Donald Trump is facing criminal indictment in three jurisdictions. That alone would be enough to put anyone in a perilous position. He’ll have three criminal trials, with inside witnesses lined up against him in all of them, and he’ll end up with multiple prison sentences if he’s convicted. But as dire of a situation as that is, he’s actually facing a far more immediate vulnerability.
On Thursday, Trump posted imagery depicting himself swinging a baseball bat at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Trump is hosting a “campaign rally” in Waco this Saturday, where he’ll likely make similar kinds of remarks during his speech. Any defense attorney in the world could tell Trump that this is the worst possible kind of mistake he could be making when he’s just days away from indictment, arrest, and arraignment.
It’s a guarantee that when Trump is hauled in front of a judge for his arraignment hearing in Manhattan, prosecutors will submit Trump’s baseball bat post as evidence in that hearing. Trump’s words from his rally speech, if they’re in the same vein, will also be submitted during the hearing. The judge, whose job is to decide what initial restrictions to place on criminal defendant Trump during his pretrial hearing, will absolutely take Trump’s words and posts into consideration.
Judges generally try to impose the least amount of pretrial restrictions they think will be necessary to get the job done. Every judge takes a different approach, and we don’t yet know which New York judge will be assigned to Trump’s case. But even if this judge does initially let Trump go on his own recognizance, the judge will surely warn Trump that any continued attacks or threats against the DA will result in harsher restrictions such as a gag order. If Trump were to then get hit with a gag order and then violate it, the judge could hit him with something like house arrest.
It’s important to understand that Trump will have no power whatsoever to stop a judge from tightening the proverbial leash on him. He can try to appeal a gag order and such, but then he’d just be at the mercy of an appeals court judge who also isn’t going to take kindly to Trump’s baseball bat antics. Trump can only make this worse for himself with these kinds of antics – and it’ll get worse swiftly for him. If his goal is to delay trial by as long as possible so he can be out there campaigning, that’s not going to do him much good if he’s under house arrest the entire time.
The real problem for Donald Trump is that there’s no one to stop him from doing the kinds of things that are going to cause the judge in his case to start taking away his pretrial privileges. There’s no one to pull the plug on Trump’s violent social media posts, because he owns the niche social network he’s posting on. And at this point there obviously isn’t anyone in Trump’s personal circle or legal team who’s willing or able to convince him to stop doing these kinds of things.
In the longer term Donald Trump’s vulnerability is that it’s difficult enough to survive being put through one criminal trial, let alone three criminal trials. But in the short term, his real vulnerability is that there’s no one to stop him from the kind of self destructive behavior that could get him locked down (or locked up) before his trials even begin.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report