Republished with permission from Lucian K. Truscott IV
Remember Melania’s hideous row of unadorned red Christmas trees in the White House West Wing in 2018? She better get busy down at Mar-a-Lago because her husband is running out of room beneath the one they’ve got.
What brightly wrapped presents await the attention of Donald Trump under his tree this year? Why, here’s one right in front! It has a card from the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department. Trump has a couple of cases in New York State going right now, so let’s have a look at what gem this present contains.
OMG! It’s a decision against Defendant Trump’s motion to lift the gag order imposed by Judge Arthur Engoron in the civil fraud case against Trump for lying on New York State financial statements in order to obtain more favorable loan and insurance terms over a ten-year period beginning in 2014. The judge in the case had imposed a gag order on Trump forbidding him from talking about court employees, because Trump had repeatedly attacked Engoron’s clerk for being “biased” and “corrupt,” in addition to calling her “Chuck Schumer’s girlfriend.” The appeals court lifted a stay and reimposed the gag order yesterday, banning Trump from speaking about the court staff in the trial.
Of course, Defendant Trump almost immediately came up with a way to skirt the gag order by attacking Engoron’s wife, instead of his clerk. He posted false Twitter-X memes on his social media account purportedly from Judge Engoron’s wife, Dawn Engoron, depicting Trump in an orange jumpsuit pushing a mop in prison with the caption, “He’ll never be in the WHITE HOUSE again. He’s headed for the BIG HOUSE.” Dawn Engoron immediately issued a statement denying that she had posted the memes: “I do not have a Twitter account. This is not me. I have not posted any anti-Trump messages.” Trump doubled down by calling her “a Trump hating wife.”
Hmmm…here’s a card from one of Trump’s lawyers reminding him not to miss his son Eric Trump’s testimony next week in the N.Y. fraud case, and look here! There’s another card from his lawyers reminding Trump not to forget his own testimony on Monday, December 11, in his fraud case. That card has little sparkly-thingees all over it and gold trim around its edges, no doubt intended to catch his attention so he won’t miss his big day of testimony.
Let’s see…here’s a present from another appeals court! This time it’s the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Washington D.C., and what do you know! It’s another denial of a Trump appeal, this time of the motion he filed in the D.C. case filed by several Capitol police officers injured on Jan. 6, 2021 seeking damages for their injuries. Trump sought to use presidential immunity as a defense against the lawsuits. Trump claimed, essentially, that he was just doing his job after he lost the election when he gave his fiery speech on the Ellipse urging his supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” The circuit court decision allows the lawsuits against Trump to go forward.
Let’s peek at what the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals gave Trump for Christmas: “The office of the presidency as an institution is agnostic about who will occupy it next, and campaigning to gain that office is not an official act of the office,” the court found. “The Supreme Court made clear in Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681 (1997), a President’s official act immunity by nature does not extend to his unofficial actions. When he acts in an unofficial, private capacity, he is subject to civil suits like any private citizen.”
Trump made a fatal error when he joined the Texas lawsuit to overturn the election results as a plaintiff, “in his personal capacity as candidate for re-election to the office of President,” and in his “unique and substantial personal interests as a candidate for re-election to the Office of President.” Trump told the appeals court that he is “entitled to official-act immunity” because he was acting in an official capacity. The court noted that “President Trump does not dispute that he engaged in his alleged actions up to and on January 6 in his capacity as a candidate…but he thinks that does not matter. In his view, a President’s speech on matters of public concern is invariably an official function, and he was engaged in that function when he spoke at the January 6 rally and in the lead-up to that day. We cannot accept that rationale,” the court wrote in its opinion filed today. The appeals court found that Trump’s speech inciting the crowd on Jan. 6 was made “in an unofficial, private capacity as office-seeker, not an official capacity as office-holder. And actions taken in an unofficial capacity cannot qualify for official-act immunity.”
So there goes that defense! Capitol police and others injured on Jan. 6, 2021 at the Capitol can sue Trump and collect damages because the appeals court found that the speech was essentially a campaign event, not an official event. He was on the Ellipse, not in the Oval Office. He was seeking to remain in office, not acting in his official capacity as president. Bring it on, the D.C. Court of Appeals told the plaintiffs. Go sit in the corner and come up with other defenses, Defendant Trump.
Let’s dig further beneath the tree…here’s a gem! There’s a card from E. Jean Carroll! She wants to make sure that he knows her second trial for damages begins on Tuesday, Jan. 16. She’s already won her case, yes, for a second time, that Trump libeled her when he called her a liar for a second time after he lost his first defamation trial. Now he’s got to sit there while the judge determines what will be added to the $5 million he already owes after he lost the first defamation case. Now there’s something to look forward to!
Here’s a very official looking present in a plain brown wrapper. Let’s see who it’s from…Oh, my goodness! It’s from Special Counsel Jack Smith! We don’t know what’s inside, but it’s probably an official badge for Defendant Trump so he can enter the Prettyman Courthouse in Washington D.C. on March 4 of next year when his trial begins on charges that he defrauded the United States of America when he sought to overturn the election of 2020 by interfering with the counting and certification of electoral ballots on Jan.6, 2021.
And what do you know? There’s another brown-wrapper present right next to the one from Jack Smith. Let’s see…the card on it says, “From Judge Aileen Cannon,” and it’s post marked Fort Pierce, Florida. What do you want to bet it’s an invitation to the jury trial on the Mar-a-Lago documents case that is set to begin on May 20, 2024! Or maybe it’s a hint from the judge about what motions he could still file to delay the trial date? We’ll have to wait until Trump opens his presents on Christmas to find out.
See what I mean about how crowded it’s getting under the Trump Christmas tree? C’mon, Melania! Pull those fake red trees out of the storage room where your husband kept his top-secret documents and get with it! There are plenty more surprise presents coming!
Lucian K. Truscott IV
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better.