Trump Indictment Inspires a Joyful Media
The Mediaverse by Dennis Kneale, TruthDAO opinion columnist
The mainstream media waited years to bring down President Trump for something. For now, they will have to settle for his looming indictment in New York on more than 30 charges related to a hush-money payment to a porn star seven years ago.
It is a surreal and stunning turn. No president in the nation’s 250 years ever has been indicted for a crime. Trump will be charged even as his campaign for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election is underway.
This makes the case a political prosecution over small beer, though no one in the mainstream media will dare concede this. Get Trump.
The front pages of newspapers revealed how stunning this news was to even cynical, ink-stained editors. Huge banner headlines blared “TRUMP INDICTED” in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Arizona Republic, and New York Times, which added a second deck of all-caps shock: THE FIRST EX-PRESIDENT TO FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES.
The Wall Street Journal, in a rarity, stripped a six-column head across the top of Page One: “Trump Indicted Over Hush Money.”
Getting far less play are the flaws and disturbing implications of the case. In the 1980s, Solomon Wachtler, then chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, popularized a saying that a grand jury could be talked into indicting a ham sandwich.
This hoagie is stale and rotten: the allegations, surrounding a supposed tryst 17 years ago, usually would be a misdemeanor that expires after two years. Any crime lies in how Trump accounted for payments to Michael Cohen, who made a $130,000 transfer to a porn star a month before the 2016 election. See Episode 19 of "What's Bugging Me" for more on this.
Plus, this is a state case, yet it involves federal election law, so the state court might throw it out. And the two star witnesses are Cohen, a convicted felon who lied to Congress, and porn star Stormy Daniels, who sought the payoff. Cyrus Vance Jr., the predecessor as New York district attorney, decided against pursuing charges. His successor, Alvin Bragg, ran in part on a Get Trump platform to get elected in 2021.
None of which appears prominently in most coverage. Trump is to be arrested and arraigned on the Times’s home turf in New York on Tuesday. Its coverage sets the ski tracks for everyone else in the media, especially television.
The Times’s first-day story, ever wishful, called the indictment “a historic development that will shake up his 2024 presidential race and forever mark him as the nation’s first former president to face criminal charges.” This “threatens to puncture” the “aura of legal invincibility” of Donald Trump.
“This case is built around a tawdry episode that predates Mr. Trump’s presidency,” the Times says. Tawdry episode? A little preachy.
Unrelated to the charges to be filed: “Already, the former president has used bigoted language to attack Mr. Bragg, the first Black man to lead the district attorney’s office, calling him a ‘racist,’ an ‘animal’ and a ‘radical left prosecutor.’”
Hang on there: calling a black prosecutor a racist and a radical left prosecutor is racist? As for “animal,” Trump has used this inelegant epithet to refer to white women who insulted him publicly, and to murderous MS-13 gang members.
The Times once hammered President Trump in May 2018 for supposedly calling illegal aliens “animals,” then two days later it ran a skinback admitting Trump was referring to MS-13 gang bangers.
In the current coverage, another Times story cites “supporters likely to be energized by a belief that the justice system has been weaponized against him.” Belief? Four other ongoing efforts are targeting President Trump on the Jan. 6 insurrection, interference in the 2020 election, meddling in the Georgia senate race, and possession of classified documents.
Weaponization, indeed. A third story goes all goose/gander on the former POTUS: “Trump Says the Justice System Has Been Weaponized. He Would Know.” Baddabing! Deck: “The former president is attempting to cast the investigations into his actions as politically motivated uses of the justice system.”
It is hard to see these investigations as anything but politically motivated. Rest of deck: “In office, he regularly sought to use government powers against his foes.” So has every president since George Washington.
The story cites TV ads that candidate Trump ran against Hillary in the 2016 campaign, which is unrelated to the point. And how Trump “has spent years persuading supporters to internalize political and legal threats to him as deeply personal attacks on them.” This fails to qualify as Trump’s weaponizing anything, frankly.
It is worth repeating: President Trump always said the media were the enemies of the American people. At the least, they have proven themselves to be the enemies of Donald Trump.
Dennis Kneale, @denniskneale on Twitter, is a media strategist and writer in New York. He spent more than 30 years at The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNBC, and Fox Business. His podcast is called "What's Bugging Me."