Can Trump Adjust to His New Reality?

In the days before The Verdict a number of poll analysts had pointed out that much of Trump’s “lead” in the polls was coming from people who didn’t vote in 2020. If you looked at polling results of people who did vote in 2020 — people who are likely to vote, in other words — Biden looks a bit better. See The Shaky Foundation of Trump’s Lead: Disengaged Voters.

The disengaged voters are also low-information voters. Some of them may have been barely aware that Trump was on trial for something. But I think the news about the conviction was big enough they might have heard it by now. And it may take some time to process. There are all kinds of opinion columns out there about What This Will Mean for the Election. I don’t think we know yet. A lot will depend on what the two parties do with the conviction, and what comes out in news and social media about the conviction and eventually settles into “conventional wisdom.”

Also, a lot is going to depend on Trump in the next few days.

Juliette Kayyem at The Atlantic provides some interesting observations —

The first post-trial press conference of the once and potentially future president, and now convicted felon, was bizarre, even by his standards. The word unhinged tends to be overused in this context, but Donald Trump lacked focus as he spoke after the conclusion of his trial in a New York state court on 34 felony counts relating to his payoff of the porn star Stormy Daniels. The presumptive Republican nominee ranted about this and that, including off-topic riffs on “Little League games” being canceled, “propane stoves,” the rainy weather, and immigrants living in “luxury hotels.” It wasn’t really a press conference—he took no questions—but nor was it what some feared it would be: a call to action.

Here’s an unfiltered video of the press conference. I could only watch about a third of it. Trump did sound old and tired at the beginning but pulled himself together a bit, even as what he said was a stream of lies. About the only thing he got factually correct in the part I watched is that some guy really did attack another guy with a machete in a Times Square McDonald’s on May 30. The rest of it is nonsense, and I believe you all are well informed enough to recognize that if you watch it. For the record, there are fact checks here and here.

Kayyem then notes that Trump didn’t call for violence in his speech, and as far as I can tell he hasn’t yet since the conviction. His culties are calling for burning down the nation, but so far I haven’t heard they’ve done anything about it.

Trump could already have started using his sentencing date, July 11, as a cause for his supporters and the GOP elites to rally around, much as he did with January 6, 2021. Then, the last time he lost big, he was still president and had all of the tools of the presidency to try to stop his loss from taking effect and prevent the transfer of power. But he doesn’t have that this time. He is not in office; this is not 2021. He may yet attempt to orchestrate disruption, protest, even violence, but unless he is elected again, he cannot promise his supporters that they will be pardoned. And he could actually face jail time. The calculations are different.

That last part about facing jail time is critical. Trump may dimly understand that his behavior between now and the sentencing could make a difference in the sentencing. And having a violent mob outside during his sentencing hearing might not be the smartest move, assuming he could conjure one.

That said, Reuters just reported this

 Donald Trump said he would accept home confinement or jail time after his historic conviction by a New York jury last week but that it would be tough for the public to accept.
“I’m not sure the public would stand for it,” the Republican presidential candidate told Fox News in an interview that aired on Sunday. “I think it’d be tough for the public to take. You know, at a certain point, there’s a breaking point.”

I suspect most of the public would take it pretty well. And as I understand it, even if Trump were sentenced to jail he could seek to have the sentence stayed pending appeal, which of course could take a while. I don’t expect him to be locked up anytime soon.

Back to Juliette Kayyem:

Second, a great deal has happened since January 6, 2021, and Trump should rightly be worried that he cannot deliver the crowds. The MAGA movement is furious but not organized. “Mass mobilizations are hard and require work,” The Atlantic’s Ali Breland wrote on Friday, including “boring little logistical things.” No such effort on Trump’s behalf seems under way. And, as I’ve written previously, Trump’s people may be angry, but they are also dispersed and in disarray, and many are in jail because of the post–January 6 prosecutions. Several leaders of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, groups that took such a planning role before the Capitol riot, have been found guilty and are serving time for seditious conspiracy. Today, Trump’s rallies are small, though he continues to lie about the numbers.

