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Trump’s New York Trial Is Knocking Him Off Balance

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Summary: Former President Donald Trump’s New York trial has left him frustrated and off balance. Despite his legal entanglements, he faces constraints from a judge’s schedule and gag orders. While the court spectacle draws press attention, it also limits Trump’s ability to campaign effectively during the general election season.


Washington, D.C. — By the end of the first week of his criminal trial, Donald Trump had never looked more frustrated. Confined to a worn, burgundy leather chair for hours on end — without social media to scroll or a throng of associates to entertain him — the former president listened to average New Yorkers give their opinions of him.

He weathered admonishments from the bench. He complained at the courthouse about the temperature in the room (“freezing”) and, on Friday, his gag order (“They’re taking away my constitutional rights to speak — and that includes speaking to you,” he said to reporters).

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For the first time in months, despite his many legal entanglements in New York and elsewhere, it was Trump, not his opponent, President Joe Biden, who seemed to have been thrown off balance, constrained by a judge’s schedule and gag orders as he whipsawed between the courtroom and the functions of his campaign.

And even Trump seemed to acknowledge the liability that the trial was becoming for him — and likely will be for weeks more as the general election campaign picks up and, simultaneously, his court proceedings drag on.

“I should be right now in Pennsylvania and Florida — in many other states, North Carolina, Georgia — campaigning,” Trump told reporters in the court hallway this week. “This is all coming from the Biden White House, because the guy can’t put two sentences together. He can’t campaign.”

Trump’s prosecution was not coming from the White House, in fact, but from a Democratic prosecutor in New York. To his supporters, part of Trump’s appeal as a politician has always been the show he puts on. And in that respect, the court spectacle was not a total loser for him. He drew nearly nonstop press, as cameras and reporters chronicled his every step to and from the courthouse.

News coverage of Trump and his trial easily surpassed that of Biden and his campaign stops this week. But another part of Trump’s strength has traditionally been the impression that he was in command, performing on his own terms.

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What became obvious in New York this week was that is no longer the case, with Trump confined to the courtroom and, on trial days, campaign events restricted to New York and its environs. At a minimum, that is limiting Trump’s ability to respond to the unfolding presidential campaign.

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