Donald Trump has had quite a run of lawyers. There’s Alina Habba, the camera-hungry counsel who decided to hold a news conference before Trump’s arraignment yesterday and ranted about Hunter Biden before admitting, one presumes accidentally: “I think that everybody was made aware that he lost the election, but that doesn’t mean that was the only advice he was given.”
They’ve been a clown show almost top to bottom, but it looks like John Lauro, who’s taken the public lead this week, is topping them all. He started the week peddling the free speech argument against the indictment, which has been pulverized by many people such that I don’t even need to go into it. But just to toss in my own quick two cents: If I say to John that Jeff is a terrible person and should die, that’s free speech; if I say to John that Jeff is terrible person and we should conspire to murder him, that’s criminal intent. Pretty simple.
But Lauro really outdid himself Thursday night on Laura Ingraham’s show. Early in his segment, he said to Ingraham that before January 6, Trump had voiced his support for Mike Pence to refuse to certify the Electoral College votes and send the presidential election back to the states. Then, a little later, Lauro said: “What President Trump said is, ‘Let’s go with option D. Let’s just halt, let’s just pause the voting and allow the state legislatures to take one last look and make a determination as to whether or not the elections were handled fairly.’ That’s constitutional law. That’s not an issue of criminal activity.”
Um … whut? That is exactly an admission of criminal activity! It’s an admission that Trump was urging Pence to violate the Electoral Count Act, which requires him to preside ceremonially over the counting and approve it. In fact, Lauro was describing a conversation that is recorded in the indictment! Go look. It’s in paragraph 93: “The Defendant and Co-Conspirator 2 then asked the Vice President to either unilaterally reject the legitimate electors from the seven targeted states, or send the question of which slate was legitimate to the targeted states’ legislatures.”
Over on MSNBC, they were quick to pounce. “That is a Trump criminal defense lawyer quoting Donald Trump committing a crime,” said Lawrence O’Donnell.
This is a pattern with these people. Go back to late 2020, after the election, and think of all the arguments Rudy Giuliani was making on Fox and Newsmax. They were, if true, monstrous and outlandish charges about voter theft. But a funny thing happened whenever he found himself in an actual courtroom: He didn’t say those things, because he knew they’d never fly and he had no actual evidence. But that didn’t prevent him from saying those things on national television, over and over, with so much conviction that his hair dye ran down his face.
The above are lies, but they’re just stupid lies. They’re dangerous and destructive, but we don’t really have to take them that seriously since they get laughed out of court and show these people to be such incompetent bumblers. There’s another set of lies, however, that we need to take more seriously, because these lies constitute direct attacks on our system of government. These lies are fascist.
I’m thinking here, to name one of many possible examples, of Lindsey Graham, who told Sean Hannity, “Well, Sean, any conviction in D.C. against Donald Trump is not legitimate.”
Think about that. That’s a U.S. senator saying that the American system of justice is illegitimate—that the jury system isn’t to be trusted. He’s not alone, of course. They’re all piling on about a D.C. jury (and yes, there aren’t many MAGA-heads living in the nation’s capital, but I think we all know what else that means, between the lines).
Do you know how far back the principle of trial by jury goes? They had jury trials in Ancient Greece. In the Roman Republic. It was enshrined in the Magna Carta (that’s 1215). And the principle was absolutely crucial to the Founders. John Adams: “Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of liberty. Without them we have no other fortification against being ridden like horses, fleeced like sheep, worked like cattle, and fed and clothed like swine and hounds.”
They were fine with the jury system, of course, when we were all talking about Aileen Cannon’s courtroom down in Fort Pierce, Florida, in a county that Trump carried. Then, they didn’t complain. And you know what? I didn’t either, and I didn’t hear a single Democrat talk crazy smack on the jury system. I wasn’t wild about it, or about the fact that the classified documents case got assigned to Cannon in the first place, but them’s the breaks.
They will say anything, do anything, attack anything, allege anything, lie about anything, repeat anything, proclaim anything, insinuate anything, and imply anything. Except of course anything that’s true. They are turning the country and its principles upside down. They are fomenting a furious army of acolytes who own a lot of guns. When Trump is convicted here, as it appears he will be, given that his lawyer just admitted to it, what will they do?
This article first appeared in Fighting Words, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by editor Michael Tomasky. Sign up here.