Trump surrenders for arraignment in New York City

Donald Trump surrendered to authorities in New York Tuesday to be charged with what veteran investigative journalist Michael Isikoff reported will be 34 felony counts for the falsification of business records. According to Isikoff’s sources, however, Trump will be spared the degradations typically reserved for arrestees.

“Trump will not be put in handcuffs, placed in a jail cell or subjected to a mug shot,” Isikoff’s report revealed, “typical procedures even for white-collar defendants until a judge has weighed in on pretrial conditions.” If that is the plan, it’s hard to say who will be more disappointed: The “resistance” for whom the walls are forever “closing in” on Trump, or the former president and his supporters.

“We’ll have a mug shot,” Trump-era deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley recently reassured reporters. “For the record, it will be the most manly, most masculine, most handsome mug shot of all time.” Yes, that was said in jest. But the quote graced a report in Time magazine detailing the Trump camp’s eagerness to capitalize — politically and financially — on Trump’s arrest. “In recent days, some of Trump’s close aides and advisers have pushed the ex-president to turn his mugshot into fuel for a fundraising drive,” a report in Rolling Stone confirmed. Some Trump advisers, the report continued, recommended that the former president demand “the mugshot at his arraignment and [make] it public immediately.”

Unsurprisingly, that is not the course of action Trump’s attorneys recommend, but the former president has never been one to take his lawyers’ advice. That could change, however, with the addition of a new lead attorney to the former president’s team — a figure whom, by all accounts, the president respects.

On Monday, Trump tapped Todd Blanche, a long-time white-collar criminal-defense lawyer and former prosecutor with the Southern District of New York, to lead his defense. Describing his charge as “an opportunity I should not pass up,” Blanche left his partnership with the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft to devote his full attention to the legal woes that haunt Trump and his allies.

It’s not like Blanche will lack for work. He previously represented Trump allies Paul Manafort, who was charged with bank fraud and tax fraud, and Igor Furman, a fixer who tried to help Rudy Giuliani navigate the Ukrainian political landscape back in 2018 with spectacularly shoddy results.

Manafort was convicted in March 2019 of eight of the 18 charges prosecutors brought. But Blanche’s team managed to get state-level charges against Manafort dismissed on the grounds that they constituted double jeopardy after Trump pardoned Manafort for his federal convictions. Likewise, Blanche helped Furman negotiate a plea agreement with the government that did not require him to cooperate in other cases and required a guilty plea to only one of the charges against him.

The news that Trump is beefing up his legal team follows what can only be described as a rough outing for Trump attorney Joe Tacopina during his April 2 tour of the Sunday shows (as chronicled in Monday’s Jolt). According to a three-byline report in Rolling Stone, Trump’s friends and allies were . . . underwhelmed by Tacopina’s performance:

A source familiar with the matter and another person close to Trump tell Rolling Stone that a number of Trump’s other current lawyers have privately described Tacopina as “dumb” and a “loudmouth. . . .”

“He pisses off others with his antics, but he’s a blunt object that Donald Trump wants, apparently,” says one of the sources.

A third source familiar with the matter calls Tacopina “such a frickin’ idiot.”

Even before Trump’s first appearance before Manhattan judge Juan Merchan, his attorneys (counterintuitively) urged him to reject requests from media outlets to allow the proceedings to be filmed. To allow cameras in the courtroom would “create a circus-like atmosphere,” Trump’s lawyers argued, as well as raise security concerns and bias the public against his innocence.

For its part, the press has given every indication that it’s ready and willing to participate in a “circus.” The three major cable-news outlets devoted wall-to-wall coverage on Monday to tracking Trump’s movements and airing what amounted to b-roll footage of the former president leaving Mar-a-Lago and driving to Palm Beach International Airport — a vigil through which nothing at all happened. The patent absurdity of the national news media’s conduct on Monday is hard to overstate.

New York statutorily bans courtroom photography in most proceedings. “Still,” Politico reported, “New York judges have some discretion to allow cameras in the courtroom,” and some portions of Trump’s case could theoretically be taped.

Rather commendably, some of those who argue that cameras should be allowed in the courtroom don’t deny that a spectacle is what they want. “As the media capital of the world — and the venue for the arraignment of Donald Trump — we must change this outdated law to allow the public to witness trials,” said Democratic state senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal who, among other prominent Democrats, wants New York’s camera laws amended. “America has a right to watch the trial of the century,” he added.

It’s hard to avoid the impression that Trump’s indictment has been a welcome development for broad swaths of the American political establishment. The figures in Trump’s orbit believe it will advance his political prospects. Democrats think it will advance theirs. And the press, which is ready and willing to give Trump the O. J. treatment, clearly believes this exhibition of national dysfunction will be great for its bottom line.

There is an unspoken conspiracy of aligned interests between these otherwise adversarial parties. The only interest that is not advanced by Trump’s indictment is that of the majority of voters who would love nothing more than to see the former president depart the American political scene.

Unfortunately, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s case against Trump probably won’t be the last opportunity America’s most reckless lawmakers and media outlets will exploit in their effort to place the former president back at the center of the political universe.

The U.S. Justice Department and FBI investigators have reportedly “amassed new evidence indicating possible obstruction by former President Donald Trump” in relation to the classified documents the FBI repossessed from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property last year. The special counsel who took over that inquiry, Jack Smith, has reportedly subpoenaed several U.S. Secret Service agents. They “are expected to testify before the D.C. grand jury likely on Friday,” Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier reported on Monday.

Trump faces the prospect of another state-level indictment in Fulton County, Ga., where District Attorney Fani Willis is weighing whether to charge the former president in relation to his conduct following the 2020 election. “Analysts say a potential indictment by Willis would focus on election fraud and may include racketeering charges often associated with mob prosecutions,” the Financial Times reported.

If it feels to you like Donald Trump’s legal predicaments are blotting out the sun, it feels that way to the GOP’s down-ballot candidates, too. As Roll Call reports, Republicans will find it difficult to “cut through the legal noise to push their own campaign messages” in a media environment dominated by one or more trials of the century.

Generating attention for any initiative unrelated to Trump will be difficult, which benefits Democrats who want to see the House GOP’s investigations into Joe Biden’s family and the “weaponization” of government receive as little oxygen as possible. For Republicans in purple districts, creating distance from Trump and his brand will be nigh impossible. What’s more, having already condemned Bragg’s indictment, many GOP lawmakers have created the “expectation that they’ll comment on future Trump legal issues.”

Donald Trump will fly back from New York City to his citadel in Florida tonight, where he will deliver hotly anticipated remarks. He is expected to be flanked by some of the Republican Party’s more vocal Trump defenders, such as Representative Matt Gaetz. But Trump could attract other Republican luminaries. The size of his entourage will give us some indication of the degree to which the GOP is willing to sign itself up for the melodrama that is about to engulf the party.

The all-consuming Trump show is having its predictable effect on the Republican electorate. In New Hampshire, where green shoots for Florida governor Ron DeSantis bloomed throughout the winter, a new poll conducted by the reliable team at St. Anselm College found Trump surging into a significant lead over his competitors, with the support of 42 percent of the state’s GOP voters to DeSantis’s 29 percent.

Back in 2016, it was reasonable, if perhaps dubious, to suspect that the saturation coverage Trump’s candidacy received from the mainstream press was designed to undermine his support by giving the public a long look at the disarray that surrounded the candidate. Today, everyone knows the political effect that 24/7 Trump exposure has on the electorate. The effect of that media strategy is thoroughly known. It may even be desired. And, for the moment, it’s working.