For those who have been following the politics of former President Donald Trump what was seen on Tuesday in New York and Florida was just about another day in the life of the 45th President. But to many others it showed a side of Trump that was even far too below his standards. Indicted on 34 counts of business fraud Trump was cold sober when he entered the Hogan Building of the Lower Manhattan courthouse; one clip showed Trump not even given the basic courtesy of holding the door by a police officer; and the still frames revealed a quiet former President flanked by his lawyers.
But by the time the two hour show was over in New York and Trump boarded his private plane back to Mar a Lago in Florida it was a totally different story. In front of a carefully picked crowd and for about thirty minutes at his private residence Trump was at the height of himself, in what he is generally good at—spewing venom, insulting folks and repeating things that have been laughed out of courts on the so-called stolen election of 2020. And at a time when the Judge in Manhattan politely reminded both the prosecution and defence on the need to be restrained on social media, Trump went on an all out assault of the Judge, his wife and the District Attorney.
In his ranting and raving at Mar a Lago Trump had obviously an agenda: he wanted the Judge overseeing his indictments to impose a gag order so that he could come out screaming on the violation of his First Amendment Rights and the opposition standing in the way of a political campaign. Right through his career the former President specialized in the art of portraying himself as a victim and in accusing his opponents that had very little to do with substance. Fact checkers of the Tuesday evening speech were busy ticking away the erroneous statements, one of the more hilarious being that Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, the Bushes and Obama had also carted away classified documents to their homes when leaving the White House.
Portraying himself as the one who is wounded no one expected to see or hear a person giving the impression that much of it was self inflicted. In fact the rambling speech at Mar a Lago prompted some analysts to believe that Trump could have implicated himself, at least in admitting that he had deliberately taken away documents from the White House when leaving. Somehow Trump’s incoherence on Tuesday evening seemed to leave an underlying message: that he is preparing his political base that the 34 criminal indictments slapped on him in New York could just be the beginning of bigger things to come. But the bottom line was not too difficult to figure out: they are coming after you and since I am in the way protecting you, I would have to be taken out first.
The weight of the indictments that should translate into felony charges are being weighed by legal pundits and no one for sure has any answers at this stage including if an when a trial gets under way. In fact Trump’s lawyers are expected to file several motions including one for dismissal. And the spotlight, at least from a media perspective, will remain if the events of Tuesday in New York are anything to go by. What is being constantly reminded is that the Manhattan indictments are just the beginning and could perhaps pale into something very small when the curtains come down on three other legal goings on at this time.
A grand jury in Georgia is looking at whether Trump, as President, tried to intervene to overturn Presidential election results in the state in November 2020; and two federal probes are under way including by Special Counsel if the former President had a role in the incitement and violence on Capitol Hill of January 6, 2021 and in classified documents being carted away from the White House at the end of Trump’s tenure.
The legal drama surrounding Trump is expected to continue up until the November Presidential election of 2024, if not longer. In the short term Trump is being seen as having come away with the advantage and has used the indictments to raise an estimated US$ 8 millions to his campaign coffers. The larger question is if the rank and file Republicans, not just the Trump base, sees it as high time to look beyond worn out themes and conspiracy theories as the mid term elections of 2022 showed the Grand Old Party.
•The writer is Editor-in-Chief of New India Abroad ®