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Opinion | Holy Cow, 34 for 45!


WASHINGTON — At Nativity grade school, we grew up steeped in the lore — and gore — of martyrs. For their brave deeds and words, these men and women were stoned, crucified, beheaded, stripped of all their skin, shot with arrows and cooked alive on a red-hot griddle.

So I’m a little surprised my siblings would somehow put Donald Trump in those martyrs’ sainted company.

My sister and brother, disturbed by Trump’s constant chaos and slashing insults, saw their hopes for Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley evaporate.

I called my Republican sibs Friday to see if hearing the word “guilty” ring out 34 times in a New York courtroom had finally severed them from Trump; they are, after all, children of a police detective.

My sister, Peggy, said she couldn’t sleep all night.

“You decided you can’t vote for a felon?” I asked.

“I wasn’t going to vote for Trump,” she said. “But now I am because I thought this whole thing was a sham.”

She tried to donate $100 to the Trump campaign, but so many people were contributing, she said, the site crashed. The campaign said it raised $52.8 million in the first 24 hours after the verdict on the Republican fund-raising platform.

Peggy thinks Alvin Bragg, who boasted when he ran for D.A. that he had sued Trump 100 times while a federal prosecutor, conjured the crime by inflating the charges from a misdemeanor to 34 felonies because he was determined to bring down Trump. She’s furious the jury believed “that lying, stealing ass, Michael Cohen.” Like the CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, she questioned the judge’s small donation to a pro-Biden, anti-Trump political operation. How would Democrats feel if it had been a MAGA donation? And she feels sorry for Barron Trump, the former president’s 18-year-old son.

“I couldn’t get to sleep,” she said. “I was dreaming that I was in jail after a sham court trial. I was thinking that if they arrest me, I’d be out of luck. My father’s dead and two of my brothers are dead. Who else would save me?”

Holy Kafka! Trump’s line about how he’s being martyred for us always seemed risible to me, but I guess it works with some people, even some people close to me.

My sister is not MAGA; she voted for J.F.K. in 1960, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Barack Obama in 2008 and wrote in Joe Biden’s name in 2012. But she thinks President Biden has declined significantly and should step aside for a fresh choice. She’s upset about paying over $100 for 10 items at the grocery store. And she is irked by the Democratic fervor to throw Trump in the clink.

“They want to put him in jail three days before our convention?” she asked. “The man is surrounded by Secret Service. What will they do? Put him in a cell with four Secret Service guys around him?”

She thinks that Alexander Soros and other Democrats who want Biden to call Trump “a convicted felon” over and over should be careful, given that Hunter Biden is going on trial in Wilmington, Del., on gun-related felony charges, including one that, as Trump’s lackeys have said about his own charge, is a paperwork violation.

My brother, Kevin, said the moral of the story for Democrats is: “Be careful what you wish for.”

“This reminds me of Republicans celebrating when they impeached Bill Clinton,” he said of Democratic glee over Trump’s conviction, predicting that the “farce,” as he called it, would give Trump a bump, as the G.O.P.’s pursuit of Clinton did for him.

“The 12 jurors didn’t even have the decency to stay out long enough to show they had really considered it,” Kevin said. “You want to talk about election interference, take a look at this.”

Unlike my siblings, I found the guilty verdicts bracing. A dozen Americans had finally sliced through Trump’s reality distortion field and said, simply, “You’re lying and cheating and it’s not right.” Even though the case was a stretch and not the strongest one against Trump, there was something refreshing about the jury doing what no one else around Trump has been able to do — not the inexplicably sycophantish Republican lawmakers, not the corrupt Supreme Court, not the slowpoke Merrick Garland.

The jurors were not Trump’s peers because Trump has no peer in mendacity. But it was great to see the 12 just say no, you don’t slime your way into the presidency by having your creepy gofer pay off a porn star you slept with while your wife was home with a newborn and call it a legal expense.

As Chris Christie told David Axelrod on the “Hacks on Tap” podcast, it may be more instructive to watch how the verdict affects Trump than how the verdict affects voters.

Even though Trump has been styling himself as Al Capone — who also got brought down over bookkeeping sleaze — he seemed rattled by the verdict. A lifetime of slipping away from accountability made him think he was invulnerable. When Trump took the stage near his gilded escalator Friday morning — this time without Melania, who stayed far away from the Stormy trial — he kicked off his revenge tour with a scream of consciousness, pulling out all his old tricks.

He summoned his favorite boogeyman, immigrants with darker skin, saying “millions and millions of people are flowing in from all parts of the world, not just South America — from Africa, from Asia, from the Middle East, and they’re coming in from jail and prisons and they’re coming in from mental institutions and insane asylums.” He said young men are pouring over the border, including terrorists, “from places unknown, from languages that we … haven’t even heard of.” He added, “It’s not like Spanish or French or Russian.”

Migrants, he said, “are taking over our luxury hotels” and yet “our great veterans are living on the streets.”

For Trump, the “thugs” were not the ones who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6; the “thugs” were the lawmakers who investigated the attack on Jan. 6.

The master of Mar-a-Lago played the victim, saying the prosecutors were trying to destroy his life over “a legal expense.” Striking the martyr note, he said witnesses on his side were “literally crucified.”

Anyone who isn’t a lickspittle must be cruelly belittled. Justice Juan Merchan is a “crooked judge” who “looks like an angel but he’s really a devil.”

It’s remarkable to watch the luminaries of “law and order” contort themselves to undermine Trump’s conviction, dues for what Cohen called a “dumpster cult.” The party of law and order evidently doesn’t like any law it didn’t order.

His puckered-up vice-presidential wannabe J.D. Vance evaded Wolf Blitzer’s best efforts to have him disavow Trump’s claim that we live in a “fascist state,” instead lamenting the effort to prosecute Trump for “a paperwork violation.” Speaker Mike Johnson called for the Supreme Court — “I know many of them personally” — to jump in and reverse the verdict.

Trump, meanwhile, projected as always, deflecting criticisms leveled at him and boomeranging them onto Biden. Trump once more painted Biden, 81, as faltering and senile, ignoring the fact that he himself, about to turn 78 this month, has lost a few steps. The suzerain of dishonesty called Biden “the most dishonest president we’ve ever had.” Trump said we have a president and “a group of fascists” that are “destroying our country.”

If Trump keeps railing about himself in apocalyptic terms, it could give Biden an opportunity. And Biden badly needs an opportunity.



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