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Trump Should Fight
Fire With Fire

John Adams may have summed up the American experiment best: “We are a government of laws, not men.” This was the origin of all talk of a “rule of law.” 

Alas, we are currently a nation in manifest decline. Accordingly, “rule of law,” the cornerstone of our judicial system, must be radically reassessed. The concept, much like the justice system as a whole, has been contaminated, perhaps irrevocably, by bad-faith actors, for which the Constitution, understood in its proper, historical context, is totally foreign. Our historic Constitution ought to be understood as hopelessly forgotten by those now tasked to defend its sacred tenets. And so accounts for the present chaos.

Enter Alvin Bragg, chaos made flesh, whose occupation it is said to be to uphold the “rule of law.” Of course, in an age where sophisticated deep-state actors can manipulate critical swaths of public opinion on a whim by tinkering with the mechanics of the modern-day bureaucratic state, “rule of law” is transformed into “rule by propaganda,” a rogue powerplay in which the victor is determined by that side with the largest megaphone. 

In theory, this would seem to doom Donald Trump’s prospects of a comeback—and whatever traces of the old America that remain. The Left’s monopoly of power within every institution of import goes a long way towards explaining why someone as mediocre as Bragg can invent out of thin air the legal terminology the rest of us are all forced to accept. We find ourselves unwittingly down a hopeless rabbit hole, wherein the world is recast in the image of Bragg’s pitifully wanting intellect, by which any opposition engages in endless and ultimately futile debate over whether the “crime” charged has any legal basis. 

Meanwhile, we are left to rationalize why this witch hunt is not a question about whether Donald Trump, a former president, is “above” or “below” the law, as if we are talking about “the law” in any meaningful sense of the term. 

By arguing in these terms, we have already lost because we have prima facie adopted the Left’s legal frame of reference hook, line, and sinker. Now, it may not be possible to fully escape that matrix, given how deep the corruption runs in our judicial system. Ergo, rule of law should be understood to mean rule by force of will in dealings with the Left. 

Still, it is easier than it appears to transform and elevate public opinion—even in, or perhaps especially in, this atmosphere of moribund and contrived deep state agitprop.  The question therefore becomes how best to exploit the same mechanisms now weaponized by Trump’s enemies to countersignal an alternative narrative: namely, one that both undermines Bragg’s authority and the regime and its narrative in general.

How might this be done? 

One only need look to the grand spectacle of Trump’s New York City homecoming—an entire section of Fifth Avenue was cordoned off; the block around Trump tower was barricaded; several helicopters flew overhead, while masses of peripatetic onlookers flooded the streets. The entire scene was historic, not simply for the solemn gravity of the occasion, but also for how large and unprecedented in scale as a media event it was.

That latter fact should not be lost on Trump and his team of lawyers, who are looking to make a case against a system that has already determined the president’s fate, evidenced by how factually deficient each and every one of the 34 “counts” found in Bragg’s indictment were. From day one, the Left had already decided that Trump would be guilty. He is guilty in their minds of whatever he is charged because his one true crime—standing for the American people and putting their interests first—exposed their own. Trump was convicted on the day he descended the escalator in June of 2015. He is an enemy of the regime.

Trump’s true power, which is the unspoken source of authority in a mass democracy, is his unrivaled ability to choreograph narratives that make him and his policies an attention-grabbing spectacle. That source of authority, which might be classified as “extra-legal” or “extra-constitutional,” in the end commands greater power than conventional legal mechanisms, which merely verbalize and incubate values born of state propaganda.

In the modern state, and particularly in a regime like the United States today, authority derives not from some valueless and amorphous “rule of law,” a legal fiction at this point. We know now the “rule of law,” like “Our Democracy™” is merely the written or logographic expression of regime-manufactured “culture;” its authority derives not from its substance, but from who controls the channels by which such propaganda is disseminated among the body politic.  

Thus, even though most of the press generated in response to the Bragg indictment and Trump’s homecoming was “negative” with respect to Trump, the old adage “any publicity is good publicity” is truly what matters for establishing legitimacy. Because nobody can hold a candle to what Trump can do in terms of generating a mass spectacle, Trump must continue to exploit that power—and to weaponize it in such a way as to force the hand of his enemies. 

While the regime’s courts may not give Trump a fair trial, the real trial and the real jury is to be found in the court of public opinion. Public opinion is manufactured consent, by and large. Trump offers the most potent antidote—and only meaningful alternative—to the prevailing narrative of the regime. Because Trump’s message is, in contrast with that of the regime, positive, life-affirming, and accommodating of (rather than in opposition to) nature, it makes his offering even more powerful.

Trump has the singular ability to destroy the regime narrative, which looks increasingly like anti-theology, for good. This is the real reason he is considered so dangerous to his enemies. This formula pairs mastering the art of publicity with the art of truth telling, which appeals to the better angels of a citizenry, even one that has been subjected to rapacious indoctrination and all sorts of spiritual, intellectual, and physical castration. The sooner Trump and his lawyers recognize this authority, the better positioned they will be to fight back against a terminally rigged justice system. 

In America, law is process, process, and more process. Trump’s art of publicity offers a far superior process than anything that might be conceivable using conventional juridical channels. Trump may have no other option than to cooperate with the rules established by Bragg, but his scope should not be limited to those procedures offered by the justice system alone. 

Instead, Trump should broaden his horizons for what is possible in terms of establishing his innocence. He should thus use the authority from his bully pulpit not only to demonstrate his innocence but to drive a nail into the coffin of whatever morsel of legitimacy remains in those institutions seeking to toll his political death knell. That would establish a new, greater source of legitimacy, one finally grounded in truth, out of which a new regime might come to life from out of the ash heap of the old.

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About Paul Ingrassia

Paul Ingrassia is a Claremont Publius and John Marshall Fellow and served in President Trump’s National Economic Council. He graduated from Cornell Law School in 2022. His Twitter handle is: @PaulIngrassia.

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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