Eighty year old Joe Biden shows us every few days that an old dog can in fact learn new tricks. He’s still evolving, still learning, still growing, and still figuring out new ways of doing things. So when I say that Donald Trump is at a stage where he’s no longer able to learn new tricks, it has nothing to do with his age. Rather, Trump has clearly lost a step or three in the cognitive department, and is now at a point where he appears to only be capable of relying on the things that he learned before his cognitive abilities began failing him.
That’s why it’s such a problem for Donald Trump that for the first time in his life, he’s finally being criminally indicted. This is a guy who has led a very long life of crime, and he’s always gotten away with it. But like a lot of wealthy and powerful figures, he’s gotten away with it by finding a way to never get criminally indicted.
Even before the office of the presidency formally shielded Trump from indictment for four years, he’d managed to spend the previous several decades not getting indicted. How did he do that? Did he unduly influence prosecutors? Were prosecutors just hesitant to indict a public figure? We may never know. But what we do know is that after an entire lifetime of managing to not get indicted, Trump is now finally getting indicted. In fact he’s on track to be indicted in three jurisdictions.
No one wants to be under criminal indictment. It’s a very limiting and complicating situation to be in while awaiting trial, and the consequences for you at trial are dire. Certainly no one wants to be under criminal indictment in three jurisdictions at once; that just triples the complication in your life and triples the odds of ending up behind bars. But imagine getting criminally indicted, for the first time in your life, when you’re at a stage in life where your cognitive abilities have receded to the point where you’re no longer able to adapt to dealing with situations you’ve never been in.
Donald Trump has no idea how to deal with being under criminal indictment, because he’s never gone through it before. And he has no idea how to learn and adapt to deal with it. The moves he’s making, such as sending Robert Costello to hurl conspiracy theories at the Manhattan grand jury, and making nonsensical filings in Georgia that are just going to piss off the judge, are not in any way effective. They’re not going to work. They’re not going to delay anything. They’re blind stabs in the dark that won’t help him in any way.
Trump has used some of these kinds of strategies successfully in years past, mind you. But that was in entirely different arenas. If you’re dealing with civil court proceedings, you can use nonsense filings to drag things out forever. If you’re the President and the courts are deciding whether your executive orders should stand, you can yell insults at the judges and score cheap political points in the process. But Trump is now a defendant in the criminal justice system, where nothing works that way.
If you’re a criminal defendant, the judge in your case hates it if you keep filing nonsense motions. It can prompt the judge in your case to be less responsive to any motions you might need granted later on as you get closer to trial. Sending a nonsense witness to the grand jury doesn’t delay things or keep you from getting indicted, it just gets laughed off. And publicly attacking prosecutors just prompts the judge in your case to hit you with the kind of gag order that can ultimately land you in pretrial detention if you keep trying to violate it.
But Donald Trump doesn’t understand any of this. He clearly doesn’t, or else he wouldn’t be doing any of it. That’s because he’s in a new arena that he’s never been in before, and he’s too far gone to learn how things work in this new arena. Instead he’s relying on what’s worked for him in the past, because it’s all his brain can process at this point.
The irony is that Trump might be in a slightly better situation right now if he had been criminally indicted a few times in decades past. In such case he would have learned how to navigate the criminal justice system, back when he was still capable of learning things, and he might still have that knowledge now. Instead he has no idea what he’s even trying to do, and no way of learning. Trump’s entire hope of surviving this was pinned on not getting indicted to begin with – and now that’s out the window.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report