We Interrupt Our Usual Blogging to Bring You Some Wise Observations About “The Week Ahead”

I had other plans for my post today. But the robust response to Friday’s piece showed me how eager readers are–all over the world–for information about this lamentable but essential US “first”: the former president’s indictment.

So the other items that have been on my mind seemed unsuitable for today, when Trump’s arraignment will take place.

Instead, I am reprinting former prosecutor Joyce Vance’s wise and well-informed discussion from her Substack newsletter, Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance. I find her one of the most astute and measured commentators speaking about the events of the day.

Here’s the relevant portion (not the entire issue) from “The Week Ahead,” published on April 2, 2023.


This week, on Tuesday, we will learn the details of the Manhattan DA’s indictment when it’s unsealed ahead of Trump’s arraignment. An arraignment is the first time a defendant appears in front of a judge after being indicted. When Trump appears on Tuesday, he will be advised of the charges against him and of his rights. He will enter a plea, one of not guilty, which is the traditional plea at arraignment even for a defendant who intends to subsequently pleads guilty.

Ignore the pundits and politicians who are already bemoaning the problems with the indictment. Since they don’t know what’s in it, they can’t analyze it. We’ll wait until Tuesday for that. But the one insight I can share with you in this regard is that this a very competent, experienced cadre of prosecutors. Anyone who thinks they haven’t anticipated the whole host of flaws people on Twitter are bandying about is wrong.

The office is run by a Harvard Law–educated district attorney Alvin Bragg, who is an alum of both the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York (he was hired by Preet Bharara) and the New York Attorney General’s office. The notion that they would miss an issue that lawyers on Twitter readily see is specious. And, because they are good prosecutors, there is no chance that they indicted a case without confidence that their evidence was sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

My confidence in them is buttressed by the fact that very little information about the indictment has leaked. Three days in, and all we’ve seen is that a felony is charged and that there may be more than 30 counts—both the type of information that someone in the clerk’s office could learn when the indictment was filed under seal. By all indications, the DA’s office is airtight. In an environment where it would be easy to leak, the fact that they haven’t underlines their commitment to doing things right.

In anticipation of this week’s proceedings, media organizations including the New York Times, the AP, and NBC have asked the judge to unseal the indictment immediately and permit televised coverage of proceedings. They argue that “the gravity of this proceeding—unprecedented and historic arraignment of a former U.S. President—and, consequently the need for the broadest possible public access, cannot be overstated.”

The argument is a compelling one. Other high-profile cases, like the prosecution of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, have demonstrated the benefits of having cameras in the courtroom. It’s possible to cover the trial, as the media did in that case, while protecting witnesses and the jury, but simultaneously giving Americans access to what goes on in court. The will inevitably be an enormous amount of spin, misinformation, and outright lies about the Trump prosecution. The case is critical to the future of the country. That makes public access to the proceedings even more important.

Judge Juan Merchan, who will handle the Trump prosecution, also heard the criminal tax fraud case against Trump’s company last year (Trump himself was not a defendant), in which Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg pled guilty and the company was convicted. In that case, Merchan refused to let the defendants argue that the prosecution was politically motivated and directed the attorneys to focus on the charges at hand.

He is also the judge assigned to the Manhattan DA’s prosecution of Steve Bannon on charges he defrauded contributors to an organization called We Build the Wall out of more than $15 million. The DA’s office charged Bannon after Trump pardoned him just before he left office, preventing a federal case from moving forward. That case is still pending. The judge is known for his courteous but tight control of the courtroom.

Merchan was born in Bogotá, Colombia, emigrated to the United States when he was 6. He was the first person in his family to go to college. He started and stopped law school, ultimately putting himself through school while working. The contrast between the judge and the defendant who will appear in front of him on Tuesday could not be more clearly drawn. Expect the judge to honor his commitment to the rule of law and maintain a calm and steady presence through all of the nonsense, and worse, that Trump is likely to engage in.

Some people have speculated Judge Merchan might enter a gag order on Tuesday after the threatening posture of Trump’s recent social media posts, which include the baseball bat pointing towards a picture of Bragg’s head that Trump ultimately removed. But there are First Amendment issues involved in gagging a defendant, especially one who is running for political office, and while the judge may admonish the parties against trying their case in the press, I don’t think we’ll see an immediate gag order.

