Why Trump Will Most Likely Be Convicted If Any Trial Moves Forward

tl;dr: Trump is a nightmare client & nightmare clients don't do well in criminal courts

[Trump in court]

Yesterday, I wrote a post that offered some context and critique of the Georgia RICO indictment. One common response to the post was profound frustration at how poor a job our various political and legal systems have done dealing with this once-in-multiple-generations individual.

I totally resonate with that frustration and it’s a well-founded one. It’s something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about. For many of us, former President Trump is so uniquely qualified to exploit many weaknesses of our various systems it almost feels like he’s a product of science (or a higher being) created to test us. But that’s the subject of, perhaps, a future post.

Instead, in an attempt to balance my OTB commentary karma, I want to explain why I firmly believe, barring a major health event, Trump is going to end up being convicted in Federal or State court.

As many of you probably heard, in response to Prosecutor Fanni Willis’ indictment of him in Fulton County, Georgia on RICO charges, Trump responded in typical fashion: promising a press conference that will feature “A Large, Complex, Detailed but Irrefutable REPORT on the Presidential Election Fraud which took place in Georgia.”

Former President Donald Trump says he will hold a press conference this coming Monday in response to a Georgia grand jury indicting Trump and 18 allies on racketeering charges.

Trump claimed in a Truth Social post Tuesday that a report from his team was conducted on the “presidential election fraud” and that all charges should be dropped based on the findings of that report.


Trump has a long history of using theatrical press conferences to get his message out and “prove” things, often with lots of props. Part of his unique power as a public figure is his sense of performance. And therein lies his legal downfall.

Simply put, his need to manage his public image and his decision to focus on that above all else makes him, from a criminal legal perspective, a client from hell. And clients from hell do really poorly in court. We’ve seen what has befallen other clients from hell in civil court (see for example Jones, A). And we are currently seeing this play out in criminal court with one Sam Bankman-Fried.

Holding the sort of press conference that Trump is promising might make PR sense, but his lawyers understand that there is a high probability that all he will ultimately do is create more evidence to be used against him at trial (as was the case with his PR around the E. Jean Carroll case).

Former President Donald Trump’s promised press conference to refute the allegations in the indictment handed up by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office is now very much in doubt, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

Sources tell ABC News that Trump’s legal advisers have told him that holding such a press conference with dubious claims of voter fraud will only complicate his legal problems and some of his attorneys have advised him to cancel it.


Trump’s lawyers are 100% correct. The best legal strategy for Trump is to STFU and stop… “truthing”(?) about the case. And he is 100% incapable of exercising that type of discipline. And that is what ultimately will get him convicted if any of the trials move forward.

Additionally, unlike in civil court, the standard in criminal trials is for the defendant to be present. The right for the accused to confront their accusers is so important to American jurisprudence that it’s enshrined in the Bill of Rights. In fact, Lawfare just did a podcast episode on the challenges that Trump will face–at least at the Federal level–if he chooses not to attend his trials.

Assuming that Trump has to attend any of his criminal trials, it is difficult seeing him capable of sitting through the proceedings without wanting to take the stand to defend himself. I cannot stress how bad that would be for him and how much his legal team would discourage that.

Do I think the promised press conference will happen? No. Much like infrastructure week (TY Daryl) or his promises to pay for everyone’s food, the conference will most likely get memory-holed. However, this overall behavior pattern, being a pattern, is going to happen over and over and over again. And that will continue to create problems.

Even if he is able to get out of attending (which also could be a really bad look from a jury reaction perspective), any statements Trump makes about the trial, the facts involved, or his innocence whether on Truth Social or on the campaign trail can be brought into the trial as evidence (we saw a similar thing play out in real-time with Alex Jones). In order to avoid that from happening, Trump would, again, need the discipline not to talk about any of the cases. I’ve already shared my position on that possibility.

Beyond the strength of the case (note that none of Trump’s defenders are disputing the core facts), it’s Trump own behavior that will eventually cause his downfall. The only question is whether or not that happens before 11/4/2024 or not.

And, here’s where I end this column on two potential downers:

  1. Unless these trials move at a rate never before seen at the Federal or State level, neither is going to be done by Election Day 2024. In fact, there is a pretty good chance none of them will begin their trial phases by that date. This means, assuming the Republican base does not abandon him and there is no serious health crisis, Trump will be the Republican nominee and will be President unless we, as an American People, vote against him. In this case the adage “No one is coming, it’s up to us” is especially true.
  2. Even if he is convicted, and I believe he will be, there is little chance that Trump will be incarcerated. I know that a common fantasy is to see former President Trump die in jail. It came up in yesterday’s comments. The reality is, no matter how bad you think his crimes are, the chances of him being incarcerated after conviction are highly unlikely given the crimes he committed and past treatment of individuals in similar positions. Additionally things like his status as a first-time offender and current Federal and State sentencing practices back up this position. As always a lot of things need to happen before we even get to that point, and a lot can happen. So there is always a possibility, but nothing I have seen yet convinces me that it’s a serious probability.

