Lord of Misrule meets lord of law

A few months ago I ran into my neighbor Jeff, whereupon one of those important hallway conversations ensued.

Jeff is a lawyer. An old friend of Michael Cohen, he has been representing Cohen in his court appearances and, thus, had been in New York State court when Cohen testified against Trump. I was startled to hear from Jeff –who seemed himself startled — about Trump’s unruly behavior in court. How Trump had been motor-mouthing, behaving in outrageous ways Jeff had never witnessed in a court.

What startled me was, first, that Jeff had been so taken aback, and second, that none of the media reports, including the ones in the Times and Daily News (which I read every day), had given a full report of Trump’s behavior. Yes, some of Trump’s outbursts had been dutifully transcribed and published but the onslaught Jeff was describing? No.

It’s not that I hadn’t imagined Trump could behave so crazily. It’s simply that I’d never heard of this sort of thing in a courtroom presided over by a respected judge.

My perception of what we’re living through in this country today has long been a split vision. We have politics and we have law. The politics, much of which has emitted from Trump, is melodramatic and loud. A lot of noise, explosions, suddenness, immediacy.

And then there’s law, which proceeds the way legal matters usually do — fairly slowly with generally quiet persistence. Occasionally we hear of arguments, briefs, court appearances. But most of the time it’s surface placidity.

This law thing in which much activity churns deep under the surface is driving people nuts. I know this because I hear about it from friends and relatives all the time. “What is taking so fucking long?!?” “They’ll never convict him!!!!”

I, on the other hand, with some knowledge of the process necessary to move forward on massive legal matters, have been confident about the future. Because I can see these two separate dynamics at the same time.

There is politics and the noise it produces. And then there’s the calm, quiet relentlessness of law.

So when Judge Arthur Engoron’s decision was published, I jumped into it. I didn’t read all 92 pages thoroughly but I read some of them. A recommendation: want a fun crime read, literate and occasionally witty? You could not do better than J. Engoron’s decision.

The judge summarizes the testimony of every defendant, every witness, every expert witness, every “expert” witness, and gives an evaluation of credibility and relevance. It’s so much more than you and I have followed in the news media, so much more.

And it’s shocking. The fraud itself is detailed, person by person, and how the fraud was perpetrated is detailed, too. What’s shocking is how remarkably dumb and amoral everyone is. What it all boils down into is: everyone lied, and either pretended they were doing regular business or were so ignorant they didn’t know they weren’t doing regular business. They were like a bunch of 7-year-olds clubbing in a tent, pretending they were in real estate.

Playing Monopoly takes greater skill than playing in TrumpWorld.

Read the decision, or maybe skim it, pausing every once in a while to read Engoron’s mind-blowing summaries of fraudulent stupidity studded with his spontaneous human reactions. (One witness testified something about some dollar numbers, one of which was $200 million, which he called an “insignificant” amount. To paraphrase J. Engoron’s remark, “In what world does he live where $200 million is insignificant?”)

It’s so much fun.

And for me, it’s that and much more than that.

The Times just published a piece about Engoron himself in which some of the Trump team’s more rococo absurdities are noted, as well as J. Engoron’s deliberately laissez-faire attitude toward this behavior, and his own explanation for why he allowed it.

As I read it, I had a flash: this entire lengthy episode, as encapsulated in the above linked article, is the perfect analogy for our country’s dual personality.

We have Trump, the noise he produces, the noise produced around him, and the wry leniency granted by Judge Engoron who allowed Trump to be, uh, himself in public.

And then we have the reality: we are a nation of laws, not obstructive noisy men. No matter how much juvenile theatrical noise, how many threats or worse Trump produces, the trial, its professional and rational application of laws produced an explicit decision of multiple frauds.

Fraud is about all Trump can produce. When faced with laws, he made a lot of noise but failed to drown out reality.



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