Former President Trump’s Big Criminal Trial, Important Update

This is just an overview of the situation in Mr. Trump’s criminal trial in NYC.

It does not imply either guilt or innocence and is merely an attempt to bring those who might be interested up to date on the situation before the trial testimony begins.

While he certainly has a presumption of innocence this trial is going to set a new low bar in American legal and political history and this report is an effort to frame the trial in an unbiased way just in order to give people some context and background on the trial itself – not the charges.

Let me be clear, other than the almost certain violation of Judge Merchan’s gag order, neither Mr. Trump nor his legal team has done anything illegal in and around the court during proceedings.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump is back in a New York courtroom after previously being found liable to columnist E. Jean Carroll for sexual assault (a civil penalty, not a criminal case or charge that would require a higher level of proof.)

Donald Trump criminal trial NY at defence table. Image via CC youtube screenshot, Straight Arrow News
Donald Trump criminal trial NY at defence table. Image via CC youtube screenshot,
Straight Arrow News

After deliberating three hours the jury found in Ms. Carroll’s favor and she was awarded $65 million in punitive damages and another $18.3 million in compensatory damages which Mr. Trump was able to post a bond so he could appeal.

The other case he recently lost contended that he had fraudulently falsified the value of his properties to gain better bank loan terms. He was fined $355 million in that civil case and he spent several weeks struggling to raise money for a bond so he could appeal the judgment.

He was only able to raise the bond when the judge reduced the bond requirement by more than half (the bond has to cover the fine and the expected accrued interest if he loses the appeal).

Criminal Trial Begins

The case which began this week is a criminal case charging Mr. Trump with violating federal campaign finance rules.

Unlike the civil cases, Mr. Trump is required to be present in court during the proceedings which will hamper both his ability to hold campaign rallies and fundraise.

Today, Friday

The final jurors and alternates have all been selected.

But there was some actual drama in the jury selection.

One prospective juror broke down in tears saying she just could not be unbiased because this was so much more stressful than she had expected.

Another said she was arrested and convicted in another state and felt she was not even eligible for jury duty. She was released with the thanks of the judge.

Annoying the Judge

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have challenged the presiding judge so many times over previously decided rulings, decisions sometimes not just adjudicated once but two times.

The tactic of posing multiple objections is common to delay a trial if that is desired but judges apparently do not like wasting time going over the same objections multiple times.

Today the judge, obviously frustrated with the multiple attempts by the defense to slow proceedings shut down the defense saying there will be no more delays over decisions which he had already made and the opening arguments WILL start on Monday.

This was the first real slap on the wrist administered by the judge and people in the courtroom reported on several TV news shows that Mr. Trump appeared to be shaken up after what was apparently a serious talking to by the Judge.

This trial is about 34 felony counts not just for election law violations by allegedly paying porn actress Stormy Danials (Stephanie Clifford) hush money out of campaign funds but for attempts to conceal the transactions, something for which Mr. Trump’s former attorney and admitted fixer Michael Cohen was convicted and served prison time.

(Personal NOTE: although TV shows always refer to the Trump/Stormy interaction as an “affair” but she got paid for having sex with the Ex President so I believe there is a more common name for that sort of transaction.)

Note that in January 2018, Stormy Daniels said the affair with Donald Trump “never happened.”

The defense is expected to contend that Mr. Cohen did not inform Mr. Trump of the payments or attempts to conceal them. Mr. Cohen has already spent prison time for making the illegal payments in an attempt to conceal the mistress and Trump’s affair.

Multiple people who have seen Mr. Trump working over the years and on his reality TV show state that Mr. Trump always attempts to control absolutely every aspect of his businesses.

Trump Gag Order

Because of continual derogatory social media, rally and on-camera statements about the Judge, the Judge’s daughter, jurors in general, and the prosecutors, weeks earlier the judge had imposed a gag order on Mr. Trump. Instead of immediately imposing a fine, the judge ordered a hearing on whether he violated the gag order a week later.

