Donald Trump Will Dance With the Banana

I don’t know what the headline means, either. I just like it.

Maggie Haberman writes at the NY Times that the indictment caught the Trump camp off guard.

Mr. Trump and his aides were caught off guard by the timing, believing that any action by the grand jury was still weeks away and might not occur at all.

Some advisers had become confident that there would be no movement until the end of April at the earliest and were looking at the political implications for Mr. Trump’s closest potential rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

How incompetent are these people? Then Haberman goes on to say that Trump has been trying to fake being normal.

On Thursday evening, after the grand jury indicted him, Mr. Trump was angry but mainly focused on the political implications of the charges, not the legal consequences, according to people familiar with his thinking.

He seemed eager to project confidence and calm and was seen having a very public dinner with his wife, Melania, and her parents at the club at Mar-a-Lago. …

… At times Mr. Trump has appeared significantly disconnected from the severity of his potential legal woes, according to people who have spent time with him in recent days.

He was also trying to tamp down his own behavior, after he posted to his social media site a news article with an image of Mr. Bragg on one side and Mr. Trump holding a baseball bat on the other. Mr. Trump’s lawyers were alarmed that he was doing himself damage. He did not repeat the act.

I understand that at his arraignment he might very well be given a gag order. And speaking of gag — Ben Jacobs writes for Vox,

Thursday night was the most cringe moment in American politics since the high times of the #resistance in the early Trump administration. After news broke that Donald Trump had become the first president in US history to be charged with a crime, there were labored, overwrought historical analogies (the number of times Fox News personalities mentioned that the Rubicon had been crossed would have allowed Caesar’s entire legion to go back and forth across the ancient Roman river a dozen times). There was ample partisan wish-casting, as right-wingers shared their fantasies of President Joe Biden condemning the prosecution of Trump in New York in order to bring our country together. And, of course, there were dark anxieties that this would spell the end of American democracy and represented what Donald Trump Jr. simply called “Communist level shit.”

Actually, letting Trump skate just because he used to be POTUS would be “Communist level shit.” And the whole point about following the grand jury process gets lost on these people. Due process of law is being followed scrupulously. And since when did any of these meatballs care about democracy, anyway?

WaPo reports that Tucker Carlson is calling for protests.

“It almost feels they’re pushing the population to react,” said Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson, referring vaguely to Democrats. “‘We think they’re demoralized and passive, let’s see if they really are.’ At what point do we conclude they’re doing this in order to produce a reaction?”

The only “reaction” I want is justice and restoration of the rule of law. We’ll see if the MAGAts turn out. I’m sure the NYPD is ready for whatever happens. My bigger concern is that some lone actors will commit terrorist acts elsewhere.

We probably won’t know exactly what the charges are until the arraignment, but I’m seeing reports there are more than 30 counts in the indictment. I have no idea how reliable that information is.

I also understand there may not be a trial for months. In the meantime, I hope, we’ll hear something from Jack Smith and Fani Willis, among others.

Elie Mystal is not optimistic about Alvin Bragg’s charges.

The problem, as Alexa is quick to remind me, is that it’s not 2020 or 2021, and this is not in federal court. We are in the year 2023, and a local DA is trying to gather up some bits of the jurisdictional authority federal prosecutors left lying on the ground. It’s not a clean shot: Bragg is trying to bank in a half-court heave off the backboard after the shot clock buzzer has already sounded.

The first issue that Bragg has is time. Trump committed the underlying campaign finance offense in 2016, and the statute of limitations on bookkeeping fraud and campaign finance violations is five years. That brings you to 2021. The statute of limitations for tax evasion is three years. Even if you don’t start the clock on that until the story breaks in the news in 2018, that brings you, once again, to 2021. To get to 2023, Bragg appears to be arguing that the statute of limitations paused while Trump was president and living out of state. That’s… a theory, but not necessarily a good one, and certainly not one that has been tested enough to know how it’s going to hold up in the courts. Remember, the alleged immunity Trump had from prosecutions applied only at the federal level. Local prosecutors, like Bragg’s predecessor Cyrus Vance, who was the Manhattan DA during Trump’s presidency, could have charged him with this crime at any time.

