Pink penis balloons in court: Ringmaster Trump lets others jump for him

Pink penis balloons in court
Ringmaster Trump lets others jump for him

By Roland Peters, New York

On the 15th floor of the Manhattan Criminal Court, Judge Merchan doesn’t allow any games, takes tough action, and Donald Trump has to follow suit. However, other rules apply outside. This leads to a circus-like hustle and bustle.

Sex, hush money, striving for power. That’s what the hush money trial against Donald Trump in Manhattan has been about since April 15th. The process is now nearing completion. Both the prosecution and the defense have questioned and cross-examined their witnesses and declared their evidence over.

According to the indictment, Trump paid actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 through his intermediary Michael Cohen during the 2016 presidential campaign. Daniels wasn’t supposed to talk about the sexual intercourse she said the two had. According to several witnesses, Trump feared that the publication would have been bad for his chances of victory. The prosecution wants to prove that he deliberately disguised the reimbursements to Cohen in order to hide illegal campaign financing. He even faces a prison sentence for this.

It is the first criminal trial against a former US head of state, so history is being made in Manhattan. However, Trump and his MAGA supporters have turned it into a little circus. Trump behaves like the director, setting the line at times but otherwise letting his supporters, politicians and lawyers do the work for him. A selection from the past few weeks.

Camera front, demonstrators and art action

On every day of the trial, a huge media beehive buzzes on the street in front of the gruesome fortress in southern Manhattan, commenting on the events in the courtroom. Cameras are not allowed inside, so production teams line up across the street to frame their reporters with the building in the background. It’s just stupid for the picture that you can’t see the front entrance door, but rather the huge scaffolding that covers it. To get in, visitors camp out at night and wait in line for hours for journalists each time. Or they pay someone $50 an hour to hold a spot at the front of the line for them until morning.

Helium balloons in the shape of genitals rose into the sky in front of the criminal court.

Helium balloons in the shape of genitals rose into the sky in front of the criminal court.

(Photo: REUTERS)

The jury, the witnesses and Trump himself enter and exit the courthouse through different doors. In the hallway on the 15th floor, before and after each day of negotiations, Trump complained about the alleged witch hunt against him, blasphemed the Democrats and his rivals, about US President Joe Biden and commented on the politics of the day. On some days afterwards he went to campaign appointments nearby. The designated Republican presidential candidate is trying to mitigate the consequences of his mandatory attendance. But New York City is political enemy territory for him and the MAGA world. The city typically votes overwhelmingly Democratic.

There are also a few Trump supporters on the plaza across the street on the days of the negotiations. One day a display reads: “The Deep State American Stasi vs. Donald Trump.” A few dozen meters away, possible Trump opponents are corralled by the police. “No one is above the law” is the message from many. Last Thursday a box truck suddenly stopped in front of the courthouse. An artist raises pink penis balloons with the faces of Judge Juan Merchan, prosecutor Alvin Bragg and Jack Smith towards the hearing room on the 15th floor. The police are present – and are watching the goings-on.

The suicide

Advice and emergency help for those at risk of suicide and depression

Maxwell Azzarello is coming to Manhattan on April 18th. He first has himself photographed holding a sign: “Trump is allied with Biden and they are about to lead a fascist coup,” it reads. He drops a few leaflets with titles like “Secrets of Our Rotten World” warning of imminent economic collapse. Then he opens his backpack, takes out a liquid, pours it on himself and sets himself on fire. Two days later, Azzarello died of his injuries in a hospital.

Parade of politicians

Since Trump himself is in the dock, his advisors are apparently coordinating the visits of politicians. Every day they jet north from the capital Washington; most to parade into the New York courtroom and sit behind Trump. But it doesn’t stop them there; some go outside to make statements in front of the microphones. The Republicans are taking advantage of the media attention, attacking those involved in the process as well as Democrats and at the same time portraying Trump as a persecuted innocent lamb. He is apparently happy about it: “You speak very well of me,” he said on Monday.

Trump himself is not allowed to say everything during the trial. He violated confidentiality several times and insulted future witnesses, the judge and others. The judge imposed fines and threatened to put him behind bars if he committed another offence. The ex-president, who is usually so talkative, is not allowed to speak loudly in the courtroom anyway; he only occasionally whispers to his lawyers. Until the very end, they remained open about whether the ex-president would also take the witness stand himself, before they decided not to do so.

Perhaps the most notable speech was given by House Speaker Mike Johnson at the Plaza last week. The “sham trial” was a “mockery of justice,” the Republican rumbled into the microphones, saying that justice was being abused. For minutes he attacked the prosecutor and the judge, saying they were corrupt and in cahoots with the Democrats: “They are doing this deliberately to keep him from campaigning.” This is electoral interference on the part of the judiciary.

Many of Trump’s allies criticize the selection of the judge, who was registered as a small Democratic donor four years ago and his daughter, who worked for Democratic politicians. Johnson is the highest-ranking politician after US President Joe Biden. Many others spoke on site during the court process.

Lauren Boebert, for example, was upset that Trump was allegedly not informed about the crime he was said to have committed. Rep. Matt Gaetz chose a different path. He posted a photo of himself standing behind Trump in the hallway in front of the hall: “Standing back and standing by, Mr. President,” he wrote, a reference to the pro-Trump militia “Proud Boys.” was involved in the storming of Congress on January 6, 2021.

No games allowed

On the penultimate day of witness testimony, Trump’s defense team unexpectedly called attorney Robert Costello to the witness stand. Judge Merchan admitted him after careful consideration, but warned: “I will not allow there to be a trial within a trial.” Trump’s defense team had constantly attacked the key witness Cohen and accused him of lying. Costello, a close friend of Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani, had previously dealt with Cohen and was supposed to discredit him further. But above all, he did this to himself.

Costello audibly commented disparagingly on several of the judge’s decisions. He initially warned the witness sternly, then even sent the jury and journalists out of the room to reprimand Costello again. Merchan threatened Trump’s lawyers that they would remove their witness and have his statements completely deleted if he didn’t behave. He did that afterward. It was one of the most heated moments of the trial.

Now the circus is coming to an end. There are no more trial days scheduled this week, but the closing arguments will take place on Tuesday next week. The judge will then inform the jury in detail about the aspects under which they will deliberate and decide on Trump’s guilt or innocence. If the jury finds the ex-president guilty, the judge will determine the sentence. If the jury disagrees, Merchan will have to declare a mistrial without a verdict. The prosecution then decides whether to maintain the charges, seek a new trial or not.

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