Citizen Trump

Rodney Clough
6 min readApr 1


Illustration by Joao Fazenda, courtesy The New Yorker, April 3

A political mis-course is about to go viral.

“There will be no handcuffs.”

-attributed to the legal defense team of Donald J. Trump, March 30, the day a New York State Grand Jury announced that it would indict Donald Trump.

March 30

Now…now, we know who we are defending. Now we know who’s on trial. Not a President, not a political party, not an Executive branch, not a former unindicted co-conspirator, not a 2020 candidate who was not certified a winner by the Electoral College, not a 2024 candidate.

For that matter, not a felon, not a criminal, not an obstructionist.

Now, we are defending a U.S. citizen.

And the rights accorded to a free and fair trial.

Now, we are defending those rights and the laws protecting them which will be tested.

Now, we are defending a suspension of anticipated outcome in kind and extent until evidence of wrongdoing is presented and challenged.

“This indictment is not the end; it is the beginning.”

-attributed to Michael Cohen, former attorney for Donald Trump, March 30

For the years that have transpired since January 20, 2017 our sentences describing Trump’s actions would begin with the conditional, “if this were a common citizen…” and abruptly end in disgust and pallor.

How is this happening (to us)? What deviancy will finally bring this man to account?

We hugged our kids. We checked that our seat belts were fastened. We remembered our social studies classes in middle school. What did we miss? What chapter did we fail to get? We pinched our collective experience. And we watched as a goodly part of us retreated into solipsism and revanchism and conspiracy, warming to the antics of the mob, January 6.

We ceased to understand. Presumed evidence of presumed criminality by presumed actors presuming privilege surfaced in presumed judicial scenarios.

Judge Judy was recalled as Judge Aileen Cannon of the Southern District of Florida.

To respect the evidentiary presentation process, defendant Trump will surrender certain rights accorded to citizens. At his arraignment, he will be instructed not to speak about his trial, nor his charges, nor his presumed innocence. His lawyers will be allowed to answer a limited number of questions. Proceedings will be sealed. Doors will be closed. Reporters will be barred. (1)

Judges arguing for fairness will become despot-like in determining time and place and sequence of deliberation. What jury members order for takeout will become news.

Beyond the silence, the quietude as papers are shuffled and witnesses are escorted, will reside a clamor for a sign, a symbol, a smoke color above St. Peter’s Square. Because once decisions are rendered, and the outcome known, a chapter is finished, a career is terminated. Fissures in the ‘body politic’ are exposed. New tasks surmised.

Before the announcement on March 30 that Trump will be indicted on charges including felony, the adverse political discourse had taken hold in America’s consciousness.

“Mr. Trump’s allies branded the Manhattan case political even before any indictment without waiting to review the actual evidence. Whatever Alvin L. Bragg, the district attorney, turned up was immaterial — to defend their party’s most recent president, and possible next nominee, they preemptively declared the prosecution illegitimate because it was brought by a Democrat.

Representative Mark E. Green, Republican of Tennessee and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, compared any prosecution of Mr. Trump to political cases in less developed countries. ‘Daniel Ortega arrested his opposition in Nicaragua and we call that a horrible thing,’ he said last week. ‘Mr. Biden, Mr. President, think about that.”’”

-Peter Baker, “A President Faces Prosecution and a Democracy is Tested,” New York Times, March 30

Within the hour after the announcement, Republican voices predicted the Grand Jury’s actions would trigger a nationwide phalanx of prosecutors going after Biden. Three House Committees have subpoenaed documents and testimony from the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg. The Chair of the House Oversight Committee James Comer has demanded that Trump’s charges be prosecuted by Republican attorneys.

America had returned to the ‘Alice-land’ of smear and innuendo.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Vice Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in describing the Trump indictments, summoned fecal matter.

A federal Grand Jury in February 1974, indicted 7 conspirators for participating in the Watergate break-in. President Richard M. Nixon was named an ‘unindicted co-conspirator.’ On August 9, facing impeachment and under pressure from his Republican colleagues, Richard Nixon resigned. On September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford granted “a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes that he (Nixon) might have committed against the United States as President.” (Proclamation 4311)

“In pardoning Mr. Nixon, Mr. Ford was not trying to set a precedent barring future prosecutions of a president, said the historian Richard Norton Smith…

“He wasn’t forgiving Nixon so much as he was trying to forget him,” Mr. Smith said. “That is, to counter the popular, political and media obsession that, quite understandably, had formed around the previously unthinkable concept of an American president facing jail time. And the existence of which prevented him from doing his job or the American people from moving on to confront all the problems that Nixon left behind him…

“That decision, he added, should not mean that Mr. Trump is handed a get-out-of-jail-free card due to Mr. Ford. “It seems more than a little unfair to make him a scapegoat for the wrongdoing of subsequent presidents,” Mr. Smith said. “As he himself warned in 1980, if voters ever chose an arrogant president ‘and I mean in a vicious way — God help the country.’” (2)

It does not help that under the false mantle of equanimity the media resists the notion — even now — that Trump is a private citizen.

It does not help that America contemplates a healthy third of the country, over half of polled Republicans consider Biden as little more than a private citizen who has illegally gained the kingdom. Unitil now.

The political discourse is skewed, misshapen, an aberration: not a discourse, a mis-course. There can be no more hypotheticals, no more head scratchers. America must face an internal threat. America must face an existential urgency — are ‘we’ a country, anymore?

Gerald Ford was threatened by the consequences of his pardon; yet as Baker points out, ‘this time it’s different.’ This time it’s not ‘arrogance,’ but sedition, not hubris but insurrection. Not a distracting memory, but a nightmare.

Not a surviving President, but a citizen.

Trump has embraced every inequity as his alone to redeem through violent means. Now America can watch his latest aria unfold, victim-venting at an evil cabal of leftist Jews running the show with their black faced minions running the prosecution. (3)

Beware those whose version of political discourse is to pitch the idea that the future is bleak. It’s not reality; it’s entertainment.

April 1


1-April 4, update: At his arraignment April 4, Donald Trump was instructed by Judge Merchan not to post threats nor make threatening statements such as the Truth Social salvos directed at the District Attorney, the Grand Jury, the Judge and the institutions adjudicating the case. After considering Trump’s unique status of having declared his candidacy for President, Judge Merchan resisted for the present denying Trump the opportunity to speak about the case and his innocence. The Judge’s warning however sets up a “desist” scenario which if not heeded by defendant Trump could trigger more restraints and potential litigation.

2-Peter Baker, op.cit.

3-Donald Trump, Truth Social, March 30




Rodney Clough

Refuses to nap. Septuagenarian. Cliche’ raker. Writes weekly.