one, that of Robert Palmer, where a January 6 defendant stated that he went to the Capitol, where he serially assaulted some cops, “at the behest” of Trump because Trump and others had convinced him he had to take action to stop the vote certification. Trump ignored that discussion in his reply.

When Trump complained that Jack Smith improperly claimed that Trump, “fueled . . . an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy,” DOJ laid out that, in fact, the indictment did show how Trump riled up the mob, of which this paragraph is just one example:

Finally, on the afternoon of January 6, after “a large and angry crowd—including many individuals whom the [d]efendant had deceived into believing the Vice President could and might change the election results—violently attacked the Capitol and halted the proceeding,” the defendant exploited the disruption in furtherance of his efforts to obstruct the certification, id. at ¶10e.

Trump ignored this reply in his bid for a stay.

Both Trump’s motion to dismiss for absolute immunity and for Constitutional grounds ignore the actual charges and overt acts of which he is accused and instead tell a tale of protected speech. His motion to dismiss on statutory grounds, meanwhile, completely ignores how he mobilized the mob and thereby successfully obstructed the vote certification (which, as noted, DOJ had laid out in this underlying dispute), choosing instead to ask that those allegations be stricken from the indictment and then, assuming that will work, claiming that nothing he did actually did obstruct the vote certification.

That is, in over 130 pages of filings attempting to make his prosecution go away, Trump tried to simply remove all overt acts showing how he sent the mob on January 6 from his indictment, rather than contesting the veracity of those allegations.

As DOJ notes, by appealing this, Trump will have another opportunity to dispute Chutkan’s findings of fact that his attacks do, in fact, result in targeted threats.

The Court’s Order was premised on three well-supported factual findings.6 First, the defendant has a long history of using his social media account and public statements to target perceived adversaries by singling them out and using inflammatory and disparaging language that “vilif[ies] and implicitly encourage[s] violence against” them. ECF No. 103 at 84. Second, when the defendant does so, harassment, threats, and intimidation reliably follow. ECF No. 105 at 2. Third, such harassment, threats, and intimidation “pose a significant and immediate risk that (1) witnesses will be intimidated or otherwise unduly influenced by the prospect of being themselves targeted for harassment or threats; and (2) attorneys, public servants, and other court staff will themselves become targets for threats and harassment.” Id.

6 Although the Court of Appeals will review the propriety and scope of the Order de novo, it will review questions of “historical fact” such as these for clear error. See Thompson v. Hebdon, 7 F.4th 811, 819 (9th Cir. 2021); Keister v. Bell, 879 F.3d 1282, 1287 (11th Cir. 2018); Green v. Haskell Cnty. Bd. of Comm’rs, 568 F.3d 784, 796 (10th Cir. 2009); Gustafson v. Jones, 290 F.3d 895, 906 (7th Cir. 2002).

That’ll provide DOJ yet another opportunity to lay out evidence supporting this formula, and yet another opportunity for Trump to try to ignore it to make it just go away.

“See, First Amendment, just say First Amendment, free speech,” prosecutors cite Taylor Taranto in the footnote, prowling Obama’s neighborhood after having been sent there by a Trump Truth Social post.

There’s no better embodiment of Trump’s formula for violence than a mentally disturbed man invoking the First Amendment — just as Trump does here — even as he stalks someone Trump has invited him to target.

And I’m sure, if asked to on appeal, prosecutors would be all too happy to provide more examples showing how Trump mobilized people like Robert Palmer and Taylor Taranto.

Big Kev Belittled

I just realized I’ve been so entranced by the shitshow Matt Gaetz created in the House I forgot to create a space where we could all laugh about it.

Kevin McCarthy has been removed as Speaker, with 8 Republicans voting to oust him. Patrick McHenry holds the gavel until someone figures out what comes next.

In the Senate as this was all going down, Democrats were making history as Laphonza Butler was sworn in to replace Dianne Feinstein.