The second issue is that Bragg is doing a lot of legal contortions to make this a felony, instead of a misdemeanor. For Bragg to charge Trump with felony bookkeeping fraud, he needs to show that Trump committed that crime to cover up some other crime (either a campaign finance violation or a tax violation) at the federal level. But that’s harder to do when the feds won’t prosecute Trump for the graver misdeeds that are beyond Bragg’s purview.

I’m not giving up on Jack Smith yet.

If you hear any other juicy tidbits, do post them in the comments.

11 thoughts on “Donald Trump Will Dance With the Banana

  1. “It almost feels they’re pushing the population to react”, said Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson

    It’s almost like Tucker Carlson is projecting once again.

    Joyce Vance dissects what we know so far. The thing about the Feds not pursuing this case, versus DA Bragg picking it up and getting to an indictment, she thinks has to do with particular rules the Feds in NY have around a witness like Michael Cohen. Cohen would’ve been required to divulge ALL of his criminal activity to the SDNY, and apparently he wasn’t willing to do so. The state has no such requirement.

    The comedians are having a field day. Stephen Colbert, in particular hits it out of the park (appropriate for baseball’s first day). In the video, his audience only learns of Trump’s indictment from Colbert himself.

  2. You mentioning the grand jury actually reminds me of a point.

    You remember, Shirley Sherrod, told a story about "learning to combat prejudice in herself"? Yeah, the one where I felt like the *only human being* who noticed she said her dad, was murdered, in front of multiple witnesses, with a known motive, and… the grand jury wouldn't indict.

    I still can't believe how I never saw that mentioned, not even once.

    Now, that means, in our jurisprudence – that is, in the collected minds of law makers, and the enforcers of the law, and those who argue before the  courts – there are a large number of people who see grand juries as a way to make sure only the proper people – minorities, poor people, etc. – got charged with actual crimes. Oh, they might learn the *history* and the *intent* of a grand jury, but they all know the de facto *function*.

    For them, finding they have to charge one of the "good people" means they want vengeance for the outrageous action, of holding to the rule of law when popular opinion is against it. So, yeah, they want to indict a Democratic bigwig. "If you're going to violate the protection against the rule of law for one of ours, we'll do the same to one of yours!"

    This idea, that a grand jury is intended to protect the powerful, and punish the weak, seems to be a legacy of slavery. (Technically, of the Jim Crow south, but that only occurred because of slavery.)

    What do you think? Would that explain the reactions we're seeing, and are there other, better, hypotheses you can imagine? I'd rather believe in deep seated prejudice because that's less intentional, less cruel, less ugly, but it doesn't seem to work when it seems so intentional, and obviously intentional.

  3. Thursday night was the most cringe moment in American politics since the high times of the #resistance in the early Trump administration.

    There are lots of candidates for most cringe worthy. Does the Missouri legislature defunding public libraries come in second?


    We seem to be rotated emotionally between hope and dispair about Trump's indictments.  One day we are high and then someone dashes our hopes.

    There is some reporting that there are 34 counts in the Trump NYC indictments.  Others are saying 'about 30'.  I like Elie Mystal but he is speculating upon the speculation that all of the indictments are related to just the hush money payments.  

    Maybe it is time to cease the speculations about the indictments until they are released!

  4. Elie Mystal – who is one of my absolute faves! – isn't wrong.

    I also think it's true that Bragg might not be skating on the thickest ice.

    But thick ice or thin, at least Bragg is skating forward!

    And imo, by being first, he and his "weak" case are doing a huge favor for both Willis and Smith.

    As we're all aware, no POTUS has ever been indicted before.  

    So now, TRUMP is the 1st POTUS criminally indicted.*

    The media attention is now on Bragg.

    And tRUMP's MAGAts (potentially murderous) wrath is also now squarely focused on Manhattan's DA.

    DA's Willis and Smith can now really focus on their cases, and not have worry about whether their cases are really 100% ironclad enough to try to "kill the King."   They knew that if you're going to go after tRUMP for truly serious crimes, they'd "best not miss."

    So weak or not, Bragg's case has now broken the ice.

    Let him suffer the slings and arrows!

    And as that circus is playing out, and as their cases strengthen, Willis, Smith – and any other DA's out there – need to watch to see how tRUMP reacts and behaves.

    And watch to see how his MAGAts react and behave.

    And yes,i if Brag fails, it'll be a bad thing.

