For those who have closely followed the political rise of Donald Trump, it’s rather obvious that the former president isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.?This is a man, after all, who once mused about spraying disinfectant or ultraviolet light inside the body to kill the Covid-19 virus, looked directly at the sun during a solar eclipse without protecting his eyes and said Hurricane Florence was “one of the wettest we’ve ever seen, from the standpoint of water.”
But in the wake of his third criminal indictment in four months, it appears that even Trump’s criminal defense team is essentially arguing that their client is an idiot.?
Consider the comments of Trump’s lawyer John Lauro, who said Sunday that his client’s defense “is quite simple. Donald Trump … believed in his heart of hearts that he had won that election.”
I don’t doubt that Trump believed he won the 2020 election or that he repeated the lie so many times that it became his reality, but that’s not a defense — it’s a cry for help.
And in Trump’s case, arguing that he believed he won suggests that he also lives in a fantasy world. Last week’s federal indictment says Trump’s closest aides told him repeatedly that he lost the 2020 election. Every conspiracy theory whispered in this ear by Sidney Powell and the My Pillow guy proved hollow, and every legal challenge failed in court. There’s never been a shred of evidence backing up Trump’s “beliefs.”
More than 2? years later, only the most deluded Americans believe in their heart of hearts that Trump won re-election, but Lauro's argument is it that that group includes the man most likely to be the GOP’s presidential standard-bearer in 2024.?
The only way this defense could work is if, like Trump, the judge and members of the jury are also two sandwiches shy of a picnic.
In his bizarre statements over the weekend, Lauro didn’t limit himself to positing what Trump believes in his heart.?He also claimed that when Trump asked?Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election?at the Jan. 6, 2021,?joint session of Congress, he “asked him in an aspirational way.”?Lauro said the same about Trump’s infamous phone call to Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, whom he asked to “find 11,780 votes” that would allow him to be declared the winner of the state.
“That was an aspirational ask,” Lauro said.
In Lauro’s telling, Trump simply asked, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent election outcome?” and nothing more.?
But as the indictment alleges, Trump did far more than just “aspirationally” ask Pence. He and his co-conspirators are accused of concocting and attempting to implement a scheme to draft fake electors and, in the process, disenfranchise actual voters. And as Pence has said, the former president didn’t merely ask him to stop the certification — he pushed him to “reject votes outright” and “overturn the election.”?
Lauro’s argument is akin to defending?an accused bank robber with the claim that?“he only aspirationally asked the teller to give him money.” As a defense, it’s ludicrous and insulting to the intelligence of anyone it seeks to persuade.
Then again, Lauro said his client committed a “technical violation of the Constitution” but “not a violation of criminal law,” which suggests that maybe the lawyer representing Trump is a few law books short of being Clarence Darrow.
But Trump’s making nonsensical arguments follows a familiar pattern in his attempts to get out of trouble. Who can forget his allegedly “perfect” phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, which led to his first impeachment? After his indictment in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, Trump claimed he had a right to possess certain government documents after having left office (he didn’t), that he had sole discretion in deciding which of his papers to turn over to the government (nope) and that Hillary Clinton and Biden did even worse things with classified documents than he did (they didn’t).?
Perhaps Trump’s most moronic and outlandish argument was that he had the right to declassify documents with his mind — a claim utterly ludicrous?and yet amazingly debunked by an audio recording in which he acknowledged that he held on to classified documents that, “as president, I could have declassified,” but “now I can’t.”
To be fair, Lauro is in an impossible position. The evidence against his client appears to be overwhelming. Trump continues to imperil himself further by constantly commenting on the cases and attacking the special counsel and the judge. There is no good legal or moral defense for Trump’s alleged actions, and his only hope for a not guilty verdict may rest on the jury’s giving him a pass because they think his elevator peters out well short of the top floor.?
While it’s highly unlikely, one can’t completely dismiss the possibility that jurors will give him such a pass. After all, in 2020, after four years of Trump’s demonstrating that he is as sharp as a bowling ball, 74 million Americans thought he should spend another four years in the nation’s most powerful elected office.