In New York, Trump was slapped with his first (limited) gag order after he targeted the First Clerk of Judge Arthur Engoron.

As Tea Partiers were eating Kevin McCarthy’s face, Joe Biden rolled out Medicare drug price negotiations on ten key drugs.

Jury selection started in the Sam Bankman-Fried case.

The Fifth Circuit enjoined the Cybersecurity Information Security Agency from speaking with social media companies.

And somewhere way down the list of newsworthy events, Hunter Biden pled not-guilty.

Why Reality TV Star Donald Trump Is More Trusted than Most News Outlets

Today, Donald Trump is attending the first day of the fraud trial that he already substantially lost.

Depending on who you believe, he is either attending because he’s using his attendance to delay a deposition in his own lawsuit against Michael Cohen (who will also be a key witness in this fraud trial).

He cited this as his excuse for skipping out on 2 deposition days in his federal case against ex-lawyer Michael Cohen.

If he didn’t show up, he’d be in contempt of court.

Or, he’s using it as a way to affect the outcome — the outcome that was already substantially determined by Judge Engoron’s ruling last week, a ruling addressed in passing, without explaining how he can affect something that has already occurred.

For Mr. Trump, his attendance at trial is far more personal than political, according to a person familiar with his thinking. The former president is enraged by the fraud charges and furious with both the judge and the attorney general. And Mr. Trump, who is a control enthusiast, believes that trials have gone poorly for him when he hasn’t been present, and he hopes to affect the outcome this time, according to the person.

In his courthouse remarks, Mr. Trump lashed out at the judge’s earlier fraud ruling on his property valuations. “I didn’t even put in my best asset, which is the brand,” he said.

I think Trump is attending to spin a judgment that has already been issued as, instead, an outcome he predicted.


Days after the ruling.

Here’s how it works. On the way into the trial, Reality TV Star Donald Trump made a public statement in which he told his cult followers that the judge that the judge was rogue and the prosecutor was racist. He renewed his claim that Judge Engoron erred by using Palm Beach’s valuation (the one they made in 2011, not in 2021) rather than his boast that Mar-a-Lago is worth a billion dollars.

Few outlets reported that 77-year old Reality TV Star Donald Trump had slurred his words.

No one asked why his spouse hadn’t accompanied him to this trial. (Though this time, one of his co-defendant sons accompanied him to the courthouse.)

Few outlets reported Tish James’ comments about how no one is above the law.

Many outlets were so busy reporting on Reality TV Star Donald Trump’s statements that they didn’t explain that Trump’s Parking Garage Lawyer, Alina Habba, didn’t even try to push for a jury trial, something Judge Engoron confirmed as the trial started.

At least some of the outlets that reported Chris Kise’s arguments about valuation did not explain that those issues were already decided, in a ruling last week.

Most outlets reported that Reality TV Star Donald Trump glared at The Black Woman Prosecutor on his way out for lunch. Some also reported that she laughed that off.

On the way back in the courthouse, Reality TV Star Donald Trump made even more incendiary comments about the judge who already did and will decide his fate. Reality TV Star Donald Trump told his followers that the judge presiding over a trial that might lead him to lose his iconic Trump Tower should be prosecuted and was guilty of election interference.

Many observers clucked that such a stunt would lead the judge — the one who already ruled against Trump — to rule against him.

Trump is going to lose this trial. Know how I know? Judge Engoron already ruled against him!

But most of Trump’s followers don’t know that. Most of Trump’s followers believe that Chris Kise’s comments about valuation were still at issue. Most cult members will see Trump’s comments today — it won’t be hard, because every outlet is carrying them — and remember that before the trial, Trump “predicted” that The Corrupt Judge and The Black Woman Prosecutor would gang up on him.

