Musician-turned-writer Lawrence Donegan is a 15-year resident of the United States and observer of his adopted country’s political, cultural and sporting scene. 

In the run up to the US election, Lawrence will be reporting for The Herald on what will be a tumultuous year for the world’s most powerful country. His first dispatch looks ahead to the first of Trump’s four criminal trials, which begins in New York on Monday.

Never in the history of American jurisprudence has a self-proclaimed, innocent man tried to stave off the scrutiny of a jury with the energy and creativity (some might say desperation) that Trump has shown this week as he prepares to step into a courtroom in New York, the first former president of the United States in history to face trial on criminal charges.

Amid their client’s endless social media tirades against so-called “corrupt judges”  and the “politically motivated Biden Justice Department”, lawyers for Trump have littered the hallways of the New York Supreme Court with paperwork aimed at delaying Monday’s start of his trial on charges of falsifying business records. 

Motions to delay, motions to dismiss, motions to recuse “conflicted” trial judge Juan Merchan, motions to appeal the denial of the motions to dismiss and delay and recuse. 
You name it, All the President’s Briefs have argued it, up to and including calling for the case to be dismissed because of the pre-trial publicity – a bit rich given the former president can’t go 10 minutes without raging on his Truth Social platform about the “unequal” system of justice being used against him.  
That motion went the way of all the other motions. Dismissed.

Innocence lost
All in all, it has been quite a performance from Team Trump. But amid the noise generated, the novel legal theories floated and the many millions of dollars spent on legal fees,  one question has continued to blink with the nagging persistence of a lighthouse in the fog – if Trump is as innocent as he claims, why isn’t he breaking down the courthouse doors in his haste to get a not guilty verdict from a jury of his peers?

One day, legal scholars will write books about an American judicial system that allows highly-motivated criminal defendants with unlimited funds to delay, and in some cases avoid, their day in court, while John and Jane Doe are swept through the legal system like corks on the ripping tide. But, Truth Social media platform for the moment, all eyes are on Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, starting 9am, April 15.

Barring a last minute reprieve – one of the wilder theories doing the rounds in these final hours – is that Trump is contemplating firing his lawyers and then asking the court to delay the case while he looks for new representation. The jury will be sworn in, after which both sides will lay out their case and the presentation of evidence will begin.  

The court will sit four days a week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. According to Judge Merchan, the trial is expected to last six weeks. In the recent civil case brought by the State of New York over a separate set of charges accusing him of defrauding insurance companies and banks by misrepresenting the value of his properties, Trump’s presence in court was voluntary and he only pitched up for a handful of sessions. 
As a defendant in a criminal case, he is required to attend.

Disruptive behavior
In the civil case, which ultimately cost him in excess of $450 million (he’s appealing the verdict, needless to say), he was repeatedly warned about his disruptive behaviour in court and, especially, his inflammatory comments about the sitting judge in the courthouse lobby afterwards. 

He got off lightly in that instance but the criminal courts play by a different set of rules. Trump has already been warned by Merchan that if he steps out of line he faces a range of sanctions, from fines to a night in the cells with the vagabonds of the New York criminal elite.

“I would be proud to go to jail for contempt,” the former president said this week. If you believe that, then you’ll believe a degree from the Trump University is worth the paper it’s written on. We are talking about a man who once described the White House to friends as “a dump”. 

Read more: 'Harry Potter' steam train operators announce return of service

Almost £400k spent on hate crime act promotion campaign

Globally rare truffle found in Scotland will be removed in rewilding

If that’s his standard, wait until he sees the inside of a 10x8 holding cell at Rikers Island.
The dynamic between Trump and Merchan is just one of the many subplots that will play out. His interactions with the jury will also be worth watching. Will he try to win them over with the occasional smile? 
Will he really be able to restrain himself while addressing his adoring followers at a rally? And if (when) he says something pejorative about the court proceedings, what action does the judge take?

At the core of it all, however, is the 34-count indictment filed against Trump by the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The case, colloquially known as the Porn Star Hush Money case is more prosaic than most people commonly believe.
 It revolves around payments to former adult movie actress Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) by Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen. Ms Clifford received $130,000 in the autumn of 2016 in exchange for her silence about a brief sexual encounter she had with Trump 10 years previously – an allegation that was threatening to become public at a time when Trump’s  2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton for the presidency was in trouble.

Falsified records?
So far, so titillating. But here come the boring details. Cohen paid the money out of his own pocket and was later reimbursed by the Trump Organisation, albeit that the company’s financial records were allegedly falsified to show that Cohen was being paid for “legal services”. 

Bragg’s indictment alleges this “catch-and-kill” scheme was designed to “conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election”.
Cohen, long estranged from his old boss, has already served time in prison on charges related to this very same scheme. He has since become a darling of the anti-Trump media world and host of a highly entertaining, if somewhat profane, podcast called Mea Culpa. 

He will be called as a witness for the prosecution, as will former media adviser Hope Hicks. Both are likely to prove damaging to the trial defence and in the case of Hicks, who was one of Trump’s favourite advisers, devastating to his personal morale. If his beloved Hope has turned on him, what hope does he really have?
“This case is all about the documents,’’ Cohen is fond of telling his podcast crowd. He would know. And so does Trump. He can accuse his ex-lawyer of being “crazy” and a “perjurer” but his problem is that he signed nine cheques for money that went to reimburse the lawyer for the cash he gave to Clifford. 

Indelible truth
Likewise, the Trump Organisation’s accounts incorrectly record that outgoing money to Cohen as payments made for legal services. Nothing Trump’s lawyer can say in court will erase the incriminating ink or that indelible truth.

When DA Bragg first filed his indictment last April, the consensus among the legal and political establishment in the States was that it was a notionally weak case, not least because in a highly unusual move, the prosecutor used campaign finance rules to elevate the charges from misdemeanour level to the more serious felony status. “We would say it’s about conspiring to corrupt a presidential election and then lying in New York business records to cover it up,’’ the prosecutor explained.

That sounds ominous to a layperson. As the trial date has moved closer, and Trump suffered setback after setback at the hands of the appeals courts, the establishment has come round to the same way of thinking. All 34 of the charges he faces carry a maximum of four years in prison. 

There is debate about what an equitable sentence might be in the event of a guilty verdict but there is no argument that the former president is in serious peril – legal, personal and political. 

Trump himself would deny this, of course, but his behaviour over the past few days suggest that when the eyes of the world turn to the Manhattan courthouse next week, they will be looking at a man gripped by terror as he contemplates what the next six weeks might bring.

Lawrence Donegan is the former bass player for the popular Scottish bands, The Bluebells and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and is the author of three best-selling books covering topics as wide-ranging as professional golf, rural Ireland and the world of used car salesmen in California.