One prominent legal expert is sounding the alarm bells over impending damage in Donald Trump’s upcoming criminal trials, likening Trump’s behavior on the stand and his relentless bullying of judges and court staff to that of a mob boss.
While Trump and his political allies have so far been successful at hounding judges and defendants—like Judge Arthur Engoron in Trump’s Manhattan bank fraud trial—there could be members of even more vulnerable demographics in the courtroom who could be legitimately compromised by Trump’s harassment.
Andrew Weissman, a New York University law professor and former lead prosecutor in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, raised the issue during The New Republic’s “America in Crisis” event on Wednesday evening.
“Obviously the investigation and prosecution is important, and as serious of a problem as it is with respect to judges and prosecutors and journalists, I’m particularly concerned with what is going to happen with respect to witnesses and jurors,” said Weissman.
Weissman likened Trump’s conduct in the courtroom to the “organized crime cases” that he prosecuted as a young attorney, pointing to the “extraordinary” measures taken thus far—like keeping jurors fully anonymous and partially sequestered in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case.
“The jurors go by number, and they were instructed to not use their names, even with each other … and that is an extraordinary step, even in a criminal case—but that is the kind of measure that I think you’re going to see, whether it’s the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal case against Donald Trump or the Jack Smith case before Judge [Tanya] Chutkan,” Weissman continued, noting that for witnesses it will be “a lot more difficult.”
In the Carroll defamation case, Judge Lewis Kaplan cited Trump’s behavior as a reason for the extreme measures to protect the jury.
Trump is on the line for 91 charges across four separate criminal cases, for his behavior related to the January 6 insurrection, his attempt to undermine the election results in Georgia, his alleged theft of thousands of classified documents, and the Stormy Daniels hush-money case, in the last of which Trump is accused of using his former fixer Michael Cohen to sweep an affair with the porn actress under the rug ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
The outcome of Trump’s criminal trials has proven to be one of the few issues that sways some of his raucous supporters. More than a quarter of Republicans said that the real estate mogul should not be a presidential candidate if he’s convicted of a crime, according to a December New York Times/Siena College poll—enough to swing the general election in a matchup against President Joe Biden.
But that would require Trump’s numerous trials to come to fruition before November. According to Weissman, just two are due to be resolved by then: the D.C. January 6 case and the Stormy Daniels hush-money case.
And that’s significant, since Trump’s race to the White House will likely only be impeded by America’s electorate. In fact, nearly every legal expert at The New Republic’s event—including Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice and Michael Pollack of the Cardozo Law School—agreed that the Supreme Court is unlikely to affirm Colorado’s and Maine’s decisions to push Trump off their primary ballots.
“It will be up to voters as to whether they want an insurrectionist in the White House,” Weissman added.