Trump's NYC Trial Was Always More Important Than Its Critics Claimed

Donald Trump returns from a break as closing arguments wrap up at Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday in his trial for allegedly covering up a hush money payment made to an adult film star just days before the 2016 election.
Donald Trump returns from a break as closing arguments wrap up at Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday in his trial for allegedly covering up a hush money payment made to an adult film star just days before the 2016 election. ANDREW KELLY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

In a recent Fox News interview that doubled as an audition to be the running mate of a budding authoritarian, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) predictably cried foul about what’s been branded as “the hush money trial.”

“There is only one person that would ever face charges like this, and it has to have the last name Donald Trump,” declared Rubio.

“Little Marco” has fallen so far from the days of GQ profiles like “All Eyez on Him,” which saw him as the future of the Republican Party, but in spite of how much more pathetic he’s shown himself to be since, he does make a point ― only it’s not the one he thinks he’s making.

My law knowledge is limited to Maxine Shaw, old episodes of ”Law & Order” and whatever the contracted legal beagles on cable news say, but even without a JD, it has always seemed foolish for people to downplay the significance of the Trump criminal case related to money paid to Stormy Daniels in the waning days of the 2016 presidential campaign. 

I agree that the 34 indictments related to payments reimbursing lawyer Michael Cohen amount to nothing more than paper crimes and alleged business fraud and are far less serious than an attempted coup and stealing the most secretive documents the federal government has and storing them in the bathroom of his members-only club.

So what, though?

No, it’s not a coup, but to Rubio’s point, only Donald Trump would be caught up in a case like this because Trump is the only politician who would use a tabloid to defame his political opponents while protecting himself.

Any other politician would have suffered from such a scandal, and yet Trump has managed to continue to skate by. 

He does so thanks to the cable news anchors, newspaper columnists and analysts, pundits and TV lawyers with paid TV contracts that have actively downplayed this case as less serious and, in many cases, unworthy of criminal prosecution. 

You can also add unserious, useless politicians like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to the list, as he told CNN: “There’s two really solid cases: Jan. 6 and Georgia. Everything else doesn’t make sense.”

Some of the critics of this case and its prosecution may have informed opinions about the use of law here, but ultimately a lot of folks don’t like this case and find it less significant because it involved a porn star and an extramarital affair.

Yes, people voted for Trump in spite of the multiple accusations of sexual assault leveled against him near the end of the 2016 election, but there was obviously enough concern about Trump having sex with an adult film actor shortly after his wife gave birth to their son to make a payment to keep her quiet.  

I don’t want to hear about Trump being spanked with a magazine or his alleged condom usage either, but this is the man who says the most outlandish, vehemently racist and sexist things since he’s become a political force that if we have had to endure all of that, people can drop the faux Puritan act and talk about this.

Another argument against Trump’s prosecution in this case was that indictments with more serious charges should have gone first.

Sure, but when it comes to Trump facing justice, beggars can’t be choosers.

Trump has long proved himself adept at bending systems to his will, and when it comes to the criminal justice system, he has done so since the 1970s, so I don’t know why all of those justice warriors in political media thought that somehow he wouldn’t manage to do the same with his rotating felony charges. 

In some instances ― cough, Fulton County, cough ― the actions of some of Trump’s prosecutors have indirectly assisted him in his efforts to delay his trials.

The result of these narratives being perpetuated about the case have arguably caused Americans to largely tune it out.

According to a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll released in early May, 55% said they were not following it much or at all, versus 45% who reported paying some or a lot of attention to the trial.

And as Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan heads to closing arguments, in a separate poll from CBS News, 56% say Trump is definitely or probably guilty of his crimes but split nearly in half on what they think the jury will decide. 

Considering the reality that the next president can be a convicted felon, I’m irritated by how polarized Americans remain on this. 

And Republicans already have their line of defense.

Alex Castellanos, a veteran Republican strategist, recently explained to The New York Times“An acquittal would vindicate him, and a guilty verdict would martyr him — and, hey, that’s how you start religions.”

Granted, the conservative media ecosystem is massive enough to always blur the lines, but again, this was done with the assistance of the mainstream media who actively lowered the severity of the “hush money” trial because they felt the other crimes were more important. 

Fortunately, at least some people have come to their senses. In “The New York Trump Case Is Kind of Perfect,” George Conway writes in The Atlantic: “The truth is, I’ve come around to the view that People v. Trump is, in at least some ways, the perfect case to put Trump in the dock for the first time, and — I hope, but we’ll see — perhaps prison. Because this case really captures Donald Trump.” 

Reason being that no matter what you call his current criminal trial, Conway notes, “what the case is really about is Trump’s modus operandi — lying.” 

Indeed, all of his felonies and each of his impeachment trials deal with some underlying lie that he wanted to perpetuate in order to defraud the American voter. 

And he will not just lie, but he’ll also inflict force ― no matter how violent ― in order to facilitate his lie and get what he wants.

It was always a mistake to not bring him to heel sooner with regards to this case because it allowed him to continue thinking no lie is too big to tell in order to get his way.

We are unlikely to get any other trial before the November election, so no matter what the verdict ultimately is in this case, it is not too late for those in control of our news narratives to reshape and reimagine Trump’s modus operandi before it’s too late.