Kayyem points to the pathetically sparse show of support outside the Manhattan courthouse, even as Trump kept lying that “they” were keeping the protesters away.  The notables of the Republian Party showed up to kiss Trump’s ass, of course. (Someday some of those same people will swear up and down they didn’t really mean it; they never really liked Trump, really. They were just there to unify the party, or something.) Even though New York City is mostly solid blue, there are still a few million Trump voters within easy public transportation distance of the courthouse. More could have been there if they had wanted to be there.

As the summer goes on we may see a reprise of the “Trump trains” of 2020 or the even better Trump boat parades that were a source of much amusement four years ago. Or, we may not. That will be something to watch for. There’s a headline at The Guardian declaring the Right is mobilizing, but it didn’t give any examples of actual mobility among Trump supporters other than bloviating on the Internet. What we are more likely to see are the GOP bozos in Congress (example) attempting to “investigate” Judge Merchan (and his daughter) and Alvin Bragg. That could get ugly.

There’s also the fact that Trump has an election to win. Unleashing a violent mob, even if he could do it, may not do much to win over independents and old school suburban, college educated Republicans. Kayyem writes,

Trump lost the election in 2020. He lost in court last week. He’s on a longtime losing streak, and he knows that the only way to turn that around is to win the presidency. The likelihood that Trump can’t help himself is always high, and he could easily beckon violence on his social-media platform and get a response from the die-hard fringe. But Trump may be calculating that a spectacle of unruly masses on July 11—assuming he could get them—would not be such a great look for a presidential candidate when the whole world is watching. 

And so, according to Reuters,

Asked what Trump supporters should do if he were jailed, Republic National Committee Co-Chair Lara Trump told CNN: “Well, they’re gonna do what they’ve done from the beginning, which is remain calm and protest at the ballot box on November 5th. There’s nothing to do other than make your voices heard loud and clear and speak out against this.”

That may be the official Trump campaign position on protesting. If there are any violent protests, Trump will probably want to be able to demonstrate he didn’t call for it.

In related news: There’s a thing called a “pre-sentence interview” Trump is supposed to submit to, in person, before the sentencing hearing. This is a New York state thing, I take it. According to Business Insider, after the verdict Trump actually was handed a form telling him to immediately report to a probabtion department upstairs somewhere to begin some kind of processing, but he didn’t do that. He’s supposed to schedule an in-person interview with the probabtion department, but he is expected to blow it off. There are no specific penalties attached to blowing off the interview, but it won’t help him at sentencing.

Trump is now claiming he never called for Hillary Clinton to be locked up back in 2016. So what percentage of Americans are stupid enough to believe that?
Something else to read: “Swept Up!” The Russian Payments That Led to Trump’s Felony Conviction at Emptywheel.


17 thoughts on “Can Trump Adjust to His New Reality?

  1. MOST felons convicted of the statute Trump was nailed for do not get jail time. (90% I think it said.) BUT most felons nailed for this statute do not attack the entire judicial system publicly as an extrajudicial defense. There's still absolute denial from Trump, to the point it's rumored that attacks on Stormy Daniels will be central to his appeal.

    ZERO contrition is a problem for Trump in sentencing. It's not t hat Trump's defiance liberates the judge to nail Trump – it requires the judge do something! Trump has not admitted to a mistake, much less a crime. A light sentence is a hall pass for the school bully to find a new victim. And a light sentence does nothing to discourage other wanna-be offenders.

    We're not talking about creative bookkeeping to cheat on NY taxes. It was a decision made with the presidential election at stake. In other words, democracy was the victim in the crime. 

  2. John Edwards was charged by the DOJ in 2011 for campaign finance violations related to an affair that produced a "love child." He confessed to the romance and was acquitted with the defense he was trying to protect his marriage from the fallout. Trump COULD have used that defense if he'd admitted to the one-nighter with a porn star. He refused to admit to anything and the jury nailed him. But with all the "weaponized DOJ" rhetoric, the fact that Democrats have been held accountable in court is absent in reporting.

