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Trump Legal News: Not Guilty

There wasn't a lot of Trump legal news yesterday, but there was some.

The biggest news, such as it is, is that Donald Trump made two court filings in Georgia. The first waived his right to appear in person at his arraignment, and entered a plea of "not guilty." The second formally asked that Trump's case be severed from that of the defendants who want a speedy trial.

The reason we hesitate to call this "news" is that both filings were as inevitable as the rising sun, or the high tide, or the Angels missing the playoffs yet again. The only mildly unexpected part was that they came a few days early. Presumably, because the two filings are only five pages total, Trump needed only a few hours to read them, as opposed to the entire weekend required for one of those 10-pagers.

What this means it that the biggest news related directly to Trump's trial, in terms of things that were not absolute certainties, was the announcement by Judge Scott McAfee that TV cameras and other recording devices will be allowed into the courtroom. There's an obvious public interest in doing this, Georgia rules (unlike federal rules) explicitly allow it (and, in fact, encourage it), and it probably won't hurt in terms of McAfee's retention bid, either. So, it was at least a 90% chance that this decision would be made, though with unusual trials, especially those where space might be needed for more than a dozen defendants and their attorneys, you can never be certain. Anyhow, it's 100% now.

Time and again, Trump has said and done things that should be bad for a politician, and yet make him stronger. So, we concede that somehow, some way, he could possibly benefit from being prosecuted on national television. That said, we don't see how. It's going to be huge news, and is going to bring home certain realities to voters who don't pay much attention to headlines about this legal filing and that pleading. Also, for his mug shot, he was able to manufacture... whatever that was, because he only had to focus for a few seconds. But he's not good at controlling body language and posture, and he's going to get caught on camera glowering, and huffing and puffing, and rolling his eyes, and it just won't be a good look. Truth be told, this probably increases the chances he won't be present for the trial.

In addition to the filings and camera stuff, there is one other Trump-adjacent bit of legal news worth noting. Former Trump adviser/lawyer and current Trump co-defendant John Eastman was on Fox, and was asked about the only thing anyone cares about involving him. And, in response, he justified his actions on 1/6 by saying he wasn't pursuing anything major, he just wanted Mike Pence to hold off on certifying the election for a week or so.

In other words, "it wasn't a Civil War-level insurrection, it was just a mini-insurrection." No big deal, right? Wrong. As countless legal commentators pointed out after, by way of analogy, you can't defend yourself against a bank robbery by saying "Hey, I just stole a little bit of money." The degree of the theft may impact the length of your sentence (though probably not in cases of insurrection), but you still committed the crime. In other words, Eastman just went on national TV and admitted his guilt. And note that his words, not to mention the video of the TV appearance, are absolutely admissible in court.

We cannot imagine why these various Trump cronies, especially the ones who are veteran lawyers like Eastman is, keep going on TV to talk about the case. Are they trying to taint the jury pool? Are they so angry/offended/hurt that they need to vent, regardless of the consequences? Are they attention seekers trying to extend their 15 minutes of fame? Are they raising money for their defense funds? Those are our best guesses, but the fact is that they are playing with fire, due to the risk of saying something incriminating. When a person is on the witness stand, there are one or more lawyers there to watch for questions that could be troublesome, and to object. Even if the objection is overruled, the defendant gets a heads-up: "Be careful! Problematic question!" But when Laura Ingraham (that's whose show Eastman was on) asks a question, there's nobody to say: "I object!"

And that's the latest on the Trump legal front. (Z)

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