Morning Glory: Trump Derangement Syndrome and the Trump jury

The jury has the case and I’ve got a deadline.  
 
Not everyone who thinks former President Donald Trump should be convicted in the Manhattan trial brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has “Trump Derangement Syndrome” (“TDS.). But everyone with “TDS” thinks Trump should be convicted.  
 
Robert DeNiro admitted to TDS in his very weird meltdown outside the courthouse Tuesday when the actor proclaimed he knows Trump is guilty. DeNiro is not alone in voicing their limitless hatred of Trump. More people on X than can be counted have TDS. Many folks commenting on this or any other column about Trump have TDS.  

JURY BEGINS DELIBERATIONS IN NY V. TRUMP TRIAL AS FORMER PRESIDENT BLASTS CHARGES AS ‘RIGGED’

But the marker of TDS is not an opinion on the guilt or innocence of Trump in this proceeding. Thinking Trump guilty isn’t an insane position and can be in many cases put down to simple ignorance of the law.  

A lot of observers haven’t been following Andrew C. McCarthy or Jonathan Turley as they have both patiently explained, again and again, why the trial is hard to stomach for people committed to the rule of law. Lots of people catch just a few minutes of coverage or this and that and come to some erroneous conclusion such as “NDAs are illegal” or are wholly ignorant of the fact that  Bragg has no jurisdiction over the enforcement of federal election law.  

They will just have heard or watched or read enough to conclude that paying off Stormy Daniels was illegal and Trump got caught doing that. They are neither joyful nor disappointed by the verdict, whatever it will be. These citizens are not the problem for politics in this country. The problem for the country is that too many people are emotionally invested in “put Trump in cuffs” regardless of the facts or the law.  
 
Folks with TDS, in contrast to those who have simply been misled or who are ignorant of things like “reasonable doubt,” will actually know this case should never have been brought though they will be loath to admit that out loud. They know it’s a bizarre proceeding from start to finish and that the trial Judge Juan Merchan didn’t just put a finger on the scale to benefit the prosecution but that he slammed his fist down on it again and again and again on the side of Bragg and his team.  

Merchan will never regain whatever reputation he had for fairness, though he will often hear going forward from the TDS-afflicted how glad they were that he bent the rule of law to try and injure Trump. 

Such praise will be the equivalent of cheering for a bonfire that got out of control when offered by the pyromaniacs who happened to pass by such an accidental blaze. According to Psychology Today, pyromaniacs “do not set fires for monetary gain, for ideological reasons, to cover up criminal activity, to express anger or revenge, or as a result of a delusion, a hallucination, or impaired judgment.” Why do they start fires? This gets us close to understanding the TDS-afflicted.  
 
“Some research has likened pyromania and other impulse-control disorders to behavioral addictions,” was the explanation provided. The TDS-afflicted seem to me to be simply addicted to hating Trump. The origin of their animus is beside the point.  

Maybe Trump disintermediated them from power, influence or money. Maybe they got the short end of a deal somewhere along the line, and they are transferring their anger over that perceived injustice on to Trump. A generalization about the origins of a psychological condition does not seem fair or even possibly accurate.  
 
The deep hatred of Trump among those with TDS is really quite startling to observe or hear, especially for the first time from someone you may like or respect. A mention of Trump sets a TDSer off of course, sends them into a rant or over a rhetorical cliff and sometimes they manifest their addiction by raising their voice, clenching fists, resorting to profanity or vulgarity or using ALL CAPS! They obsess about Trump and turn every topic to him. He’s not, for them, a political opponent in the great game of American politics, but a Putin-Assad-Xi-Sinwar-level embodiment of evil.  

That’s objectively not true, of course, but they will argue that “Yes, Trump is!” or that at least that he’s close. Even if obliged to give up the ground that Trump hasn’t committed genocide or mass murder of innocents, they will append some qualifier to that admission and mutter something about “lack of opportunity.” 
 
How to tell if somebody has TDS? Listen for the venom-saturated commentary, the startling level of hatred they express. It just isn’t normal, not even for brass-knuckled politicos. Trump breaks people. Most stay broken.
 
Not liking Trump, or even really, really disliking him — disliking him to a level you have never felt about a politician — is not TDS. Indeed, even what appears to be an obsession with Trump is, for some, simply an economic choice.  

MSNBC producers know a good slice of their relatively small audience must be fed daily some extravagant venting about Trump. They know they can’t put on the other point of view much less a hardcore MAGA Trump supporter. Too many in their audience are repulsed by any praise of Trump or his record. That’s not TDS. That’s monetizing the TDS in the population at large, even though it’s a small percentage of Americans.  

As I wrote this column, the jury was deliberating. I’ve been telling my broadcast audience for two months that a conviction was coming because the trial judge tipped his hand very early and has done everything in his power to “get Trump.” I am also convinced the conviction will be reversed on appeal for many reasons, but that the appeal will take much longer than the election season. Even then, it won’t undo the damage done to this election cycle by the fanatics who threw in with Bragg.  
 
The idea that President Joe Biden sent his official campaign to the courthouse to cheer on a conviction via DeNiro’s ranting should stun people. The president of the United States should want justice done, not a political opponent convicted because the incumbent’s campaign seems to be collapsing. Neither the president nor DeNiro can possibly have an informed opinion about the trial because they haven’t been in the courtroom and show no evidence of following the serious and objective analysis. They just want Trump in cuffs.  
 