So those are my thoughts. I’m sure you have your own and, as usual, I’ll be watching the comments and try to respond when I can.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, 2024 Election, Crime, Law and the Courts, Policing, The Presidency, US Constitution, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Matt Bernius
About Matt Bernius
Matt Bernius is a design researcher working to create more equitable government systems and experiences. He's currently a Principal User Researcher on Code for America's "GetCalFresh" program, helping people apply for SNAP food benefits in California. Prior to joining CfA, he worked at Measures for Justice and at Effective, a UX agency. Matt has an MA from the University of Chicago.


  1. Daryl says:

    It is my bet that this press conference will be postponed until after Infrastructure Week.

  2. Daryl says:

    Some additional reporting in addition to the ABC quote Matt hi-lighted, above.

  3. Kathy says:

    I wonder how many of the various prosecutors are dying to cross examine the Cheeto under oath.

    On the one hand, I can picture them practicing the lines, “Do you know perjury is a crime in this jurisdiction?” On the other, he may as well answer every question with “fifth!”

    Unless these trials move at a rate never before seen at the Federal or State level, neither is going to be done by Election Day 2024.

    That is quite possible. My wild guess is he’ll plead out after he loses the election.

    Even if he is convicted, and I believe he will be, there is little chance that Trump will be incarcerated.

    I tend to agree, even though it would set a terrible example for the next would-be dictators, especially those on the right.

    And, who knows, the English found the courage to execute their king in the 1600s. Americans might find the courage to incarcerate a former White House occupant.

  4. CSK says:

    I don’t know if this is OT, but a Texas woman, Abigail Jo Shry, has been arrested for leaving a voice mail message for Judge Chutkan threatening to kill her. In making the threat, she used the word “n*****.”

    Her father says Abigail is an alcoholic who gets upset by what she hears on the news.

    Anyone involved with the prosecution of Trump should be very careful. It’s a lousy way to live, but sadly, it seems necessary.

  5. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    Matt, I really appreciate the clear and concise turns on the karmic wheel both yesterday and today. While I am most assuredly not a lawyer, I do have three decades being involved in all aspects of being the junior assistant spear carrier. Clients like His Orangeness have broken the hearts, souls, and bank accounts of many attorneys in the American jurisprudence system. The only part about this where I don’t feel sorry for his attorneys is they all knew what a fuster cluck this was before they signed up. This entire mess features all you can eat servings of hubris for everybody involved on his side.

  6. Not the IT Dept. says:

    I made a comment in another thread yesterday about Trump in a setting with normal people and how it will not make him look good. The photo above, I think, makes that point. (I know they’re his lawyers so not exactly “normal” as we might define it.) He looks like something that that’s already been embalmed and the stuffing is coming out of his head. No TV make-up or lighting or flattering camera angles, and he looks pathetic.

  7. DK says:

    @Kathy: Hehe. The nervous English lost their nerve, restored the monarchy just over a decade later, then hounded, hunted, exiled, and executed their regicides. They’ve been pretty committed monarchists since.

    Hopefully we have tougher spines than that. I expect house arrest is the best we can hope for with Trump, the Traitor. The reality, as Bernius and I discussed yesterday, is that these high profile, controversial, more-political-than-usual prosecutions often result in acquittal.

    Although the sheer number of charges Trump is facing (91?!) may serve as insurance for a guilty verdict on something.

  8. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    [Puts on Michael Reynolds mask] “Trump is going to prison” is the new “Jesus is coming again” of the current American Left civil religion. As kind as it is for you to try to remind people

    The reality is, no matter how bad you think his crimes are, the chances of him being incarcerated after conviction are highly unlikely given the crimes he committed and past treatment of individuals in similar positions,

    Matt, your service is in vain. At the end of the day, just like after Watergate, some will be weeping bitter tears at how the process played out. Such is life. Vindication comes after everyone who you wish would see it has already gone. Every time.

    ETA: We now return you to your regularly scheduled Two-minute Hate.

  9. Kathy says:


    All analogies break down. We don’t know what the political situation will be in 10 years.

  10. Daryl says:

    Even if he is convicted, and I believe he will be, there is little chance that Trump will be incarcerated.