Even where gag orders are put in place, judges often hesitate to enforce violations because of the First Amendment problem involved in imposing a prior restraint on speech. In the Roger Stone prosecution, Stone posted a photo of the judge in what looked like the cross hairs of a gun shortly after he was charged. After he posted derogatory material about Special Counsel Mueller on Instagram, she banned him from social media posting. But the judge herself acknowledged the difficulties of enforcing gag orders, saying, “Mr. Stone, what am I supposed to do with you…whether the problem is you can’t follow simple orders or won’t, I need to help you out.” Judges have to carefully consider the enforceability of a gag order before they impose one.

Former Manhattan DA Cy Vance (no kin) speculated on MSNBC Sunday afternoon that Trump’s social media attacks might constitute another crime under New York law: obstructing governmental administration, which occurs when a defendant “intentionally obstructs, impairs or perverts the administration of law or other governmental function or prevents or attempts to prevent a public servant from performing an official function, by means of intimidation, physical force or interference.”

Vance, who stepped down as district attorney at the end of 2021 after he decided not to run again, conducted the initial investigation in the case. To add another wrinkle, he told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning that Bill Barr’s DOJ had told him to stand down on his investigation (as federal prosecutors are wont to do to their state colleagues when there are multiple investigations) and that he was “somewhat surprised after [former Trump attorney Michael Cohen] pleaded guilty that the federal government did not proceed on the areas in which it asked me to stand down.” Those comments are certain to generate a lot more interest.

Trump is seizing the opportunity to try the judge’s patience from the outset by making out-of-court statements about the case. He’s already announced he will speak from Mar-a-Lago, the scene of another alleged crime, on Tuesday evening after his arraignment. The headlines should write themselves on that one.

There’s lots going on. It’s going to be a week.

We’re in this together,


NOTE: This may be the first time I’ve shown an image of the lawless former president. It’s definitely the last time.


15 thoughts on “We Interrupt Our Usual Blogging to Bring You Some Wise Observations About “The Week Ahead”

    1. I think there’s been a big problem stemming from his seemingly unaccountable “criming” all these years, William. His grandiosity has been needlessly enhanced—to the detriment of the rule of law.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s quite restrained, Roger! Commentators about movement in the Mar-a-Lago case, in which he said “They’re my documents; I can do what I want,” have been using age 3 as the relevant comparison.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes it was Annie. The family friendly Prime Time TV version. The original was more along the lines of Gunner Sergeant Hartman out of ‘Full Metal Jacket’.
        I am pleased to see that there is a continued focus on his immaturity.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. From what I can tell Trump as a person has nothing that the average hard-nosed rival could not destroy within a few months. The likes of Nixon, Robert Kennedy, LBJ or Ronald Reagan would have reduced him to the side-lines swiftly.
        The problem is he was selected out of that bargain basement basket of action toys by a groundswell of disaffected grass roots Right-Wingers. They are the ones calling the shots on their social media sites and he responds, therefore seems to be the leader. And not the warped Buzz Lightyear he actually is.
        It’s a bizarre devil’s pact.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. An observation is that all of the Police and protective detail are caucasian.
    Surprisedly since outside shots of police maintaining order outside has a large percentage of officers of color. Also from my understanding the NYPD has a sizable percentage of officers of color.
    Considering demented donnie’s known racism I wonder if this is a attempt by the NYPD to further ingratiate theselves to the prisoners bigotry.


    1. That wasn’t my perception, anynameleft. The woman behind him in the courtroom photo is clearly Black (as is the NYC Chief of Police—and a woman, no less.) It’s likely that his Secret Service agents are white, though, so that may be whom you saw.


      1. I saw a single, of what I assume was a secret service in suit and earpiece, who was not caucasian in the scrum of uniformed police outside room of finger printing and court room and the woman you mentioned. Statisticly unlikely considering over all make up of the force. Patrol officers who are not caucasians are approx. 57% of force, detectives approx 48%.
        ( https://www.thecity.nyc/2020/6/24/21302335/number-of-black-cops-falls-as-nypd-upper-ranks-remain-white )

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we’ve crossed a big line now, Neil. The slippery creep has been shown to be vulnerable. He’s gonna be spending a lot of time in courtrooms. And maybe, just maybe, at least some time in prison.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Good or bad ,again. The line was always well defined for me. Nothing matters just don’t get caught. I don’t remember ever being bored even with months alone in a small room with nothing to do but read and think of being resourceful without many resources. Luck and Karma I only got scratched. TFG is a cheap fraud , a bully and a coward. Always make the first bribe you take really big because all the rest will want to nickel and dime you. Most people indicted for the crimes dipstick is accused of plead out. Can someone commit treason all by themselves or does it take more than one? Do we think the Dumble won’t rat them out? What does a person who doesn’t read want documents for? It is not clear to me that this is finally light but the begin of dark.


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