After he briefly began expressing the delusional hope that he might not be criminally indicted in Manhattan, Donald Trump is now back to making defeatist social media posts about how he expects to be indicted. One of Trump’s new posts disturbingly depicts him as swinging a baseball bat in the direction of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
This was predictable. Trump has a long history of trying to incite violence among his supporters in the hope of achieving political gain. So of course he was going to try it again in this instance. He’s a creature of habit who only knows one way of doing things. He’s forever under the belief that if a tactic has worked for him in the past, it should work again, whether or not it’s the same situation.
The trouble for Trump is that this is not the same situation as any he’s ever been in. He has past experience in the circuses that are civil court cases. He has experience trying to pressure the courts to uphold executive orders that he’s signed and such. But he does not have any prior experience as a defendant in the criminal justice system, because he’s never been charged or indicted before.
Starting with his arraignment hearing, Trump is about to find out the hard way that criminal defendants have a reduced set of rights while awaiting trial. Even if Trump gets out on bail or recognizance, the judge will surely tell him about the behaviors he’ll need to avoid if he wants to remain under minimal restriction. If Trump tries to run his mouth publicly about the prosecutor, the judge will at some point hit him with a gag order. If Trump defies the gag order, the judge will start applying incrementally severe punishment, up to and potentially including pretrial detention.
Trump is off to a bad start by posting this image of himself getting violent against the District Attorney. This post will no doubt be submitted as evidence at his arraignment, and the judge will not take kindly to it. This is the kind of thing that could result in Trump getting hit with an immediate gag order about the case instead of being allowed some rope first. The judge could also use this violent post as a basis for imposing travel restrictions and such on Trump while he’s awaiting trial. And that’s just the beginning of what the judge in the case can do to Trump in order to keep him under control ahead of trial.
If Donald Trump had any sense at all, he’d be on his best behavior – at least for the moment – in the hope of getting the most lenient pretrial conditions possible. Instead he’s handing the judge in the case every excuse to impose more restrictive conditions on Trump, all of which could get in the way of Trump’s ability to keep carrying out his “2024 campaign” pipe dream.
The judge doesn’t get assigned to the case until the indictment comes down, so perhaps Trump is under the mistaken impression that he can still magically get away with anything he wants. But when Alvin Bragg submits Trump’s baseball post to the judge at arraignment, and the judge gives Trump a harsher initial set of pretrial conditions as a result, perhaps Trump will start to figure out that he’s not in charge of anything that happens from here on in.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report