Donald Trump's Casual Disparagement of Prosecutors as 'Evil' and 'Crazy'

One of the unusual aspects of the jury selection process for Donald Trump's criminal trial in Manhattan is that he was forced to endure the unusual experience of interacting with people who don't like him. Jurors eligible to participate in the trial were shown their past social media posts and comments disparaging Trump, while those comments were read aloud in the courtroom. For Trump, a man traveling with an associate whose duties include print positive stories on a mobile printer that he could read, this was an unfamiliar experience.

Trump is normally in a bubble of support. He's at Mar-a-Lago, where people pay money to be near him. He's at Trump Tower, where he's everyone's landlord. He is at a meeting, where the most ardent fans want to see the action up close. Or he's talking to some sycophantic right-wing media figure, offering the standard complaints, claims and nonsense.

On Thursday night, Newsmax's Greg Kelly was the lucky sycophant. (To establish his sycophancy credentials, he ended the interview by saying, “We're rooting for you. I am rooting for you. And I know there are millions of other people around the world.”) This isn't the most popular show on cable TV, maybe a eighth of the public of the competition on Fox News. But that suits Trump's needs just fine: a few hundred thousand people without the scrutiny that comes from appearing on the more heavily watched network. Here Trump could really be Trump.

And he was, without any quid pro quo. If he had remained president – ​​which he said he did not because the Democrats “used Covid to cheat” (no pushback) – “the war with Ukraine would never have happened. Israel, October 7 would never have happened.” No pushback and without that pushback one more step: “Would never have happened. That just wouldn't have happened.” Oh okay. Just… wouldn't have done it.

Kelly, the son of former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, is a particularly outspoken voice on the network. Speaking to Trump on Thursday, he encouraged the former president to explore new rhetorical territory.

Kelly noted that Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) had done so legislation introduced that would strip Secret Service protection from anyone sentenced to a year or more in prison.

His conclusion? “These Democrats want you dead,” Kelly suggested to Trump. “Do you realize that?”

“Yes,” Trump replied. “Because I'm the one who turns things around. I'm the one with the best economy in history. I'm the one…” etc. etc. The exchange had a clear character Michael-Dukakis approach to the death penalty in 1988 air it; If Trump really thought the Democrats wanted him dead and that this wasn't just escalating rhetoric, it seems safe to assume he would have been more outraged than simply falling into campaign chatter. It's not that the Democrats want him dead. It's that saying the Democrats want him dead will enrage and energize viewers on Trump's behalf.

At another point in the conversation, Trump raged about Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney; New York Attorney General Letitia James and Judge Arthur Engoron, who oversaw the trial that found Trump guilty of rampant fraud.

“They're bad, you know,” Trump said of the officials. “They are bad, they are sick.” He took a slight detour to suggest that Bragg and James should deal with other crimes instead. (Violent crime in New York City does down this yearwith homicide rates down nearly 20 percent.) Then he got back to his point: “These people are crazy.”

Slightly earlier, Kelly had urged Trump to explain why, despite his promises during the 2016 campaign, he never prosecuted Hillary Clinton.

“I thought it would be a terrible thing for our country,” Trump insisted, then contrasted his thoughtfulness with that of his opponents. 'They don't care. These people are radical lunatics. They don't care.”

The actual differentiator here, of course, is that Trump engaged in a number of actions that put him at risk of criminal sanctions. But avoiding that kind of honesty is exactly why he lives in that bubble.

We run the risk of becoming accustomed to this rhetoric that Trump's opponents want him dead and are evil, crazy radical lunatics. They “skipped from socialism” to communism and fascism, he said at another point. It's essentially him versus the worst people to ever exist in the United States.

Trump's angry comments about his opponents have been a focus for violent actors in the past. Today's hyperbole carries the same risk, even if it is morally indefensible on the merits. But it is mainly background noise to the conversation as the presidential elections approach in November. It will probably remain that way as long as nothing happens.

There is a kind of serendipity for the potential jurors who were excused after discrediting Trump in the past. Because they expressed their dislike of him on social media a few years ago, they are now unable to judge him – and are not among the targets of defamation for his supporters.

The prosecutors, as they knew going into this, are not so lucky.

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