Parade of Apologists

Terry Schwadron
4 min readMay 16, 2024

Terry H. Schwadron

May 16, 2024

Why is the humbling parade of Republican leaders to the courtroom where Donald Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying records to escape campaign money rules so disturbing?

On one level, apart from the fuss over matching red-tie uniforms, it makes perfect political sense that his mates show up to say out loud what Trump is gagged from saying to undercut witnesses, prosecutors, and the judge in the case as messages of personal support and political damage control.

Indeed, the pre-case messages from Speaker Mike Johnson and a few senators merely repeat what Trump himself was saying until the court ordered his silence.

But, stepping back, it feels wrong, very wrong. Trump even was seen in court editing their comments — seeming a direct violation of the court order.

Not only is this a step-around a court gag order meant to protect witnesses and jurors in an ongoing trial, but the parade of apologists is also further evidence of a Republican broadside against the integrity of the court.

The political reality for this parade of bias is understandable. But the sad, sardonic attack on our legal system is beyond unwelcome. It’s troubling. Plus, a unanimous verdict in the case is not a lock, as questions remain about exactly what violations of law need to be determined.

Still, I would be surprised to see Democratic senators show up during the trial of Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, for example, on bribery charges. Doing so is unseemly, inappropriate, and represents a kind of direct interference with a running trial towards a favorable verdict for a political ally and leader.

What’s the Message?

At best, it would be fine to see Trump’s family and friends showing up on a personal basis. But that’s not the message from these political stand-ins.

Rather, these are the very voices currently calling for prosecution of campus protesters, for example, and an aggressive Justice Department investigation of politically tinged cases against identified political foes. Yet, when the criminal needle points to Trump, the entire system is “weaponized” and biased against their guy.

Where these politicians lose me is in declaring Trump’s innocence in the middle of a trial that has been much heavier on production of Trump-signed checks and documents illustrating scheming towards the end described by the charges. They lean heavily instead on the judge’s daughter, who has done work for Democratic fund-raising, and on the various tale-twisting and lying associated with witnesses Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels.

What these politicians do not explain is why they would argue that it is the court itself and our criminal justice system that is on trial.

Once a trial is on, their responsibility as citizens and leaders is to let the trial play out, not to prejudge the outcome before the end.

They do not speak about what is so honorable in Trump’s behaviors to have put the first former American president on trial for using the Oval Office to pursue what appears to be violation of New York and federal law.

They do not address evidence and testimony about direction from the nation’s attorney general and the top federal New York prosecutor to have put Cohen in jail but dropped any ongoing investigation of Trump himself in the same schemes. They do not address what is so great about lying to the American voters before the 2016 election to shield Trump from perceived unpopular blowback from his untoward encounters with women.

A Preferred Message

What we need to hear from these Republican leaders is how the nation is supposed to deal with a presidential candidate who faces jail — however practically remote that reality will be in a legal age of constant appeal and the need for his personal safety.

Just as with the election itself, we need reassurance that there is a system of laws in place, and not a system that turns itself inside out to absolve Trump because he did serve as president.

The biggest service the Republican leadership could provide is for stability and support for a judicial process that is built around adversarial argument. They could be standing for Trump with a message that courage is owning up to one’s acts, even if they dispute whether the described behavior constitutes felony violations.

They could be at the court to say that witnesses and jurors should not fear retribution from any of the Trump faithful who decide to undertake what they see as reprisal actions against individuals. They could and should be supporting the court.

Instead, as Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., blurted out, they are there to speak anti-witness words aimed at demeaning and undercutting trial testimony to get around Trump’s gag order.

It is a poor showing for these individuals and for Trump himself — as candidate as well as defendant.