‘Some people say I’m a warrior’

The front page of Friday’s New York Times had a huge, all-caps, single-word headline: “GUILTY.” True enough, but the story that followed was so full of hot-air that I feared the paper in my hands would spontaneously combust.

After recounting the verdict of the Manhattan trial, the story suddenly veered into crazy land. It declared that Donald Trump’s “insurgent behavior delights his supporters as he bulldozes the country’s norms,” and went on to claim: “Now, the man who refused to accept his 2020 election loss is already seeking to delegitimize his conviction, attempting to assert the primacy of his raw political power over the nation’s rule of law.”

Donald Trump was found guilty of faulsifying business records. PETER FOLEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The sweeping condemnation surely delighted the Trump haters who dominate the paper’s staff and readership, and likely will appear in a future Pulitzer application. Yet the same facts could have been conveyed more clearly and fairly simply by saying that Trump is appealing the verdict, is still running for president and has a very good chance of winning.

But straight-forward facts don’t have a chance in hell when the Gray Lady’s got a narrative to spin and a political agenda to push.

The agenda is to re-elect Joe Biden and that means spinning the narrative that Trump is a wrecking ball who “bull-dozes the country’s norms.”

It’s dressed-up fear mongering.

That’s not to deny that the former president is a tough and mercurial customer who sometimes goes too far, but he’s an amateur when it comes to breaking norms.

Trump’s conviction has increased his support in many demographics. Getty Images

Six legal attacks

Democrats are the world champions. Party prosecutors and lawyers have brought six–yes, six!–criminal and civil cases against Trump since he left office.

All this after impeaching him twice when he was president, an unprecedented pattern of political and legal assault that has no rival in American history.

It’s the ultimate destruction of norms when a president uses government power to bankrupt and imprison his opponent, but that’s what Biden and Dems have done and are doing.

New York has been especially shameful, with two earlier cases–one a civil fraud and one a defamation case–setting the pattern of trying to destroy Trump. Like the criminal case, both were warped by partisan judges.

As for the Times, its failure to see this overriding truth is intentional. It broke its own norms–and standards–when it became the propaganda arm of a political party.

Meanwhile, the alleged bull-dozer-in-chief was in a relatively pleasant and calm mood when I spoke to him Friday morning for about 25 minutes. I say relatively because anybody who isn’t upset after 34 jury recitations of “guilty” would have to be dead.

“I’m good, I’m good,” Trump answered when I asked how he was and whether he had been able to sleep.

“I slept fine, it is what it is,” he said matter-of-factly. “I did nothing wrong.”

We spoke by phone about two hours before he appeared in Trump Tower to make a statement about the case.

The New York Times’ front page was emblazoned with “GUILTY.” REUTERS

He laughed a couple of times and previewed some things he would say later, including that the bookkeeping entry of a legal expense at the heart of the case was in fact just that–a legal expense paid to Michael Cohen, though he never used Cohen’s name with me or in public because of the ridiculous gag order still in place.

“It wasn’t filed as anything having to do with construction, like cinderblock or dry-wall,” he said.

Even when he railed against the obvious tilt toward prosecutors by Judge Juan Marchan, it seemed more rote than anger: “His conflicts are so big, he wouldn’t even let us bring in an election law expert,” Trump complained.

Trump’s conviction has been accused of being politically-motivated. AP

‘Get indicted, rise in polls’

“If the trial had been on Staten Island, this would have been a very different situation,” he said after noting his lawyers requested a change of venue.

Many legal analysts believe Marchan made numerous reversible errors and Trump insisted that if his planned appeals are denied, “then we don’t have a system of laws anymore.”

When I asked about the impact on the campaign, he first mentioned the incredible haul of nearly $35 million his team raised in seven hours after the verdict. It’s by far the most he’s raised in a single day and, coincidentally, comes to about $1 million for each felony count.

“It’s actually unique,” Trump said with a laugh. “You get indicted, you go up in the polls. You get convicted, it goes up again.”

“If the trial had been on Staten Island, this would have been a very different situation,” Trump said. Getty Images

He has a point, with a broad sense that the outcome was, to use his favorite word, “rigged,” providing an instant boost for his campaign.

But we’ll see where the polls finally settle. Before he became a convicted felon, he was leading in most swing states, but often the difference was within the margin of error.

Although an overnight survey had him gaining an instant six points on Biden, he agreed it takes time for big news to get digested by voters.

As the savvy GOP consultant Ed Rollins points out, the slow brewing of a significant change in public opinion persists even in the digital era.

When I asked Trump what he saw as the most important political arrow in his quiver going forward, he didn’t hesitate, saying:

“The biggest thing we have is Biden, the worst president in the history of our country.”

He listed the major failings of the White House, finding them extraordinary, and expressed astonishment that they haven’t been fixed.

Legal experts are fighting over Trump’s conviction’s impact on swing states. REUTERS

“Open borders, high taxes, they want men to be able to play in women’s sports,” he said. “Why would anyone fight for that?”

“The whole thing is a mystery,” he added. “They want to destroy our country. Why?”

“I think they want inflation, even though it’s bad for most people. They could stop the open border immediately, but why don’t they? Why would anyone want those things?”

“They’re fighting MAGA–it stands for Make America Great Again. It’s crazy, why fight that?”

He raised the two scheduled debates with Biden, then lowered expectations of the outcome. “They’ll juice him up,” he said of the president’s handlers. “He’ll be fine. Whatever they gave him for the State of the Union, they’ll do it again. Then he’ll get through it, and they’ll say he was great.”

Several weeks ago, I was part of small group that had an off-the-record meeting with Trump, during which he mixed humorous stories about himself and others with thoughtful answers to our questions.

The event had come after a tough day in court, and I found his ability to relax and remain upbeat under such circumstances remarkable.

Although he wasn’t quite as relaxed Friday morning, his tone and composure again struck me as remarkable, given that the verdict had come less than 24 hours earlier.

When I told him so, he was briefly quiet, then responded: “What’s happened to me has never happened to anybody before, but I march on. Some people say I’m a warrior, so I guess I am.”

Indeed he is. A warrior for our times.

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