Turn on the televisions, or fire up the Series of Tubes, and by the time I am done writing this, Donald Trump and his minions will have made seven different media hits on FOX News shows, InfoWars, CNN, and all the podcasts they seem to host where MTG interviews Roger Stone or whatever.
You’ll also see mountains of stories about Trump’s legal woes, and I’ll only talk about the big ones: the federal search warrant that found top secret documents hanging out by the pool at Mar-a-Lago, the Atlanta grand jury, the New York attorney general case that could dissolve Trump’s business empire, and a couple of federal grand juries looking the attempted coup on January 6 along with the fake electors scheme.
These are serious threats that require serious lawyers and disciplined messaging.
Let’s look at what Trump is actually doing first.
1) Flooding the zone
Steve Bannon talked a lot about this strategy, which is where you throw so much out there, from so many directions, that the press and public and your opponents don’t have time to refute it all.
2) Floating a fleet of test balloons
This is related to the first strategy. Trump likes to try out messaging (or lies) on the road, especially at rallies, and the ones that get the best reactions from crowds get workshopped and refined until they’re part of his schtick, like a standup comedian perfecting his schtick.
And it is a schtick.
3) Quick changes in direction based on the televisions
Whenever Trump sees something on the tubes that makes him reach for the Tums, he often responds by changing (a) messengers, (b) narratives, or (c) legal strategy.
4) Reflexively opposing the opposition
Whatever the other side says or does, Trump instinctively is against it, and attacks the specific people doing it.
If Democrats want to build infrastructure, it is no longer Infrastructure Week, and Biden did it wrong.
If the prosecutors want to keep a search warrant sealed, as is normal practice, he wants it released, and the judge/FBI is corrupt.
Trump is trying to win the wrong war
It’s clear what Trump prioritizes: winning the media war, especially on television. That mattered a lot more when he was a real estate mogul and as president.
He doesn’t listen to his attorneys, and has a history of not paying them.
All four of these strategies absolutely hurt him when it comes to the courtrooms he will be in for the next few years.
Think about what Attorney General Merrick Garland, the New York attorney general, and all of the other prosecutors and attorneys involved in cases against Trump are doing: exactly the opposite of Trump’s four big strategies.
They don’t flood the zone.
There is a pack of legal lions, all professionals, working diligently on these cases. Many of them we don’t know much about yet because grand juries operate in secret. The few leaks we hear often come from witnesses who’ve testified, or court filings, which aren’t really leaks.
No trial balloons. No hasty reversals based on whatever Fox & Friends just said.
And they don’t instinctively oppose things or attack the other side personally.
How all of this is seven different flavors of wrong
Here’s the real problem: All the things Trump does to win the political-messaging war actively hurt him once he lands in court.
Testing out different narratives and lies at rallies and when he’s interviewed only creates a video record of his changing his story, sometimes by the day.
Having his close aides and allies spread out to do media hits only gets THEM on record saying a volume of recorded words, much of which contradicts what was said before.
Even the most disciplined liar will have trouble keeping the story straight when they’re interviewed at length, day after day. That’s especially true when the story keeps changing by the hour.
Making all this worse is the fact many of these aides and allies–Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, and White House hangers-on who followed Trump to Mar-a-Lago–are witnesses if not targets of various investigations.
Trump doesn’t listen to his attorneys, and has a history of not paying them. Although he finally hired a couple of former federal prosecutors, the rest of his legal team got hired because they look good on television. They don’t have serious legal pedigrees or a background in tough criminal cases at the federal level. He hired them because he saw them defending him on television were hanging around one of his golf courses. I am not making that up.
What a smart person in Trump’s shoes would do
First, you give up on trying to win every news cycle. That only hurts you when cases hit the courtroom.
Second, you hire real attorneys, actually pay them so they stick around, and listen to them. They dictate your legal strategy, not you and whatever talking head is on FOX News right now.
Third, you shut up. You do not talk about these cases, the prosecutors, the FBI, or the judges. You shut up. There are plenty of other things you can talk about: inflation, guns, crime, immigration, whatever. All the legal cases you’re facing? Have them talk to your lawyer, the only person you can trust not to say something to the media that will hurt you later.
Fourth, you make sure your allies, and possible witnesses/targets, also shut the hell up and get real attorneys.
Fifth, you stay off your phone, email, and texts. The January 6 committee found all kinds of incriminating text messages and emails. The FBI can get those, too, along with supposedly safe and encrypted email. Witnesses flip, the FBI can crack your iPhone, and they also have these things called wiretaps.
Sixth, you talk with your lawyers and stick to one narrative: the truth.
Because when so many people are involved, and facing their own legal jeopardy, people are going to take deals to avoid prison time. Some already have (there’s a long list).
And this is just the beginning.