What struck me was the reported quiet in the courtroom


Waht is there to say about Trump’s conviction on all charges in his New York hush-money?

There is so much that can be discussed, and at some point, I suppose we’ll discuss them, although I don’t have time to explore any of them thoroughly right now. Such things as:

  • Will he serve time? I hear the interviews with various “expert observers,” and it’s intriguing. On the one hand, it seems unlikely, because it is a first offense — or rather, first conviction — on a nonviolent charge. On the other hand there is a bunch of stuff that might is some cases cause the judge to sentence him to maximum time: His stupendous lack of remorse, all the times he had to be cited for contempt during the trial, the relative quickness with which the 12 jurors decided he was guilty on all charges (which speaks to the striking weight of the evidence against him), and so forth.
  • Should he serve time? An entirely different question. Given the utterly unique situation of who the convicted man is and the fact that he will be handed the Republican Party’s nomination for president four days after his sentencing, it’s very difficult to say. You also get into the murky area of whether the court should consider such things. Frankly, I don’t even know whether I want him to serve time (yet another question we could ask ourselves). My fondest wish is that all his supporters would wake up sane one morning and our long national nightmare would be over. Then we could just send him home and forget him. Failing that, I don’t know what is best for the country.
  • The stupendous lack of any sense of leadership responsibility on the part of Republican officeholders. A leader who actually believes in this nation of laws and not of men would be rushing to explain to Trump voters aping the nonsense their man is pumping out — cursing our legal system and all who sail in it — how profoundly wrong they are. But so much for my fantasies. I set my sights lower when I read this piece in The State this morning, headlined “Trump guilty verdict sparks SC politicians to blame Biden administration.” Rather than contradicting the absurd things Trump said, they are saying these things themselves. My reaction on Twitter was “No, I don’t expect much from these guys. But a more optimistic person would at least expect members of Congress to have a grasp of the difference between federal and state….” If my meaning is not clear, I call your attention to the fact that — as anyone who has paid the slightest attention knows — this was a state trial on charges relating to the violation of state laws. These comments are about as off as commenting on a baseball game by saying you wish the home team had scored more “touchdowns.”

But as I said, I don’t have time at the moment to dig into any of those things sufficiently. I just want to comment briefly on one small thing you may or may not have noticed.

In the early hours of all this, right after the verdict came down, I heard the same interesting thing from a couple of places. Coverage was still in the very early stages, and respectable organizations that report via audio — NPR and NYT audio — were doing brief interviews with reporters who had been in the courtroom when the word “guilty” was pronounced 34 times in quick succession.

And what I was struck by was this: the quietness of it. The reporting of justice being carried out in an orderly manner — a feeling imparted of this development being almost routine, despite its unprecedented (the most overused word of the past eight years) nature.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find transcripts of either of those reports I heard, and I haven’t found the full actual original audio I heard on NPR — although this link touches briefly on the “inside the courtroom” report I’d heard.

Here’s a link to the NYT Audio story, in case you have access. I just listened to it again, and heard again the reporter describing the subdued scene. No outcry, no shouting, no hoopla. Trump “was pretty much placid.” He looked at the jury, but said nothing for once. Then the jury left. They walked right by the convicted man, and his eyes went to the desk in front of him. Then things turned to “practicalities” — the scheduling of his sentencing, discussion of the routine procedures that will precede that, with a review of Trump’s personal history and a psychological evaluation, and so forth.

Just the American system of justice doing its job with regard to this criminal, as it routinely processes so many others. And his criminality had been been established by this court with impressive certainty, due to the strength of the mountain of evidence.

And that, of course, should be that. And would have been in this country, any time before 2016, when a huge part of the American electorate completely lost its perspective. Before that, the whole country would have, at this point, turned its back on this ugly chapter.

But those folks are still utterly resistant to facts, and Trump, being extremely anxious to feed that failing, went straight out and started heaping all the outrageous calumny he could upon the entire American legal system. He knew that many millions out there — ordinary folks who, unlike the ordinary folks who served as jurors, had not sat and examined the evidence without distraction or wishful thinking — would swallow every word of it.

Still, for a few minutes before the shrieking started back up, things were normal. The system was doing its job — as it has whenever Trump has been taken to court, for sexual assault, for financial misdeeds mounting into the hundreds of millions, for defaming a victim, and now for 34 felony counts. With more to come.

And I found what I heard about that brief moment encouraging. It was our system still working, in spite of how messed up our politics may be.

8 thoughts on “What struck me was the reported quiet in the courtroom

  1. Douglas Ross

    When is overturned on appeal, I’ll expect another 1000 words on how the nation of laws worked as expected.

    34 felonies for one “crime”. It was a sham from day one.

  2. Ken

    What should happen? Justice. He should serve time in a dark, dank cell underneath a prison someplace. Just perhaps not for these particular 34 counts.

    It may have been quiet inside the courtroom, but there was plenty of noise outside the court, the noise of jubilation. That didn’t capture my mood, however. My personal reaction to the news, which I happened to catch as it happened, was much the same as on January 6, 2021: great sadness and embarrassment together with no small amount of anger that the country has to be dragged through this sort of thing over and over again – solely because millions of people exercised abominable judgment in 2016 by dumping a heaping pile of excrement into the Oval Office. The stench will not abate for a very long time to come, if ever.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m with you. The whole process is depressing, and it shames the country that someone as low as this person has wormed his way into a position that we have to pay attention to him. It’s all thoroughly appalling…

  3. Ken

    And as for the reaction from his supporters, there’s this reflection from the good doctor in Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People about his fellow citizens:

    “It is alarming. That we’ve lived here this long, without understanding who our neighbors are, that they turn everything upside down, call the truth a lie and vice versa—and the scariest thing? Is that these people genuinely believe themselves to be free-thinkers.”

  4. Barry

    I really didn’t keep up with the trial at all.

    I realized long ago that Donald Trump could “Shoot someone on the street and not lose any supporters.” He knows that. He’s one of the few people alive that know he has no consequences for his actions with what is a cult.

    Everything that Trump predicted with that statement is true. It might be the only non-lie he’s ever uttered.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I didn’t particularly try. I just keep up with everything.

      Trials tend to be near the bottom of my list of things to actively follow — just above political “analysis” that puts everything in ones and zeroes terms, and presumes to predict what will happen next.

      I will say that I paid more attention to this than I did, say, to the O.J. Simpson trial that riveted so much of the country. But that’s because this actually mattered…


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