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At the heart of Donald Trump's defense strategy

Photo: Yuki Iwamura Agence France-Presse Donald Trump is the first former US president to be brought before a criminal court.

Fabien Deglise

Published at 12:47 p.m. Updated at 6:27 p.m. Analysis

  • United States

The face-to-face with the law became very real in New York this week for Donald Trump, the first former American president to be dragged before a criminal court. A historic trial, for a story of conspiracy and payment of a bribe to a former porn actress in 2016, which got to the heart of the matter on Monday and to which the populist opposes his usual defense strategy: deny facts, denigrate prosecution witnesses and prosecutors, and play for time to delay proceedings. But one question remains: faced with 12 jurors in Manhattan court, will the ploy work ?


“President Trump has committed no offense. » On the fifth day of the hearings, Monday, the ex-president's lawyer, Todd Blanche, assured the jury that his client, and Republican presidential candidate for 2024, was “totally innocent”, thus repeating the line of communication of the populist who, for months, has been loudly proclaiming that he has done nothing harmful in this affair. He pleaded not guilty to all 34 charges brought against him.

Never recognize one's responsibility, never apologize, never admit questionable, criminal or inappropriate behavior… The strategy has become the trademark of the real estate mogul, who on Sunday, on his social network, hammered out a new time that “virtually all jurists and experts say there is no case, no crime, no nothing” in this trial. “This is a minor accounting matter as a matter of law,” he added as he entered the courtroom Monday.

This weekend, on his social network, he delivered a rambling tirade denouncing a “witch hunt,” accompanied by a cry of “I did nothing wrong.” These are the same words he used, with the same capital letters, throughout his civil trial for fraud within the Trump Organization and the defamation suit filed by the writer E. Jean Carroll after the populist's civil conviction for sexual assault.< /p>

Denial, however, was not successful in these two cases. Overwhelmed by the evidence, the ex-president was ordered by a judge to pay a record fine of almost half a billion dollars for fraudulently overestimating the value of his properties. A jury also ordered him to pay nearly $87 million to Ms. Carroll.


Last Thursday, an appeals court judge rejected a final attempt by the Republican to have his trial suspended. His lawyers alleged that jury selection, which concluded the next day, was unfairly rushed.

This is not the first time that Donald Trump has tried to postpone the deadline for this confrontation with justice. This trial began last week after months of waiting and numerous procedures from the populist clan to delay it.

On several occasions, his lawyers demanded that Judge Juan Merchan recuses himself, because the magistrate's daughter works for a communications company which has contracts with Democrats, they denounced. They also argued that because Trump is the Republican presidential nominee, he should not be prevented from campaigning for weeks by being forced to sit in a courtroom.

“So far, Trump and his lawyers have managed to delay the start of his three other criminal trials by filing numerous motions and pursuing numerous appeals to push back these deadlines until after the November elections,” the lawyer summarizes in an interview. Carl Tobias, professor at the University of Richmond, Virginia.

The populist's team bases its delaying tactics on the presidential immunity that Donald Trump should enjoy and which would not allow him to be prosecuted, according to her. The Supreme Court began hearing arguments on this issue this week, in fact.

Monday, in the pages of the New York Times , Republican Liz Cheney said a quick decision from the nation's highest court would be desirable in the name of democracy.

“If too long a wait prevents [the trial of Donald Trump, accused of insurrection against the Capitol on January 6, 2021], from taking place this year, then the public could never hear the damning and historic evidence accepted by a major jury [and which led to his indictment],” she wrote. “And our justice system may never be able to hold to account the man most responsible for the January 6 attack. »


Judge Juan Merchan, presiding over his first criminal trial. Prosecutor Alvin Bragg, who led the legal charge against him from Manhattan. New York State Attorney Letitia James. Or even Fani Willis, who orchestrated the accusations against Donald Trump in Georgia for trying to reverse the results of the 2020 elections in this key state. For months, the magistrates on the populist's trail have had to suffer the wrath of the ex-president who, online as in his political rallies, likes to portray them as “belligerent” and “corrupt” beings, who pursue him through “racism inverted,” he wrote last year, to pose as the white victim of a campaign led by vengeful and democratic African-Americans, he denounces. Judge Merchan is an American of Colombian origins.

He wrote that Alvin Bragg was an “animal supported by Soros”, a double reference here in the register language of slaveholders and the famous Democratic donor whose name is at the heart of far-fetched conspiracy theories driven by online socialization.

Already, in 2016, in a class action for fraud against Trump University, the real estate mogul had tested this tactic by highlighting the Mexican origins of the judge responsible for presiding over the trial, Gonzalo Curiel, although born in Indiana, and in reducing him to the status of an immigrant “hating Donald Trump,” he said. At the time, however, he agreed to pay 25 million in compensation to hundreds of people who had registered with his establishment, thus recognizing the “deceptive practices” of which he was accused.

On Tuesday, Manhattan prosecutors called for Trump to be held in contempt of court after he allegedly violated a gag order 10 times preventing him from publicly attacking jurors and witnesses in public. He called his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, a key witness in this trial, a “serial liar” and Stormy Daniels, to whom he made pay the bribe, a “debauch”, in addition to portraying the candidates jurors, citing a message from Fox News, “undercover liberal activists.”

Threatened with a fine of more than $10,000 for these attacks, the populist added more on his network on Tuesday, during a break, by accusing the New York court of being a “parody of justice” and once again demanding that Judge Merchan recuse himself.

Get re-elected

“Donald Trump's best defense against the federal charges against him is to get re-elected,” said Stephen A. Saltzburg, law professor at George Washington University, in an interview. He could then order the dismissal of all federal complaints against him. » This includes charges of mishandling secret documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence and inciting insurrection against the Capitol.

And, despite the weight of the burdens placed by American justice on the shoulders of the Republican candidate, his re-election is still within the realm of possibility. Seven months before the election, the ex-president enjoys a slight lead in voting intentions in six key states, including Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to several polls compiled this week by Reuters.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116