Donald Trump, Trump Tower, criminal case
Former President Donald Trump exits his Manhattan residence at the end of the first week of jury selection in the New York election interference case, April 19, 2024. Photo credit: © John Lamparski/NurPhoto via ZUMA Press

Opinions abound regarding Donald Trump’s trial in New York, the second week of which begins today. Great news: Whatever you think about it, you’re probably right.

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As Donald Trump’s New York trial is heading into its second week, Americans are divided over how they feel about it. To some people, the former president is a crook who has been getting away with crimes for too long, and this is the first opportunity (with three more to come) to see that justice is done. 

Others, even those opposed to the former president, feel that this case should not be the first one to be tried because it is the weakest and most obscure of them all. 

Then there are the Trump supporters who believe he should never have been charged or, at the very most, that this should have gone to trial years ago. And, of course, there are those who are baffled by the fact that the mainstream media has once again found a way to fail the public. 

No matter in which group(s) you fall, we have great news: All of you are right (to varying degrees). 

Well, not Trump, of course. His efforts to smear the one person who seems to be doing a good job, Judge Juan Merchan, are both laughable and smack of desperation. But we’ll get to him in a minute. 

First of all, let’s look at why everybody is right. 

It should go without saying that this trial is one for the history books. For the first time ever, a former president is facing criminal charges. 

However, even though it’s a landmark event, it really doesn’t feel that way. Even if you’re anti-Trump, you have to admit that this is true. 

That has two reasons. First of all, the media is doing a poor job of conveying the gravity of the situation and what’s at stake here. As a result, and that’s the second reason, many Americans don’t believe that the offense this case is based on is all that bad… or even a crime at all. 

Public opinion backs that up. 

Although the trial is historic, only 13 percent of respondents to a recent poll said they are following it “very closely,” and nearly half aren’t following it very much at all. 

It’s easy to see why people feel this way: For one, the New York trial is mostly about fairly obscure white-collar misdemeanors. Knowing how the justice system works (or how it doesn’t work), they probably assume that similar offenses are being committed by rich people and corporations all the time. And they are likely right about this. 

Where things get a bit trickier is that the misdemeanor of falsifying business records becomes a felony if it is done in conjunction with another crime. 

Now, it would make sense if Trump had paid off a hitman to assassinate Ted Cruz after the Texas senator won the 2016 Iowa caucus, and then claimed that the money was used for fixing a copier.

But in this case, the crime is much more obscure… even though it is just as salacious. It’s about hiding an affair. 

Now, most people would probably spend quite a bit of money to make sure their significant others didn’t find out about a tryst… especially if it involved an adult film actress and the betrayed spouse was pregnant at the time.

To make the charges stick, however, prosecutors have to show that the payment to porn star Stormy Daniels was actually a campaign finance violation because it was made not for personal reasons but to boost Trump’s chances of winning the presidency in 2016.

Even if that is the case (and it probably is), it certainly wouldn’t be the worst way in which he tried to subvert an election. 

And that’s the problem. Most people, whether they admit it or not, know that Trump is a crook. And for a serial criminal, and in the grand scheme of all his other offenses, this simply doesn’t seem so bad. 

And that’s precisely why this case probably should not have been brought… and it certainly shouldn’t be tried this year as the first of the four. 

Once again, public opinion backs this up. 

According to the same poll, just over a quarter of Americans believe a guilty verdict in this case would disqualify Trump from the presidency. That’s by far the lowest among the four cases. For example, nearly half of the respondents say the same about his actions that led to the January 6 insurrection. 

No matter what the outcome is, Trump and his supporters will claim that the current trial is a “witch hunt” and “election interference.” This view is primarily based on the fact that the offense is obscure and happened years ago. 

These things do not apply to the other crimes Trump is charged with. They occurred either right at the end of his presidency or just after it.

Let’s move on to the role of the media. So far, while some journalists have provided  minute-by-minute updates on the trial, many reporters have focused on sideshows like Trump’s flatulence or that he appears to nod off frequently. 

That might get clicks and views, but it diminishes the significance of the proceedings. 

In addition, there is way too much coverage of Trump arriving at the courthouse in his wannabe presidential motorcade or live broadcasts of his remarks to the press, which are usually just tirades filled with lies. 

In other words, in most cases, the media either has learned nothing from the last 10 years or is putting profit over providing a service to the public. 

This has two possible results: The American people get tired either of Trump’s behavior or of the coverage of the trials.

For now, polling shows that it is the former. Just a quarter of respondents to the aforementioned poll said that Trump has acted “appropriately” with regard to his constant claims of being persecuted or his attacks on the judge and his family. 

Conversely, 42 percent of Americans believe that the former president has acted “inappropriately.”

Speaking of the judge, he seems to be the only one who is rising to the occasion so far. 

For example, he has prohibited the prosecution from mentioning that Melania Trump was pregnant at the time her husband was having sex with a porn star. That is the correct ruling, because it is immaterial to the offenses the former president is accused of. 

At the same time, Merchan also hasn’t put up with the nonsense of Trump’s attorneys. 

For example, when, during a hearing on whether Trump violated his gag order, the former president’s attorney argued that the social media posts in question were not in fact violations of the order but rather responses to political attacks, Merchan told the lawyer that he was “losing all credibility with the court.” 

However, he faces his biggest test when he has to make a ruling on this matter. 

An appropriate decision at this point would be to fine Trump but hold off on tossing him in jail for the night.

And then we’ll see how America feels about the judge’s ruling and the inevitable meltdown that follows.


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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