Why? Well Joe Biden wants to be reelected and who knows what drives a very old actor for whom the sun is setting. There are dozens of different origin stories for TDS but my view is that, for most with the condition, the exercise of the rage against Trump releases some sort of endorphin for the folks trapped in it.  

Some sort of psychological return on investment must be garnered by, for example, obsessively replying to posts on X or columns in various platforms that point out the many biased rulings by Merchan. Nobody reads those threads except other TDS-afflicted people. Nobody’s opinion changes. But the compulsion to comment and rage endures.  

The only figures from the modern era remotely close to Trump in the ability to trigger sustained rage among his or her political opponents are Richard Nixon and Hillary Clinton. It’s a small group of people in American politics who see in an individual elected in the United States a “super villain.” Our republic functions well. We don’t let super villains rule.  
 
Realize, though, there is no arguing with those with TDS, no persuading them of their condition. I have tentatively approached some folks who voted for President Biden in 2020 with the question whether they will consider voting for Trump in 2024. It’s an obvious question to pose to folks who like to talk politics.  
 
A surprising number of them have said yes, but that it’s far from a sure thing. They don’t like Trump at all, for any of a number of reasons. Most in this group of fence-sitters cite unsurprising reasons for their tentative change of heart: Biden’s manifest physical infirmity, or their conclusion that Vice President Harris will end up president if Biden wins in the fall, or because the national security staff around Biden is so utterly averse to conflict and thus have left America weak and unable to deter out energies.  

They would gladly vote for another Democrat like Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro or Colorado Governor Jared Polis. But when pushed to face the real choice — Biden or Trump — they are either undecided or already in the “Trump is better than ‘old Joe.’”  

The key: None of these people have TDS. They are puzzling though the inevitable binary choice.  
 
TDS is not widespread. Most Americans just don’t care enough to hate Trump 24/7/365. And they shouldn’t. Trump isn’t a “threat to democracy,” and isn’t, as DeNiro asserted repeatedly, “never going to leave!” if returned to the White House. Of course, he will leave.  

The two-term limit is in the Constitution and the Constitution is very strong. It’s just crazy talk to make such a wild assertion to the contrary. But that’s the point: TDS is crazy talk that never ends in the inner dialogue of the minds of the TDS-afflicted.  

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This is why I fear conviction in a case that is, manifestly, an abuse of the criminal justice system — a political prosecution. I am assuming that some of the jurors have TDS. I’m also assuming that there will be no reasoning with them and that they will descend to berating anyone who sees the reality of this absurd set of charges and assumptions on top of assumptions. If there is more than one TDSer, it’s going to be a rough time for any juror who thinks Trump is getting railroaded and that the prosecution didn’t come close to carrying their burden of proof.  

I’ve only sat as a member of one criminal jury. (Lawyers on juries is not routine, but it’s also not as rare as some commentators have suggested.) The dynamics in that particular room, which went on for two weeks and ended in a hung jury of 11-1 in favor of conviction, were quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a movie or on any platform. I tell my law students on the basis of that experience that they can never underestimate the stupidity, the unmovable bias or pure irrationality of the most ignorant person on the jury.  
 
If any of the Trump jurors has TDS, and especially if more than one does, but there is also a principled individual who sees through the smoke, this could go a very long time. If you know anyone with TDS, you also know that the last thing you want is to be trapped next to them on an airplane or, God forbid, in a jury room. 
 
One more consideration causes concern for this jury. To this manic desire among TDSers to “stop Trump,” add in the dangerous lure of “the call of significance” which Commentary Magazine Executive Editor Abe Greenwald articulated in that magazine’s Wednesday podcast. 

“I just don’t see,” Greenwald explained, “how a New York jury can resist the opportunity — in their eyes a world historic opportunity — to convict Donald Trump and, in their mind, shape the course of the upcoming presidential election and American history.” TDS is the obvious threat to a fair deliberation. The less obvious but also real temptation is to indulge the desire to be in on the first ever conviction of a former president — to “make history.” 
 
TDS, plus the powerful attraction of being a footnote in history, is almost certainly going to bend this jury. I hope for our collective sake, including those with TDS, that there’s a “Juror #8” — Henry Fonda in “12 Angry Men” — in the room. If there is, he or she will be celebrated down the years. But if you recall the movie, you’ll also recall it takes incredible courage to play that part. We shall see. 

Hugh Hewitt is host of “The Hugh Hewitt Show,” heard weekday mornings 6am to 9am ET on the Salem Radio Network, and simulcast on Salem News Channel. Hugh wakes up America on over 400 affiliates nationwide, and on all the streaming platforms where SNC can be seen. He is a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel’s news roundtable hosted by Brett Baier weekdays at 6pm ET. A son of Ohio and a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt has been a Professor of Law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law since 1996 where he teaches Constitutional Law. Hewitt launched his eponymous radio show from Los Angeles in 1990.  Hewitt has frequently appeared on every major national news television network, hosted television shows for PBS and MSNBC, written for every major American paper, has authored a dozen books and moderated a score of Republican candidate debates, most recently the November 2023 Republican presidential debate in Miami and four Republican presidential debates in the 2015-16 cycle. Hewitt focuses his radio show and his column on the Constitution, national security, American politics and the Cleveland Browns and Guardians. Hewitt has interviewed tens of thousands of guests from Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump over his 40 years in broadcast, and this column previews the lead story that will drive his radio/ TV show today.

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