    Senator Menendez is in court for bribery. Maybe the gift Mercedes, or the gold bars, or the 100K in a duffel bag were hints. Plus associations with the folks who left the money and the favors he did for them, leaving an obvious trail. But Menendez is a Democrat and there's no line of Democrats defending him. WTF is wrong with the media that these cases are not front and center to counter the groundless accusations that the trial was directed by Biiden. 

    I know that's two comments in a row. Sue me.

    • WTF is wrong with the media that these cases are not front and center to counter the groundless accusations that the trial was directed by Biden. 

      They are studiously ignoring information like that, and not to mention the Hunter Biden trial starts today, to buttress the Trump/MAGA claims that he is being treated unfairly and that this is Biden going after him.

      It seems the media has a vested interested in having Trump be an Evita-like martyr.  

  3. "Can Trump Adjust to His New Reality"

    I don't think Stump is affected by "reality" one little bit. His entire life has been a farce, he was trained as a child that believing something is true will make it so. Unfortunately in many aspects it has worked. He was a complete failure as a businessman but learned how to manipulate tax law and bankruptcy law to make it seem that he was wildly successful. That facade got him a game show on NBC that for some reason was very successful (it appealed to the dullard pro-wrestling crowd). Then somehow he turned that expanded fame into a successful run for president (with a little help from the Russians, Jame Comey and Hillary Clinton). So now he is a convicted felon but I think in his mind he doesn't believe it. He has been trained from childhood to ignore negative consequences. So as long as he has an appeal pending and another ignorant magat cultist rally on the schedule he thinks he's still winning. Reality in my opinion has little space in what's left of Diaper Don's brain.

  4. Trump's war on the truth continues, as he plays the victim of the same aggressive actions he is still engaging in to weaponize the criminal justice system in his favor.  He is falsely claiming the prosecuting attorney and the judge were out to get him, when the records clearly show a trail of deception which include falsified bank accounts and a trail of Russian Money.  Cohen turned on Trump when this investigation led to his indictment and subsequent incarceration.  This story has a paper trail and evidence to back it up. It convinced 12 Jurors to convict on 34 felony charges.  It is validated as the truth.  Trump's story has no backing paper trail, no evidence to support it but his highly dubious word, and no objective validation by a court.  No reputable press agency should report it without a bold disclaimer of its lack of veracity and just more evidence of the criminal nature of Trump, a continued danger to the citizens of the country.  

    Yes, he has duped many people who are having a hard time seeing and understanding how often they have been scammed by his operation and have forgiven him many times.  They like having his lies as their truth.  So does Putin and other seedy and authoritarian leaders around the world who fund and support him.  None of which have anything but a desire to diminish our country, its products, and the ideal and ideas it represents.  

    Do we need improvement and do we have faults.  Sure.  One with 34 felonies and no credibility tops the list.  Time to fix that and denial just adds to the faults.

  5. As long as his name is all over the media, there is no "new reality" for him.  Even as we ponder it, our tax dollars are being earmarked for the creation of a new X-presidential suite in Attica.   He may have some old friends there.

    The whole world awaits the new reality that ignores that man. 

  6. A few very recent polls (three of them) are interesting. I would not say conclusive, but all of them show a small drop in support for Trump and a small bump for Biden. All the polls were after the verdict and relatively small sample sizes. 

    If Biden addresses the reality that Trump is determined to deny, that might amplify the trend. DEBATE! Trump is determined to make Stormy Daniels the evil source of a totally false accusation. "Blame the victim." isn't the strategy for the rich and powerful that it once was. Biden needs to point out he does not have a pre-nup with his wife of ?? decades. 

    Trump's plan to undermine the conviction may be based on total denial of the incident with Daniels. After the "Access Hollywood" tape with the notorious, "Grabe 'em by the pu$$y" declaration, there's not a lot of doubt that Trump is a pig around women.  IMO, it's a disastrous strategy with public opinion and the voter because going after SD in that way opens up discussion about the rape trial, and the quote from a deposition that "fortunately or unfortunately" the rich and famous have always been allowed to abuse women.

