Trump’s endless whining is wearing thin

By Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe, April 23, 2024.

For Donald Trump, it’s not about the prosecution. It’s about the persecution.

“This is a Biden witch hunt to keep me off the campaign trail,’’ the former president said Monday as he exited day one of his trial on charges that he falsified business records to cover up a $130,000 payment to a former porn star to influence the 2016 presidential election. He should be campaigning in Georgia and Florida, he whined.

Woe is Trump. Instead of reveling in rallies before the MAGA faithful, he’s stuck in a Manhattan courtroom that he previously complained about as being too cold, before a judge he derides as crooked. For an undetermined amount of time, he must sit and watch as the prosecution team he regularly disparages as corrupt makes it case against him.

“This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a coverup,’’ Matthew Colangelo, one of the prosecutors for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, told the jury. The evidence, Colangelo said, will show that Trump “orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt’’ the 2016 election. In response, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said that “President Trump did not commit any crimes.’’ Picking up on the Trump persecution theme, Blanche also said that the Manhattan DA “should never have brought this case.’’

He did nothing wrong, Trump and his lawyers argue: All he did was pay Michael Cohen, his lawyer at the time, for a “legal expense’’ that had nothing to do with the money Cohen paid to Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who said she had a sexual encounter with Trump. Cohen is a liar who is obsessed with Trump and whose livelihood depends on a Trump conviction, they contend; Daniels is also a liar whose livelihood is tied to Trump.

In Trump’s world, everyone but Trump is a liar. In Trump’s world, everyone is out to get him, except the MAGA faithful. Call me a crazy optimist, but in the end, his deep persecution complex may be more damaging to his reelection chances than any conviction might be. Face it, how many voters will really care if Trump is found guilty of falsifying records to cover up payments to Daniels as a way to keep damaging news out of the media?

I am not minimizing the consequences of law-breaking or saying he should not be held accountable for it. It’s just that with Trump, the boast that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and still retain his hold on MAGA hearts and minds continues to ring true. If some polling is to be believed,his social media rantings and divisive political style have not stopped voters, generally, from positive thoughts about his term in office.

But what might be taking its toll is the endless whining, coupled with a presence that shrinks with every court appearance. He seems smaller, and not necessarily from weight loss. The candidate who calls Biden “Sleepy Joe’’ looks tired. In statements before he enters the courtroom and after he leaves it, this always petty man sounds ever pettier.

The facts of the case do not seem to be in his favor. Forget about Cohen, whose veracity will be very much under assault by Trump’s lawyers, given that he was previously convicted of lying to Congress. If David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer in the run-up to the 2016 election, testifies as promised that he attended a meeting with Trump and Cohen at which a plan was made to “catch’’ negative stories about Trump and “kill’’ them, in order to influence the election, Trump has a big problem. Of course, it remains to be seen how credible Pecker is as a witness and Trump’s defense team will do what it can to undercut his testimony. Even if Trump is convicted, the political question is still how much a court loss hurts him at the polls. Supporters of Bill Clinton did not care that he lied about having sex, or that he got a trusted aide to find a job for Monica Lewinsky, which was another kind of pay-off.

But Clinton, who was president at the time the Lewinsky scandal broke, did show humility and humanity, or was at least able to conjure some up for the purpose of political survival. There’s no grace, humility or humanity in Trump and there never will be. He is who he is, and beyond MAGA nation, I don’t think that helps him in November.

What does help him is having a trial that is not televised. Given the public’s general distrust for the media, it helps Trump to have the flow of trial information controlled by those inside the courtroom. Everyone should be able to see his scowls in real time, and not have to rely on the reports of others. If he takes the witness stand, everyone should be able to hear what he has to say.

Instead, the country is left with the persecution of Trump, as described by Trump. Let’s hope it is wearing thin.

 

Joan Vennochi is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her @joan_vennochi.Image Credits: Getty

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