    But even by losing – maybe even especially by losing – whenever (hopefully)  tRUMP is indicted again, the the non-MAGA part of the population will then have their focus swiftly changed from p*rnstars, models, and campaign finance crimes, to move on to the real criminal shit!

    Seditious conspiracy.


    A coup attempt that came perilously close to destroying this nation as we know it.

    And all of his innumerable other crimes.

    tRUMP has done more than screw a p*rnstar named Stormy, and try to cover it up.

    tRUMP has fucked America.

    He fucked us.

    The damage tRUMP has done to America can't be undone.


    The evil geniis he let loose across this land can't be stuffed back into their lamps.

    tRUMPism is committed to destroying a multi-cultural America.

    And in its place, they want a "Christian," white, docile, Authoritarian Fascist Kleptocracy.

    I don't know about you, I'd rather live in a melting pot, than a crucible.


    *In recent decades, Nixon, Reagan, and "Baby Doc" Bush were certainly more than worthy of attaining that unique dishonor ahead of tRUMP. 

    In a just universe, tRUMP would have been at least the 4th POTUS indicted. 

    And imo, there were certainly earlier candidates!  Harding's right on the cusp of a centennial delineation.  So he cans either be the 1st one indicted in the last 100 years, or the last one in the first 100+ years.


    Btw:  That dancing banana always brings me joy!

    But not quite the level of joy I felt!p yesterday!!!!!!!!!

    "Oh frabjous day!!!!!"


  5. First, Thank you for for the Dancing Banana! It's silly and cheezy and reflects how I feel. It's been frustrating to see Trump evade justice. Mostly, he's gotten away with crimes against the Constitution because the GOP has sanctioned and validated Trump's crimes. Finally, it's going to an arena where a jury will hear evidence and be instructed on the law. This is also an imperfect system, but it's a forum where Trump's money and political status may not help him.

    Agreed, we need to see the indictment and see what the charges are before we second-guess whether Alvin Bragg has screwed up. But Steve Benen noted today that a lot of pundits and politicians are shooting off their mouths before they know the charges. They should know better. Also, Bragg warned against "unlawful political interference." Republicans in the House need to figure out their lane and stay in it. The prosecution of Trump may be poorly grounded and ill-advised but it's in the state of New York. Trump can afford lawyers and he'll get a fair trial. Butt out, McCarthy!

    Regarding the statute of limitations. I expect Trump's lawyers will raise that early in a pre-trial motion for dismissal. We'll know the answer to that soon enough. My guess is that Bragg has that sewed up tight with precedents. 

    If Maggie's sources are right, it may not have dawned on Trump that criminal charges aren't just a political factor. There's a real risk of jail time, especially if Trump continues to attack the prosecutor and also starts in on the court. It seems likely that Trump will because it's his MO in past cases. None of the previous cases have been criminal but it's possible Trump thinks "they" can't lock him up. I've speculated previously that Trump plans to skip out of the US to avoid prison if it looks like that's under consideration. (Remember, sentencing generally lags a guilty verdict by a couple of months.) Maggie's reporting suggests Trump is only considering the financial and political impact of being charged. 

    Depending on what happens over the weekend, the judge MAY impose restrictions on Trump's comments about the case, especially as his comments might have the effect of inspiring violence, not an abstract consideration after J6. I really wonder if Trump will stifle his worst impulses for three whole days. 

    The lawyer who's been fronting for Trump in the Stormy Danials case has a problem that might affect his role in the case. He was under consideration by Stormy to be HER lawyer and got inside information from her which may be of value to the Trump defense – but that's an ethical violation. It's too early to predict what the judge will do but it seems likely that the prosecution will raise the issue when a judge is assigned.

    There's two places the Stormy Danials case might be huge in bringing Trump down. First, if Danials takes the stand and gives explicit testimony, it will humiliate Melania. One can only guess how Melania might express her anger but all of them mess with Trump's head. Ask an athlete in a contact sport – boxing, basketball, football, if you own your adversary emotionally, you have control of the game. If this observation sounds like dirty politics, it is. I'm not a nice person.

    Second, Trump can't play the same games with the judge in a criminal trial that he has in civil litigation. For one thing, Trump's lawyer(s) may walk (or ask the judge for permission to walk) if Trump insists on threatening (or inciting threats) against the prosecutor, the judge or the judicial system in general. The greater the stress, the more I think Trump will revert to mobster tactics but this puts Trump's lawyers at risk – possibly of incarceration themselves if they know of threats and they go along with it. Trump could wind up with totally incompetent representation in multiple criminal cases if/because no competent lawyer will accept Trump as a client. This won't make the cases go away – it means Trump will be playing in the big leagues while all his coaches are little-league quality. (This it the kind of thing in my mind when I suggest the Trump campaign may 'implode.') 

