Trial confirms Trump role as serial misogynist and criminal liar
U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, center, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy listen as former president Donald Trump, left, talks with reporters as he arrives at Manhattan criminal court on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. | Justin Lane/AP

NEW YORK—As the election-manipulating, hush money trial of Donald Trump all but confirmed yesterday the guilt of Donald Trump, Republican leaders pathetically flocked to the courthouse to show their loyalty to him, with many harboring hopes of ending up as the ex-president’s vice presidential running mate.

In what could well be the Nixon-like smoking guns in Donald Trump’s trial, Trump OKd, and wrote and signed the checks, to conceal his affairs with ex-stripper Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal in order to reverse the possibility that the scandals would cause him to lose the election.

Trump’s former lawyer-fixer, Michael Cohen, dropped the bombshells in two days of testimony, in the trial’s fourth week, in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan. The trial has exposed Trump not as a glitzy man about town in the Big Apple and the darling of its tabloids–partially thanks to stories Cohen planted–but as a serial misogynist and liar.

It also exposed Trump as a member of the criminal corporate class. He planned with Cohen, plus another top aide and with the publisher and editor of the National Enquirer, to pay McDougal $150,000 and Daniels $130,000 to cover up the affairs. Because, he told Cohen, they endangered his run for the White House eight years ago.

Then Trump disguised the hush money as legal fees to Cohen—and as campaign contributions, which broke New York law.

Meanwhile, GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson led into the court a literal army of Republican leaders in a display of support for the criminal leader of their party. The New York Times described the “phalanx” of Republicans showing up as proof of how much Trump has changed the GOP when, in reality, the cabal and many other Republicans before them during the last 50 years have laid the groundwork for the rise of a fascistic, authoritarian leader like Trump. Ever since the development of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” the GOP has, on countless occasions, pushed racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-working-class policies, not the least of which has been its full frontal attack on the rights of women.

In addition to failing to make even the slightest mention of that the Times continued yesterday and the day before to present the election as a horserace contest rather than a fight to save democracy. The newspaper continued to present only one skewed poll showing Biden running behind in battleground states while other polls show him leading in those states.

Among the pathetic Republicans supporting Trump in the courtroom were several vying to get their master to select them as his vice-presidential running mate. Profiles in courage were totally absent among the boot-licking crowd that showed up in court yesterday.

Cohen, the Trump fixer-lawyer, was the trial’s last and star witness, despite his own prior role as Trump’s bagman, which Cohen admitted on the stand. Trump’s lawyers tried to destroy Cohen’s credibility during his second day in the witness chair.

They challenged his motives and showed he lied, too, to Congress, reporters, and the FBI about Trump’s affairs and the cover-ups. After a one-day break on May 15, both sides begin closing arguments.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to conceal the hush money payment to Daniels, to prevent their affair from sinking his 2016 Republican presidential candidacy. The payment to McDougal just adds to the weight of the evidence against Trump.

Trump is the first ex-president ever to face a criminal trial and he’s running again for the Oval Office. If he loses this trial, the latest Yahoo/YouGov opinion poll shows, he would slide against Democratic incumbent Joe Biden, who beat Trump four years ago. The two face each other in a rerun in November.

Among the polls not emphasized by the Times, one shows that, by a new record 52%-22% margin, the 1,794 responding adults believe Trump “falsified business records to conceal a hush money payment to a porn star,” Daniels. And if the jury convicts Trump of serious crimes, his current 45%-45% tie with Biden in the same poll turns into a 46%-39% Biden edge. The poll’s margin of error is 2.7%.

And that’s important, because if voters return Trump to the White House this fall, he plans to wreck the U.S. Constitution, as he said in December 2022. He also schemes for “revenge” on his “political enemies,” and the Project 2025 he supports lays out plans to decimate civil rights, Social Security, and worker rights.

Plans to further trash voting rights

And Trump’s racism and attacks against people of color appear in plans to further trash voting rights, especially for Blacks, but also for workers, women, Spanish speakers, and students, and to summarily jail all 11 million undocumented people in camps before deporting every single one.

Trump’s payments to the two women eight years ago show he succeeded in the cover-up then. That helped Trump, in an upset, defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton that fall. While Trump lost to Biden four years ago, their faceoff this fall comes with four trials, including this one, hanging over Trump’s head.

Former president Donald Trump sits in Manhattan criminal court in New York, May 13, 2024. | Mark Peterson/New York Magazine via AP

Trump lawyers’ maneuvering, including taking one of the cases to the GOP-dominated U.S. Supreme Court, has successfully stalled the other three trials until after the November election.

