The Trump Trial Just Started and MAGA’s Mind Is Already Melting

Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast
Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Donald Trump’s New York hush-money-to-a-porn-star trial has barely begun and, already, his MAGA backers are trying to rig the outcome.

On Monday, conservative media personality Clay Travis sent the following tweet to his one million-plus Twitter (X) followers: “If you’re a Trump supporter in New York City who is a part of the jury pool, do everything you can to get seated on the jury and then refuse to convict as a matter of principle, dooming the case via hung jury. It’s the most patriotic thing you could possibly do.”

Make no mistake, this is a very dangerous and irresponsible message to send. It seeks to pervert the American legal system, a system where no man is above the law and the goal is to deliver blind justice.

Trump’s Hardest Fight May Be Staying Awake in Court

For this trial’s jury selection, potential jurors are required to answer 42 questions to suss out whether they can be fair and impartial. So how would a hardcore Trump backer (or opponent, for that matter) make it on this jury? Travis is clearly encouraging Trump supporters to lie to get chosen for the jury, and then, irrespective of the evidence, to “refuse to convict.”

But Travis isn’t the only right-winger making mischief. Also on Monday, right-wing conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer (who was outside the courtroom, leading a group of Trump supporters) accused Judge Juan Merchan of “ELECTION INTERFERENCE” for having the audacity to insist that Trump physically attend every day of the trial.

Meanwhile, Trump attorney Alina Habba (who is not representing him during this trial) is simultaneously accusing Judge Merchan of being unfair regarding jury selection rules. As always, Trumpworld is great at projection. As they attempt to unfairly influence jury selection, they accuse others of doing the same.

Trump’s Criminal Trial Begins With Vitriol and 42 Questions

Based on day one, there is little doubt that this trial is about to become a circus (or worse). And what happens if things start to visibly go south during the trial for Trump? What happens if the jury finds him guilty? What will Steve Bannon say or do? Or Marjorie Taylor Greene? Or Charlie Kirk?

Just like the Big Lie, the effort to discredit and delegitimize this trial will not be limited to fringe actors. It’s incredible and horrible to think about it, but MAGA ideas have metastasized to the GOP mainstream. Case in point, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgam is calling this a “sham trial” and “an unprecedented attack” during “an election year.” This is straight out of the MAGA playbook.

Gloves Off! DA Wants Trump Punished for Contempt on Day 1

To the degree he can get away with it, Trump is turning this trial into one big campaign. This is true in more ways than one.

Undermining America’s institutions (such as jury trials) fits into Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign narrative about Biden using “lawfare” to go after his political enemies, i.e., Trump. Likewise, Trump and his backers are weaponizing Trumpian campaign tactics, normally reserved for the political world, to get him acquitted and (in the event that doesn’t work) to undermine the legitimacy of the court.

But here’s the problem: Courts aren’t supposed to be like campaigns.

On a campaign, image is everything. On a campaign, money talks. On a campaign, perception is reality.

In this post-truth world, the courts may be one of the last places where facts and logic matter, and where Trump and his accomplices can be held accountable.

But make no mistake, this trial could very well be another historic occasion for MAGA to erode norms and undermine institutions (such as Jan. 6, for starters). The real question is whether this is done subtly or audaciously. Although physical security inside the courtroom will be tight, Trump’s supporters can still use social media and other communications tools to remotely attack and potentially intimidate witnesses, the judge, and the jurors.

And if Trump’s supporters aren’t dangerous enough, Trump is (for lack of a better word) inciting them. He has already violated a gag order by attacking key witnesses, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen and former porn star Stormy Daniels, and referring to them as “sleazebags,” according to prosecutors.

Trump Campaign Insists Mid-Trial Snooze Never Happened

But remember, this is just the beginning. They’re just getting started.

When we talk about Trump and his minions, we are talking about people who were willing to lie about the 2020 election. We are talking about people who were willing to incite a Capitol riot with the intent to stop the peaceful transfer of power. And we’re talking about people whose passion for Trump has only increased with every indictment. It’s difficult to imagine that there is any line they will not cross.

Why should this Trump campaign... erm, trial be any different?

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