“Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” — Oliver Hardy
It’s vintage Donald Trump, desperately trying to grab the steering wheel of a story that’s spinning out of his control.
As bloodhounds bay closer and closer to the former president, he headed over the weekend to his favorite oasis, social media, to declare that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is going to arrest him today.
And in language that certainly echoes the not-so-pretty run-up to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, he urged his supporters to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”
A master of the media, if not legal timing, Trump has created an end-run around Bragg by putting all of his friends and foes on high alert now rather than whenever Bragg’s team actually indicts him — which seems inevitable at this point. Rather than waiting to react to whatever Bragg eventually does, Trump is responding (to use his all-caps) NOW instead of just trying to refute an indictment point-by-point later.
His supporters and semi-supporters took up his call, trashing Bragg for the probe, shifting the argument to: “Doesn’t he have something better to do like fight street crime?”
Of course, none of us has seen any indictment or any of the legal allegations against Trump because they don’t yet exist. It’s reminiscent of state Assembly Democrats rallying to the side of their then-indicted leader, Sheldon Silver, before reading the many federal charges raised against him. And we all know how well that worked out.
Even frenemies, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, sort of spoke out for Trump while also sort of speaking out against him, first ripping Bragg but then reminding us all of the unseemly side to this story: “Look, I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just, I can’t speak to that.”
Of all the myriad things Trump has allegedly done over the years, the case sounds like small potatoes next to a mountain of spuds. Remember when Trump was accused of trying to bribe the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on Joe Biden? Or ginning up baseless allegations of “election fraud” in Georgia? That January 6 thingy? Next to all that, giving money to silence a porn star is almost old fashioned.
All of it also has some sort of weird echo of one of Trump’s many New York courtroom battles when he was a real-estate developer, complete both with a former legal friend (Michael Cohen) and a current legal friend (Bob Costello) talking to the grand jury. Where’s Roy Cohn when you need him?
Beyond the courtroom, the case will have plenty of political permutations, including the very real possibility that this could pump up Trump’s standing with the Republican rank-and-file when he needs them the most. Get ready to lock in those CAPS.