Does Donald Trump Want to Go to Jail?

Does Donald Trump Want to Go to Jail?

I know, he’s a big man-baby and he’d hate even a minute of it. But his martyr complex could overcome his cowardice.


On Monday morning, Justice Juan Merchan, overseeing Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial, found the defendant in contempt of court for his 10th violation of Merchan’s gag order against attacking witnesses or jury members. That’s right: 10th.

You or I would have been in jail long ago; Trump has merely been fined $1,000 a pop, or $10,000 to date. Even though he’s less wealthy than he pretends, that’s pocket change to the disgraced former president. This time around, Merchan warned Trump that jail might be coming, even for him, if he violates the gag order again, saying: “It appears that the $1,000 fines are not serving as a deterrent.”

The judge went on: “Therefore, going forward, this court will have to consider a jail sanction. Mr. Trump, it’s important to understand the last thing I want to do is put you in jail. You are the former president of the United States, and possibly the next one as well.” But Merchan said jail might be the next step if Trump violates his order again, calling his remarks “a direct attack on the rule of law,” adding it was his responsibility to “protect the dignity of the justice system.”

On one level, it’s an outrage every time Trump is merely fined for an offense that would put another defendant in jail. That outrage partly stems from the fact that consequences for Trump’s many (alleged) crimes—88 felony counts so far—have been so long in coming. But that’s far more Attorney General Merrick Garland’s doing than Judge Merchan’s.

And I get Merchan’s reluctance to put the orange-hued Trump in an orange jumpsuit, as much as it’s the stuff of liberal fantasies. It would immediately make him a bigger martyr than he already is to his delusional supporters, some of them violent. But that’s what got me thinking: Maybe Trump would like that?

Trump’s 10th contempt fine came after he told a right-wing radio host that the Manhattan jury had been picked “so fast” and was “95 percent Democrats,” adding, “It’s a very unfair situation.” Merchan said the statements “not only called into question the integrity, and therefore the legitimacy of these proceedings, but again raised the specter of fear for the safety of the jurors and of their loved ones.”

The fact is, Trump can control whether he’s put in jail—if he can control his mouth. He spent the weekend attacking President Joe Biden for “running running a Gestapo administration,” falsely claiming that the White House is orchestrating the criminal cases against him. But he did not attack any of the parties to the Manhattan criminal trial.

It’s very hard to get inside of Trump’s addled brain—and who would want to? It’s a scary place. Still, his campaign is increasingly relying on portraying him, and his followers, as the victims of corrupt Democratic prosecutions and persecution. At Mar-a-Lago this weekend, he walked in to the recording of the national anthem that he made with January 6 rioters, whom he’s called hostages and has promised to pardon if he’s reelected.

Trump has seemed happy to let his followers go to jail on his behalf, while he stays free. But if he decides there’s something to be gained by a short stay in jail—he might just be confined in a holding cell behind Merchan’s courtroom—he might flout Merchan again. At that point, I think he’d be asking for a jail stay and I’d hope Merchan would give him one, no matter how it inflames his already paranoid and violence-prone base.

If Trump’s attacks on the jury and witnesses are indeed “an attack on the rule of law,” as the judge said today, then the rule of law requires proof that no man is above it.

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