Reality TV Show Actor Donald Trump used his presence at the trial to create a reality in which he will have correctly predicted a loss that was baked in last week. Because he “predicted” such an outcome, his millions of cult followers will not only treat him as more trustworthy than the journalists playing some role in Trump’s Reality TV Show, cluck-clucking about his attacks on justice without focusing on the fraud and the more fraud and the already adjudged fraud.

Not only will Reality TV Show Actor Donald Trump have “predicted” the outcome, leading his followers to renew their faith in his reliability, but they will implicitly trust his explanation: that he lost the trial not because he is, and has always been, a fraud, but instead because Corrupt Judges and Black Prosecutors continue to gang up on him.

And in the process, Reality TV Show Actor Donald Trump will have continued the big con, the very same fraud of which he has already been adjuged. He will have once again distracted from his own fantasy self-worth and instead led people to report on his golden brand.

When you let Reality TV Show Actor Donald Trump to set the stage, as journalists, you are yet more actors in his Reality TV creation.

It’s not that journalists are bad or biased or corrupt (though some of their editors are). It’s just that Trump already cast them in a role and they’re playing it to a T.

Donald Trump’s Fantasy Self Worth

Yesterday, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump and his two sons have engaged in fraud since July 13, 2014, overstating the value of Trump properties by at least $812 million dollars and possibly as much as $2.2 billion.

The core of the scathing ruling — which imposed sanctions on his attorneys and ordered the dissolution of some of the properties — describes the fantasy world of Trump’s business valuations.

Exacerbating defendants’ obstreperous conduct is their continued reliance on bogus arguments, in papers and oral arguments. In defendants’ world: rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party’s lies; the Attorney General of the State of New York does not have capacity to sue (never mind all those cases where the Attorney General has sued successfully) under a statute expressly designed to provide that right; all illegal acts are untimely if they stem from one untimely act; and square foot subjective.

That is a fantasy world, not the real world.

Engoran went one by one, describing the properties that Tish James had demonstrated Trump Organization had overvalued:

He described how Trump (and a purported expert Trump brought in to pitch Mar-a-Lago’s value) repeatedly defied objective value. There is no such thing as “objective” value; square footage is a subjective process (though Chris Kise did admit at oral arguments that it is actually an objective number); the value of MAL is based on a realtor’s “dream” of “anyone from Elon Musk to Bill Gates” to “Kings, emperors, heads of state” who might overpay to own Trump’s beach resort.

In response to the ruling, both failsons rushed to Twitter to complain that Judge Engoran used the Palm Beach assessment for Mar-a-Lago, which of course incorporates the promises not to turn the property into a residence, rather than the dream-casting of their expert.

In doing so, Eric may have confessed to tax fraud, given that Palm Beach has been taxing Mar-a-Lago as a as a social club rather than a private residence.

That’s sort of the point: When the Trump men’s fantasies butt up against objective reality, they simply claim they’ll break their contracts, maybe even the law, to find a way to fluff up their own value to match their delusions.

Which brings us to one of the most telling passages in Engoron’s ruling. He quotes Trump as saying that market value of all this doesn’t matter because the Saudis will happily pay whatever he demands.

The defenses Donald Trump attempts to articulate in his sworn deposition are wholly without basis in law or fact. He claims that if the values of the property have gone up in the years since the SFCs were submitted, then the numbers were not inflated at that time (i.e.; “but you take the 2014 statement, if something is much more valuable now — or, I guess, we’ll have to pick a date which was a little short of now. But if something is much more valuable now, then the number that I have down here is a. low number”) [citation omitted] He also seems to imply that the numbers cannot be inflated because he could find a “buyer from Saudi Arabia” to pay any price he suggests.10 [citation omitted]

10 This statement may suggest influence buying more than savvy investing.

This is their out. This is the out that Jared Kushner already pursued. This may be the underlying basis for Trump’s LIV golf tournament deal.

Trump confessed, in a sworn deposition, that if he can’t make objective reality match his own delusions, he’s sure the Saudis will bail him out.

An interesting service the Saudis are offering.