Already during the trial there has been a bomb threat at the judge’s home.

Friends of your reporter who, understandably, did not wish to be named, including a former NYC prosecutor, told me that in general anyone who blatantly violated a gag order both on camera and in social media posts which Mr. Trump has never denied making, would be jailed after the second or third violation.

On the first day of the trial when jury selection began, Mr. Trump again violated the gag order during the lunch break.

At campaign rallies, Presidential candidate Trump called the prosecutors racists and fascists who are pursuing political agendas to keep him from being re-elected.

Even as President Mr. Trump regularly accused people of outrageous actions, such as when he accused Ex-President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower.

More drama may be expected when you see some potential jurors say they do not want to be on the jury because they are afraid they will be identified and placed at physical risk. One specifically said that she had gotten many phone calls and messages from her family and friends who were able to identify her.

So, as of Friday, April 19, after just four days a full jury along with 6 alternates has been impaneled, something which many TV talking heads said could easily take weeks.

One reason it happened reasonably quickly was that, despite Mr. Trump’s insistence to reporters that, unlike any other defense in a criminal trial, he should be allowed unlimited peremptory challenges of any potential juror, meaning that no reason need be given. The standard is 5 peremptory challenges and both the defense and prosecution used all of them. The prosecution, defense, or judge can also reject an unlimited number of potential jurors or alternates for cause, that is, some stated reason why they were not acceptable.

There are multiple reports by people who were in the courtroom that Mr. Trump has appeared to fall asleep at times, which is right, and not a violation of any legal requirement but does not show him as the energetic, in-charge guy he portrays.

Some commentators say this may affect his potential voters even more than an actual conviction, if that happens.

The Guardian, a respected UK newspaper has confirmed that on the first day of the trial, Mr. Trump appeared to fall asleep. The New York Times has reported that he fell asleep twice so far.

Another strange aspect of his courtroom demeanor is the fact that he did not stand when potential jurors entered the courtroom. Every trial attorney I know and everyone I know who has served on a jury has told me that this is unheard of and that they have never seen an ambulatory defendant fail to stand and show respect for the jurors. This too is a matter of tradition and NOT a violation of any legal requirement, although it may be noted by the jury.

Mr. Trump has insisted that he WILL definitely testify in his defense. That would open him up to cross-examination and the next hearing will involve any limits Judge Merchan on what questions the prosecutor can ask Mr. Trump.

That is likely to influence whether or not Mr. Trump actually testifies in his trial. It should certainly influence whether his attorneys advise him not to testify. There is NO requirement that any defendant in a criminal trial testify.

It is important to remember that Mr. Trump regularly states, even insists that he will testify in many of his civil trials but he seldom has done so.

One question the defense team is certain to try and prevent being asked is whether Mr. Trump has ever lied under oath.

Most recently last October Judge Arthur Engoron (Newsweek) fined former President Donald Trump $10,000, finding his testimony “not credible” during a hearing about whether he violated a gag order Wednesday afternoon in the civil trial where Trump was also found guilty of illegally inflating the value of his properties to gain benefits in bank loans.

Burning Man, Conspiracy Theorist

Meanwhile, on Friday in a space reserved for protesters outside the Manhattan court building, a man set himself on fire and was observed burning for upwards of three minutes before he was extinguished.

The NYPD identified the man as a Mr. Max Azzarello, 37, of St. Augustine, Fla. He self describes himself as a conspiracy researcher and the burning was possibly a publicity stunt because he was seen outside the building on Thursday holding up a sign with his website address.

Mr. Azzarello had appeared outside the courthouse on Thursday, holding a sign displaying the address of his website. The top post of his website (which I was not able to reach) reportedly says, “I have set myself on fire outside the Trump Trial.”

On April 14, 2023, Maxwell Crosby Azzarello filed a lawsuit against the Clinton Foundation and others

As of Friday, April 19 evening, that is the situation, two/three days before opening arguments in Mr. Trump’s first of several expected criminal trials.