Donald Trump is just where he wants to be. Everywhere.
On television screens. Embedded in digital news streams. Where he has been since he first came down that escalator at Trump Tower in 2015 to dominate and demean the political landscape: in our heads.
His indictment in connection with an alleged hush money payment to a porn star is historic, since it’s the first time a former US president has faced criminal charges. But the sense of history must compete with the national weariness over Trump. Will he ever go away? Apparently not. Just when he might have been fading with everyone but his rock-solid base, along comes this indictment to fire up the country and get us to stop worrying about TikTok.
Is it a politically motivated witch hunt or powerful proof that no citizen is above the law? Is it a weak case that should never have been brought or one that’s vital to preserving democracy? By predicting his indictment nearly two weeks ago, Trump, ever the brilliant media ringmaster, kicked off a premature cycle of chewing over those questions.
The grand jury didn’t act when he said it would. But when the indictment finally did arrive, the crumbs of the arguments for and against it already seemed a little stale. Advantage Trump.
Fortunately, there are some fresh details to chomp on or at least speculate about. Will he smile for his mug shot? Will those tiny hands be cuffed in front or in back (if at all)? And, apart from any legal implications, what does Melania think about the woman Trump calls “horse face”?
From the right comes the expected outrage. How dare a former president who turned “lock her up” into a campaign rally theme be charged with any crime? It’s so un-American. President Biden must be charged with something just to even the score.
The specific charges in the indictment are still unknown. So far, the pro-Trump talking points boil down to this: Directing his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to pay $130,000 to Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about an affair she said they had and Trump said they didn’t and then reimbursing Cohen is no big deal and usually not a felony. Even if it happened, the talking points go, any such payment had nothing to do with winning an election. What man wouldn’t try to hide infidelity from his wife? A similar prosecution of former senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards ended in a partial acquittal and hung jury.
Even some of Trump’s harshest critics seem unenthusiastic about this case. But just wait until that Georgia indictment comes down and Trump faces charges of election meddling in the aftermath of the 2020 election, they say. And don’t forget about the criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of sensitive government documents after he left office. Or the investigation into Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Those will definitely put him in an orange jumpsuit. Meanwhile, good for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for making sure no man is above the law.
The arguments go around the usual circles and break down along the usual partisan lines. It’s already exhausting.
What will happen to Trump as this case winds through the courts? I don’t know.
Except for one thing. For the foreseeable future — and maybe forever — it’s going to be Trump, Trump, Trump. Just the way he likes it. Although maybe this time, he won’t have quite as much fun.