Saturday Night Live kicked off its 2024 season with a parody of former President Trump’s ongoing legal battles and standing in this year’s race for the White House.
The cold open sketch began outside of a fake New York City courtroom with Trump attorney Alina Habba, played by Chloe Fineman, where she called the judge in the former president’s defamation trial “very unfair,” and ridiculed Habba’s experience.
“And I want to make this perfectly clear, I am new at this and I am learning,” Fineman said. “Now, the president may or may not stop for brief remarks, but due to a strict gag order, he will not be commenting on anything pertaining to this case, Miss Carroll or the judge.”
Trump last week appeared for a defamation trial in New York City where a jury convened to determine how much the former president has to pay for defaming longtime advice columnist E. Jean Carroll. It comes after a jury last year concluded Trump sexually abused Carroll in the mid-1990s at a New York City department store and later defamed her. Trump has denied the claims and repeatedly criticized Carroll, whom he claims has wrongly accused him.
Moments later, Trump — played by James Austin Johnson — entered before mocking his own legal team.
“You’re great on TV,” Johnson said to Fineman. “Maybe the worst lawyer I’ve ever had, which is quite an accomplishment. Look at this team… this is the bottom of the barrel, folks, this is who said yes. I’m in the lead for president, and this is the best I can get. Feels like a red flag, no?”
Johnson addressed the group of lawyers standing behind him, saying “You’re not getting paid, by the way.” The lawyers then left the scene and Johnson said he will be “abiding by this horrible gag order,” and proceeded to discuss the case, a violation of a gag order.
“So I will not be saying that the judge is an idiot or where he lives or what kind of crappy car he drives,” Johnson said.
The judge in Trump’s separate civil fraud trial in New York imposed a gag order in October, barring the former president and his counsel from making public comments about the trial judge’s staff after Trump made false claims about the judge’s principal law clerk. Trump was later issued a fine of $10,000 for violating the order.
Johnson eventually turned the focus to the 2024 election, where Trump remains the GOP frontrunner in a field that has reduced to himself, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley.
Referencing Trump’s win in the Iowa caucuses last week, Johnson said, “We just got back from Iowa, where we won. Very big, very big in Iowa.”
“I want to congratulate Mr. DeSantis on a truly embarrassing showing,” Johnson continued. “He went to 99 counties, but b**** couldn’t win one. Ron DeStupid, Ron DeStupid. It just works.”
Johnson went on to congratulate biotech Vivek Ramaswamy, who dropped out last Monday after receiving low support in the Iowa caucuses and endorsed Trump.
“[Ramaswamy] dropped out of the race and has agreed to live in my suit pocket. I love my little ‘Ratatouille,'” he said.
Johnson nodded to the upcoming primary in New Hampshire this week where he will face off against DeSantis and Haley, whom he said “thought I was done, but I’m back in a big way.”
Trump continues to lead in New Hampshire, according to a polling index by The Hill and Decision Desk HQ, though Haley has narrowed that lead and surpassed DeSantis for second place in recent weeks.
Johnson compared himself to President Biden, his likely rival for the White House this year, claiming the president “sniffs little girls’ hair.”
“I am different, of course, I do far worse than that. You ever see that video of me dancing with Epstein? Boy, is that some dark energy,” Johnson said, adding later, “I wouldn’t be surprised if that footage is fake. Of course, it’s very real, but you have to think, in many ways, it could not be.”
This was seemingly a reference to the video released in 2019 showing Trump and the late financier Jeffrey Epstein interacting at a party in 1992. The former president was shown dancing with women and talking and laughing and raised questions over the extent of Trump’s relationship with Epstein, who was charged with sex trafficking and was later found dead in his jail cell ahead of his trial in 2019. His death was ruled a suicide.
Johnson’s Trump referenced the former president’s absence from the GOP debate stage and the apparent loyalty from some of his voters.
“But I love this country and its traditions. That’s why I’m not doing any debates and barely doing elections. I don’t need to, my people love me. I got the old people, they’re waiting in snow for two hours to vote for Trump.”
Ending the nearly five-minute dialogue, Johnson offered a look at the future for Trump, saying, “But 2024 is going to be a very exciting year. I’m either going to jail, be president or frankly, ‘The Purge,'” in reference to the film where all crime is legal for 12 hours one day a year.