Column: Sleepy Don turns a New York courtroom into ‘one long campaign stop.’ Will it help Trump?

Former President Trump sits with his legal team in New York criminal court.
Former President Trump sits with his legal team in New York criminal court on Monday.
(Jabin Botsford / Associated Press)

So far, Donald Trump’s criminal trial has been a snoozer, even for him.

The best part to come out of the first days of the Manhattan drama is the courtroom sketch by artist Jane Rosenberg of the big man nodding off like grandpa watching “Gunsmoke” reruns.

Trump appeared to fall asleep again on Tuesday, prompting Law360 reporter Frank G. Runyeon to post this real-time blow-by-blow of the action, like it was Caitlin Clark in the final minutes of her college career. I literally can only hear this in a Vin Scully voice, forgive my sports-mixing:

“Trump’s head slowly dropped, his eyes closed. It jerked back upward. He adjusts himself. Then, his head droops again. He straightens up, leaning back. His head [droops] for a third time, he shakes his shoulders. Eyes closed still. His head drops. Finally, he pops his eyes open.”


No drool, it’s a win!

Slumbering forward

All that napping has led to the social media tags #SleepyDon (a play on his nickname for Biden, Sleepy Joe) and the iconic #DonSnoreleone.

This may lack the excitement of the O.J. trial, may his soul rest wherever, but the stakes should be considered high despite the current doldrums. For all Trump’s croaking about election interference, this is an actual felony trial for just that.

But because there is no television or audio recording allowed in the courtroom — New York has one of the most restrictive laws about that — all we are left with are these snippets relayed from those inside.

That matters because in general, trials are boring — but usually it’s the details that form our opinions, whether as jurors or viewers. Would the glove not fitting have made it’s massive pop culture impact if we hadn’t seen Simpson trying to shove his fingers into the Bloomingdales’ style No. 70263?

Unlike O.J., where public opinion was formed in real time by actual events, this historic trial will reach the people only through the often partisan lens of whatever news source they consume.

The truth is, few people really understand the charges beyond paying Stormy Daniels to not talk about allegedly having months of bad sex after beginning an affair in a Tahoe casino and don’t see either a conviction or an acquittal as meaningful. Honestly, it seems like she earned the money.

So in the end, the verdict may only play as another screeching headline.

But six weeks in a courtroom with endless media hype may help Mr. Snoreleone (I had to get it in there one more time).


Which is what my colleague Jeffrey Fleishman — who wrote this excellent piece on the big picture of this case — is here to discuss.

Lightly edited insights

Me: There is this sense that Trump is better off being in a courtroom for six weeks than on the campaign trail. What is your take on that?

Fleishman: He’s in essence turned the courtroom into one long campaign stop. It fits a lot of his victimhood, persecution-by-the-deep-state complex that he peddles to his voters and that his voters support.

So he can have a built-in campaign podium every day while being inside the courtroom, then coming out and be giving statements.

And I think a lot of people would think he gets the best of both worlds because he’s able to hold to the tenets of his campaign, which is being persecuted by Joe Biden’s Deep State, and the courtroom is certainly a manifestation of that. And then he’s able to come out before and after and put his spin on things.

Me: I almost wonder if the trial doesn’t reach a larger audience than a campaign stop because we’re not covering his campaign the way we did in 2016 and 2020, where you actually saw his speeches, or parts of them, on the nightly news. And so I wonder if this doesn’t reach a broader audience?

Fleishman: That’s a distinct possibility. There’s not a lot of people in America who are undecided at this point of who they’re going to vote for. But there are some ambivalent, undecided voters out there. And getting this trial filtered through the quote-unquote mainstream media could have an impact on swing voters and undecided voters in key states.


Me: One thing that does interest me is that there are no cameras and that’s because of New York law. Do you think that changes how we experience this trial or what it means?

Fleishman: I do. And it might mean, as you were saying about O.J., it will influence how we consume it, because we don’t get that minute to minute.

We don’t get the facial expressions, we don’t get the tics, we don’t get the body language that was so prevalent in the O.J. trial, where we could make our minds up as we went along.

With this, with the way it’s filtered, we don’t get that intimacy, which, depending on where you stand, could either hurt or help Trump.

Me: This trial has been so boring up until now. Not a question, a well-reported journalistic fact.

Fleishman: I know. We’re dealing with a porn star and a con man and a billionaire. And it’s been pretty dry.

Me: I don’t know how that’s possible. Is it going to get any better for us?

Fleishman: I don’t know. Like so many cases these days, this one in particular, we know so much about the case before it even gets to trial.


And with Trump, we already know the personality. It’s not like there’s a big reveal that’s going to come out in this trial. It’s not going to be like “Perry Mason,” or “Law and Order,” where at the last moment this thing happens.

We know the characters. You know Michael Cohen, we know Stormy Daniels. We know Trump and we know the intricacies of what’s alleged against him.

So I don’t know how much more exciting it’s going to get, especially given the fact that there’s no cameras in the courtroom. We’re not going to get the day-to-day drama.

What we’re going to get is sketches and then post-hearing comments by Trump and the lawyers, like a strange campaign stop.

Me: C’mon New York, even Alabama lets cameras in the courts. You’re fired!

What else you should be reading

The must-read: Gavin Newsom can’t help himself
The Department of Scary Stuff: Secret Russian foreign policy document urges action to weaken the U.S.
The L.A. Times Special: Abortion ban has supercharged Arizona politics. What will GOP legislators do?

Stay Golden,
Anita Chabria

P.S. Goodbye to one of the greats

This week, The Times’ family lost a beloved member — investigative reporter Kim Christensen died of cancer. I haven’t been at The Times for decades, as many of my colleagues have been, so I only knew Kim a bit.


During COVID, we both spent time tracking what was happening inside nursing homes. But what I can tell you about him is that he was extremely kind, sharply nuanced, and the best of the best as a reporter. Please take a moment to read this lovely tribute to him — though for some reason we only have this one photo, which does not do him justice:

Essential California, Boy Scout abuse claims with Kim Christensen
Essential California, Boy Scout abuse claims with Kim Christensen

Was this newsletter forwarded to you? Sign up here to get it in your inbox.