    As I see it, the jury believed Stormy Daniels. IMO, the jury had reason to question anything Cohen said that was not backed up with evidence and testimony. But the prosecution did a good job, using Cohen's testimony at the end to tie up all the loose ends of testimony and documents where Cohen could personally attest to the meaning of each piece of paper. So Trump is swimming against the tide, asking even the low-information voter to disregard the verdict and blame Biden.

    Ultimately, the effect on turnout may be unique. We may see factions of voters not turn out. There will be cultists who will vote for Trump. There will be voters who recognize that Biden/Harris is so far superior to Trump (and for democracy) that voting becomes their top priority. There will be a faction of persuadable voters who decide Trump is repugnant sometime in the last few months. And there will be voters who decide to sit the election out. WHO these non-voters are and in what proportions they sit the election out may be the deciding factor. 

  7. Yeah, but when you're a celebrity…. 

    L'etat c'est donald – his own creation is "a country gone to hell."  I'm almost as old as he is and over many decades we have both seen the republican party do its worst to destroy the USA.  His response to that reality has been trying to lead the charge.  His election gave me hope that they have finally reached bottom. 

    The temptation to comment further was too much for me to resist.

    • Comment away. Lots of comments make me happy. This is supposed to be group therapy, you know. 🙂 So if you've got something to say, say it! And thank you!

    • My theory is that organized crime took over the party at the national level and duped the evangelicals into being their unwitting bag-men.

      Or, a partnership of the Mob and the neo-Confederates.

      • "Organized crime took over the party at the national level and duped the evangelicals into being their unwitting bag-men"

        I don't think so. The GQP is now what has always been. FAUX news gave them the space to appeal to their racist voters out in the open unencumbered by consequences. I would argue the evangelicals voters you say were duped have always been the ones most in on the fringe racist and fascist tendencies.The GOP is now and has always been the party of grievance and race baiting, it's just entirely out in the open now. In the old days the dog whistles were there, they were easy to hear for the base (weathy whites and poor white evangelicals) and easy to misinterpret by those in the middle. Stump didn't create this mess he just exploited the hell out of it.

  8. This should be a featured article – it's not a fluff opinion piece. Trump lawyers who brought bogus suits are facing consequences including disbarrment.

    The bookend to this unnoticed story is about the fake electors. I can't find the article now that lists them all and a summary of the status in each of the states that are taking legal action. (If you find the article, pls post it.)

    But even with Trump trials stalled indefinitely, the picture that other cases paint are damaging if they become common topics of discussion. Damaging because: they prove that Trump lost because the cases brought in 2020 were so bogus that the lawyers who put their names on them are in deep trouble for the fraud. Second, Trump organized a fraud in multiple states with fake electors. Depending on how those cases progress and when, that proves an intentional attempt to overthrow a legitimate election.

  9. Living in Europe it's strange always how much emotions and words people, even with a Zen background, can invest in in a show facade democracy with always just two candidates, representing two poles if the same one party system. It's probaby representing the system of theatrics for the people with a dualism of two people or groups engaging in a competition with a winner and a looser.

    Was reading some articles about the case, even detailed ones, but no article managed to clarify what really happened and the backgound to it.

    Was there an NDA and a payment for it, or as others write, was it a purchase of the publishing rights. Or both? 

    As it looks likely to me that it could be handled as a publishing rights case, why didn't they treat it as such and as a transitory item? Why did they assume Cohen would have paid it out with money from his taxed income, paying him back the amount almost times 4 to gross it up? Cohen could have passed through the publishing rights, or even as 'hush money', as transitory item 1:1. 

    Even if an entity of trump deducted it from taxable income, the net amount after taxes would have been higher then the original payment, it does not make sense.

    It's said the invoices were issued for pre-payment ('retainer') of lawyer costs. A retainer is again transitory, it needs to be finally settled later with another invoice and only then it's deductible costs. Was there a settlement invoice later or is it still open? 

