Serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) Trump is that curious creature, an insecure narcissist. As a narcissist, he has an inflated view of himself, but because he is insecure, he needs to have his self-image constantly reinforced by others. That works for him when he is in a bubble of sycophants and adoring cult followers but that bubble gets pricked when he steps out into the real world.
Such was the case when he arrived for his arraignment in a courthouse in Washington DC on Thursday to be subjected to the little indignities that most of us would barely notice, as this article describes.
The shock of blond-grey hair was familiar. So was the blue suit, white shirt and red tie. So was the conspicuously assertive tug of the suit jacket.
But the Donald Trump who walked into courtroom 22 on Thursday was a Trump that the public never sees – meek, shrunken, stripped of bravado and any sense of control. And, quite possibly, scared.
This is a man who has always loved beating his chest, sticking his names on buildings, staging military parades and cosying up to dictators. But on Thursday, away from the TV cameras, this wannabe American strongman was cut down to size with exquisite symbolism.
For four years, Trump would enter rooms to the strains of “Hail to the Chief” and everyone would rise to their feet. Now the power dynamics were reversed: at the cry of “All rise!”, it was he who was forced to stand.
Long accused of sexism, racism and xenophobia, he had to defer to magistrate judge Moxila Upadhyaya, a woman born in Gujarat, India. His future trial will be overseen by Judge Tanya Chutkan, a woman born in Kingston, Jamaica, and appointed to the bench by Barack Obama.
When Upadhyaya, firm but courteous, took her seat, she called him “Mr Trump” rather than “President Trump” – a citizen, no more and no less.
Dethroned, Trump was forced to undergo the same legal rituals as any other defendant. When a court deputy read aloud the name of the case – “United States of America v Donald J Trump” – he shook his head in disapproval.
Trump raised his right hand and was sworn in. There was a flicker of confusion as he stood up to give his name only to be told that sitting would do just fine. “Yes, Your Honour, Donald J Trump,” he said, adding: “John.” He gave his age as 77.
Asked if he had taken a medication or substance in the last 24 hours that would make it hard to answer, Trump replied: “No, I have not.”
Perhaps most sobering of all was Upadhyaya’s recitation of the charges and the “term of imprisonment” that Trump could face “if convicted”. He leaned forward in his chair, listening intently. Was he imagining himself behind bars, the cell door slamming shut? Could anything terrify him more?
Upadhyaya asked for Trump’s plea. “Not guilty,” he said, with an emphasis on “Not”.
The judge agreed to release Trump on conditions, including that he not have contact about the case with any witnesses unless lawyers are present. In a cordial tone that belied the seriousness of her words, she said: “If you fail to comply with any conditions of your release, a warrant may be issued for your arrest.”
Legal experts suggested this is unusual – but maybe necessary for a man twice impeached and thrice indicted.
SSAT is unlikely to get much more deference from the federal judge Tanya Chutkan who was randomly selected to oversee his trial. She has overseen many of the cases involving the January 6th rioters and has issued stiff sentences, sometimes even more than prosecutors asked for. It was she who also opened the floodgates of information that enabled the congressional committee and special counsel Jack Smith to assemble their cases, suggesting that she is skeptical of sweeping claims of presidential privilege.
[T]he U.S. district court judge already dealt the ex-president one of the most significant legal blows of his lifetime, triggering perhaps the greatest deluge of evidence about his bid to subvert the 2020 election — a scheme for which he now stands charged with serious crimes.
The Obama-appointed jurist ruled in fall 2021 that the House Jan. 6 select committee could access reams of Trump’s White House files — a ruling that was subsequently upheld by an appeals court and left undisturbed by the Supreme Court. That evidence — call logs, memos, internal strategy papers and more from the desks of Trump’s most trusted advisers — became the backbone of the committee’s evidence and shaped much of the public’s understanding of his effort to seize a second term he didn’t win.
Much of that evidence resurfaced Tuesday in special counsel Jack Smith’s four-count indictment of Trump, which referenced call logs and White House records that were already familiar to Americans who tracked the Jan. 6 committee proceedings.
“Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” Chutkan wrote in her 2-year-old ruling, a rebuke that is sure to echo as she prepares to preside over the newest criminal case against the current GOP frontrunner for the presidential nomination in 2024.
That comment, that the plaintiff is not president must rankle SSAT, who apparently likes to be called ‘Mr. President”.
SSAT is chauvinist and having his fate in the hands of women judges, and women of color at that, is sure to irritate him no end. Former speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, with whom he has had many run-ins, added her comments, undoubtedly meant to annoy him.
“I wasn’t in the courtroom of course but when I saw his coming out of his car and this or that, I saw a scared puppy,” Pelosi told MSNBC.
“He looked very, very, very concerned about the fate. I didn’t see any bravado or confidence or anything like that. He knows the truth that he lost the election and now he’s got to face the music.”
‘Scared puppy’. Ouch. She really knows how to get under his skin.