    If Trump does implode under the pressure of multiple trials, DeSantis is the most likely heir to the GOP nomination. This depends in part on timing, relative to the GOP primaries. If DeSantis becomes a threat, Trump will demand the GOP abolish DeSantis. Failure to do this will be the famous, "stabbed in the back" moment which Trump will play to the hilt. The split will destroy the GOP.  (This is my hope.)  

    I'm looking to Georgia next.

    • Rachel had a former NY attorney on, who said that NY permits a lot of pre-trial motions, even questioning the basis on which the grand jury decided things. In other words, a lot of room for a defendant to waste the court's time, before things really get going. Federal law doesn't have this, and so we could see indictments from Georgia and elsewhere before the NY trial even gets going.

      re your comments about Melania – Trump will simply put her back in the box she came in, and send her back. He's completely transactional, had sex with other women during their "marriage", and I suspect sees her only as an accessory, to be dispensed with if she's too much trouble. I wonder what her exit strategy is. "I really don't care do U?"

  6. One other thought – the judge decided the Dominion suit against Fox goes to trial middle of next month. In his ruling the judge said the issue of whether the stuff against Dominion was false is settled. There is/was no basis to the claim. What the jury will decide is malice/negligence. 

    The top talking heads for Fox may all take the stand. I do not know if cameras will be allowed in the courtroom. But this will be big,

  7. I had an interesting thought this afternoon when they played a clip of Senator Lindsay Graham going ballistic over the news of indictment. I asked myself, why would the Senator do that instead of just saying, "I'm not worried because I predict the verdict will be not guilty." 

    So I have a theory, and the theory is connected to the fable of the emperor's new clothes. 

    Senator Graham long ago threw all in with the transformation of the US Republican party into a full-on party of fascist authoritarianism (textbook definitions of those).  He decided that the GOP could not continue to win its share of elections as a simple party of the right-of-center Americans. So he threw in with the extremists.  Who knows how long ago that happened? [I don't need to debate how long this has been a project of the GOP… Powell memo etc.] Bear with me.

    Why is Senator Graham upset?  Because for all bupt the most rabid supporters of the extremist version of the GOP, the scales are going to fall from their eyes. It will become clear that the emperor has no clothes. 

    How will that happen?  When this NYC case gets going, even in the early pre-trial stages, TFG will not be in control of the narrative.  He will try, but none of the actual real artifacts and events of the legal process will be under the control of the judge.  Period.

    Murdaugh did not have the option of turning his trial into a circus, and if he had tried he would have been slammed HARD. He didn’t try, but this is true regardless of whether or not Murdaugh was stupid enough to want to do that. Reality in legal proceedings is not in the control of defendants.  Defendants have rights, but not control of the process.

    TFG has honed his PR skills in controlling the narrative in the world of gossip. Inside the judicial system process, that skill of his is not useful.  All he has is delay through frivolous actions. In terms of the emperor’s clothes fable, he will no longer have the "clothes" that were actually invisible. (Read the story summary in the "Plot" section for a reminder.  It has interesting depth in this context.)

    All of the extreme R's are scared because they know that in a court of law, the fantasies that TFG constantly asserts as "truth" will not be tolerated.  Those fantasies serve an important purpose.  They allow the "marks" of the scam to preserve their delusion that TFG is on their side.  The crumbling of the whole scam can only happen as first a few, then a few more, then a few more former true believer begin to see how obvious it is that TFG is playing everyone for a fool. Every legal proceeding that TFG faces helps the marks see what is going on.

  8. regarding the Dominion Voting ruling, I gleaned this from a comment at Heather Cox Richardson’s substack

    In the Dominion case against FOX, Judge Davis’ 80 page ruling means Jurors will be instructed FOX’s statements are false as matter of law-of-the-case dramatically simplifying the Trial. Any rational commercial defendant would settle the case no matter the cost of settlement.

    As a litigator, I relished actions against banks because as a group banks were good at evaluating severe risk. – Bryan Sean McKown

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