Voices: What would Trump’s TV arraignment look like?

Former US President Donald Trump sits at the defense table with his defense team in a Manhattan court during his arraignment on April 4, 2023, in New York City (Getty Images)
Former US President Donald Trump sits at the defense table with his defense team in a Manhattan court during his arraignment on April 4, 2023, in New York City (Getty Images)

Donald Trump has pleaded “not guilty” to the charges facing him in Fulton County, waiving his right to an arraignment, and, because not every wish in my hope journal can come true, also waiving our right to see him humbled in front of a judge on television.

On the surface, that might seem like an odd move. After all, Trump’s other arraignments were fundraising bonanzas for the former president, with each one sending legions of innumerate retirees to his website to hemorrhage money faster than a Trump casino.

The list of Donald Trump’s favorite things is well known: golf, sedition, watching TV, sending Eric’s calls to voicemail, putting ketchup on steak, putting ketchup on walls, and, of course, having other people pay his legal bills.

So why skip out on the easy money of another arraignment?

The answer is that the Fulton County arraignment would have been the first one to be televised.

Donald Trump holds a magical power over MAGA. They are a body of mostly male, mostly white men who perceive the push towards a more equitable world not as progress, but as Progressivism, and they are as afraid of it as they are a book without pictures. They love Trump because his wealth and power (along with his complete lack of anything even resembling human empathy) have allowed him to transgress every rule and norm that they feel unfairly bound by.

Throughout his life, first as a small-time slum lord and conman, then as a bankrupt reality star, and then as golfer/part-time-president, he has used his endless resources to do what every aggrieved white man wants to do: whatever he wants, without having to think about any person other than himself. Beyond that, when he has hurt others, he’s never offered —or even appeared to feel — any contrition: Donald Trump is as shameless as Don Jr is chinless.

Even through all of these arrests and arraignments, he’s been able to maintain an air of invulnerability around himself. His mugshot, for instance, has become a symbol of righteous defiance for MAGA, despite the fact that in it, he looks like a very old man who was just told the cruise buffet was closed. MAGA is trading memes with “NEVER SURRENDER” under it without realizing that the only reason it exists is because the man literally surrendered.

That carefully cultivated aura of power is harder to maintain, though, when you’re in court. Court won’t be like his impeachment, where he didn’t have to appear and where he had yawping muppets like Rand Paul to summon faux-outrage on his behalf, like after-dinner burps on taco night.

No, the thing about court is that there is only one person in charge, and that person is decidedly not Donald Trump.

It makes sense, then, that he wouldn’t want to have to subject himself to that next week. Unfortunately, for those of us who view Trump as a particularly agitated orangutan, equal parts hilarious and dangerous, it deprives us of all the fun a Trump court appearance would entail.

Would the self-described 6’3”, 215 pound defendant — numbers that only make sense if Trump last weighed himself on the moon — be able to find a suit boxy enough to get even in the ballpark of those measurements?

How would a man notorious for being so unfocused that his generals decided the only way to brief him was to make every piece of paper Trump handled as bright and engaging as the word search on a Happy Meal box handle long stretches of time where people other than himself got to talk? Would he try to get up and wander around the courtroom? Would he start making phone calls? Would he climb into his lawyer’s lap and take a nap?

And, most deliciously, how would that makeup-caked mouth of his handle it the first time he was told to be quiet?

Picture it. The judge is talking, Trump tries to interrupt, and BOOM the gavel comes down and the words “Mr. Trump, I’m talking” come out, the “M” in “Mister” a sinister reminder than he isn’t president anymore.

The camera zooms in on Trump, his panicky eyes flicking back and forth as his fragile male need to be the alpha wrestles with the definitive knowledge that the man who just told him to be quiet could literally put him in jail.

And then, defeated, he eats them like he was Eric and his words were crayons.

That’s the scene we missed next week by Trump’s decision to skip his arraignment.

The good news is that he only postponed it. Going by Trump’s increasingly frantic Truth Social feed, however, some part of him knows it, too.

It’s only a matter of time before Donald Trump has to call another person “Your Honor”.

Tick Tock, Donny.