That includes two, a federal trial in D.C. and a state trial in Atlanta, on his attempts to steal the election four years ago. Which means the New York trial, run by Justice Juan Merchan, whom Trump has vilified, should be the sole criminal verdict available to voters before Election Day.

In addition, New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron already levied a fine of at least $175 million against Trump, his sons, and his company in a civil case. Trump defrauded the state of taxes by low-balling his properties and defrauded his lenders and insurers by massively overvaluing them.

Trump’s appealing that verdict. A hotshot Big Apple real estate attorney now claims he tried to “advise” Justice Engoron about that trial before it began.

Trump’s payments to McDougal and Daniels—one of them caught on a video the jury saw and the other in a phone tape—are this trial’s smoking guns, just as Nixon’s Watergate tapes revealed his smoking gun. Trump wrote out multiple checks to Cohen to reimburse him for the hush money to the women—and knew what he was doing. He also signed the checks.

Nixon’s smoking gun was caught on his Watergate tapes. Trump’s was caught in a video of his conversation with Cohen, played for the jury in Justice Merchan’s court. It covered Trump’s $130,000 payment through Cohen to shut Daniels up during the 2016 campaign.

Earlier, Trump outright asked Cohen “What do we have to pay for this? What do we got to pay for this? One fifty?” “This” was the $150,000 paid through Cohen and the National Enquirer as a “kill fee” to the publication and thence to McDougal so it could spike—kill—her story about her affair with Trump.

“He [Trump] already knew” about the Daniels payment, Cohen testified. The check—Trump originally wanted to pay cash—was “what it was going to take to purchase this,” prosecutor Susan Hoffinger said. Jurors saw a photostat of the check, with Trump’s name, address, and signature, on a big screen in court.

Why McDougal was paid

McDougal got paid “in order to ensure that the possibility of Mr. Trump succeeding in the election—that this would not be a hindrance,” Cohen testified.

Cohen’s bombshells about Trump may convince the jury, but not top Republicans, led by House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who have marched to his side in the Manhattan courtroom.

Johnson, a devoted Trumpite who owes that top job to Trump’s support, put on his own pro-Trump show after attending a trial session on May 14, outside the courthouse.

In a masterpiece of audacity, or fealty to Trump, Johnson, an attorney and self-anointed constitutional lawyer, proclaimed the trial a politically motivated sham. The Speaker said it degrades the U.S. judicial system in voters’ eyes—completely ignoring that the carload of Trump-named right-wing ideologues in black robes are performing that job.

That crowd which brings the judiciary into disrepute includes the three Trump-named U.S. Supreme Court justices: Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett. They helped strip women of their federal constitutional right to abortion two years ago.

They’ll also vote, among all nine justices, on whether Trump’s perpetual presidential immunity demand claim makes him forever free from federal, but not state, criminal prosecution.

That includes prosecution in D.C. for Trump’s aiding, abetting and virtually ordering the Trumpite U.S. Capitol invasion, insurrection, and attempted coup d’etat three years ago. It also includes the indefinitely postponed Florida federal trial, courtesy of Trump-nominated Judge Aileen Cannon, over Trump’s stealing secret federal papers from the White House and transporting them to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Trump calls all the prosecutions politically motivated, uttering his innocence and accusing his enemies of the crimes. He even still says the Democrats stole the election, accusing them of the crime he tried.

The parallels between Trump with disgraced former Republican President Richard Nixon are eerie, including proclamations of innocence in the cover-up. “I am not a crook,” Nixon declared on May 19, 1974, at a press conference in Orlando, Fla.  But he was.

Nixon, an incumbent facing re-election, ordered the Watergate cover-up just days after the June 17, 1972, break-in to Democratic National Headquarters at D.C.’s Watergate office building. Nixon had his Michael Cohen-like “bagman,” too: his campaign’s Finance Chairman Maurice Stans.

Former Commerce Secretary Stans collected big—and secret—contribution checks from the criminal corporate class in exchange for present and future federal favors. One big giver who got caught for illegal donations: Shipbuilder and flamboyant New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, whom the city’s tabloids showed palling around with the then-much-younger Trump. Steinbrenner pled guilty to an illegal quid pro quo and was fined $15,000.

Seven months after the burglary, Nixon ordered Counsel John Dean to pay a million dollars to the Watergate burglars. That led to a cascade of campaign scandals, skullduggery, the revelation of a second break-in in Los Angeles, constitutional violations, and a bipartisan House Judiciary Committee impeachment vote against Nixon. When the “smoking gun” tape surfaced, Nixon was forced to resign.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.