    And as others wrote, what was 'the other crime' he was supposed to cover with it?

    To me it looks that noone's got a clue about even the facts, maybe not even Trump's accountants in the first place…?

    And all, because US voters don't like vital presidency candidates still having sex with attractive partners, it's the people supposed to have that button for the atom bombs…I'd make the Clinton procedure mandatory for presidents that cannot prove Stormy Daniels & the like relations…

    And '34 counts'…well, paying it in monthly tranches made it more legal counts…

    • “Was there an NDA and a payment for it, or as others write, was it a purchase of the publishing rights. Or both?” Neither. The issue was that Trump and others engaged in a conspiracy to keep information from the public that might have changed the results of an election, and Trump tampered with business records to cover up the conspiracy. Most of the individual counts are individual business records. See also “what law is Trump accused of breaking.”

      Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced Trump’s indictment by a grand jury in April 2023, accusing the former president of “falsifying New York business records in order to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election.”

      Technically, Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records, a Class E felony. Trump was charged with a felony because prosecutors accused him of falsifying business records with the intent to commit or conceal another crime connected to his 2016 campaign.

      This is the least serious type of felony in New York, which means if Trump is found guilty, the judge could sentence him to probation or a maximum sentence of up to four years in state prison on each count.

  10. @Maha: thank you for the links, the reply to your comment does not work, so here as new entry:

    Read all, but don't agree it would be clear. We cannot say it's about a 'conspiracy', the NY law needs to be identified.

    It seems it's creating false NY business records with the intent to cover another crime.

    One article says it was a revocable trust and then Donald Trump (at least his account) as 'entities'.

    It is not clear, whether these 'entities' can have 'business' records, wether they constitute "NY' business records (DT as defendant is listed as FL resident, not NY, and is he a business or private person) and supposing the DT was the settlor of the trust, whether he can be made responsible as the trustee should be responsible for the accounts.

    Next, it needed be proved the accounts were false. It's claimed they were for 'legal fees rendered persuant to a non existing retainer agreement'. It needed be proved a retainer agreement was not existant: I wonder how as normally it does not need written form and if the invoices did state this and it was booked like this, this should be proof the parties had agreed on it. I've read an article saying there was a general retainer agreement with the law firm Cohen would have worked for.

    Now, here again: what was the payment made by Cohen to Daniels for? And again, it must have been the purchase of publishing rights and/or an NDA and this is not criminal in itself. That such things get arranged by a lawyer/law company is normal. 

    So, if Cohen as lawyer took care of such a legal case and prepaying the fee to Daniels, why would the payments made to Cohen not be for legal services? The payment to Daniels was 130k, the payments to Cohen 520k.

    It was within a retainer, which is transitory in nature, so how much of the 520k is legal honorars and how much for the reimbursement needed to be settled later by the very nature of a retainer.

    Within this it could have been decided also, whether the payments were for the businesses or private. Here again, is the trust and esp. 'DT' a business in NY and do they have business records? In the case, the later treatment of the retainer bookings were ascribed to other persons, not to Trump.

    So, for me it is not demonstrated, by what I can read, that there are false business records.

    What, if these business records are false, how would have correct business records for the case looked like?

    Next, false business records alone would not be enough, the intent to cover another crime needed to be proved.

    I don't remember anything in these articles that showed how the intent was thought to be demonstrated. Indeed, one linked Cnn article said, prosecutors believed for quite some time the case had little chances as the intent could not be proved.

    I think knowledge of Trump that Cohen made this payment and was compensated alone does not prove 'intent to hide a crime'. One needed to prove that Trump was aware there was a crime in the first place, that he was aware that the business records are false this way and that he ordered such false recording in order to cover a crime. I've read nothing demonstrating this.

    Again, the US is not a country I'm living in and I'm no US citizen, have no voting rights there etc. – it still looks like a lot of emotional discussions about a case that nobody seems to be able to even describe correctly.

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