    Of course, Matt is correct.
    If convicted they will release him pending appeal, and that process will be drawn out long enough that he will pass of natural causes (hamberders) before it ever ends.

  11. SC_Birdflyte says:

    A headsman decapitated Charles I. The guillotine decapitated Louis XIV. Trump may become the first ruler to decapitate himself (oh please oh please).

  12. Matt Bernius says:


    If convicted they will release him pending appeal,

    I had not considered that and I 100% agree with this as a probable fallback if any prison time is included.

  13. CSK says:


    And the MAGAs will blame it on the Deep State.

  14. JohnSF says:

    “The nervous English lost their nerve … They’ve been pretty committed monarchists since.”
    A bit of a simplification.
    The execution of Charles I was considered a bit iffy by many at the time, and essentially only bulldozed through by Cromwell & Ireton.
    Fairfax, Monck, Montagu etc wanted nothing to do with it. And were quite happy to sacrifice the regicides as the price of settlement, on the basis that they considered them a bunch of arseholes.
    As for “committed monarchists”: the Restoration settlement was on terms, if not explicit ones.
    The basis of the deal being, “the monarch reigns, the gentry rules, and we all pretend otherwise.”
    As Charles II was smart enough to understand, but brother James was not.
    Hence 1688 and all that.

  15. CSK says:


    Ah, yes, The Glorious Revolution.

  16. JohnSF says:

    aka the Dutch Invasion we don’t like to talk about. 😉

  17. DK says:


    The basis of the deal being, “the monarch reigns, the gentry rules, and we all pretend otherwise.”

    Which begs the question: why have a monarchy at all?

    Charles’s execution was legally iffy, yes. He was bulldozed and railroaded, true. But a lot of folks were glad to see him beheaded, and I can understand why. Tyrannical rule that foments Civil War does not always go over well, as Trump I is finding out.

    Henry VIII was a worse tyrant, but he held his country together at least.

  18. MarkedMan says:

    @JohnSF: Which just goes to show that the “writers” (I.e. all of us) have a way easier time responsible than those who write fiction. If you simply transcribe real life and slap on fake names it usually comes out sounding like third rate fiction.

  19. JohnSF says:

    Charles II was not much of a tyrant, as tyrants go. “An unfortunate sequence of events” is more like it.

    A lot of people were glad to see him gone, as he was a mendacious fool; but disliked the way it was done even more. Parliamentary prerogative execution was a thing (see Strafford and Laud) but Charles case was really stretching it.

    A lot of moderate Parliamentarians, including ones who’d led armies against Charles, looked at the case and thought “if him, why not me?”.

    Key difference with Henry VIII was he (and Elizabeth I for that matter) did not cross the gentry red lines re taxation, use of law, and gentry local power.

    Plus the whole religious aspect re. Puritans vs Laud, and the simultaneous intersection of English, Irish and Scottish crises.
    e.g. Charles’ fall had started with the Covenanter revolt of the Lowland Scots; and ended with him and the Covenanters in alliance, the Presbyterian Parliamentarians being in two minds re the Scots, the Cromwellian “Independents” of the New Model Army executing Charles. and crushing the Covenanter Scots at the Battle of Dunbar.

    As to “why a monarch”: it was very difficult for the English of that time to actually conceive a viable alternative to a monarchy.
    The “English Republic” was in fact mostly a Protectorate of Cromwell as stand-in monarch, supported by the “Puritans”.

    And one thing most English were decided upon by 1660 was that the Puritans were a PITA.
    See also: French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte.

    The US was rather unusual at achieving, and sustaining, a republican settlement from the first time around.
    And even that was in part because certain other issues were never even considered.

  20. CSK says:

    Trump wants his Jan. 6 trial moved to April 2026.

  21. Blue Galangal says:

    @JohnSF: Amen to all of that. Cromwell oversaw, nay, promulgated horrible policies in Ireland, worse than almost any actual British monarch except for Victoria and the Great Famine.

  22. Daryl says:

    Trump has cancelled his Monday Presser that was never going to happen. ROTFLMAO

  23. JohnSF says:

    @Blue Galangal:
    Cromwell, and other Parliamentarian/Puritan types (see in particular Ireton: he was a brave fighter for the Parliamentary cause in England, but an utter arsehole in Ireland) could never escape their Puritan anti-Catholic and English-chauvinist views.
    But this was hardly unusual: the Scots Covenanters were quite prepared to fight to try to impose Presbyterianism on England.
    Just as some Irish forces would merrily slaughter Scots or English or other enemies.

    And the Famine (and I say this as someone who’d happily have put a lead ball in Charles Trevelyan’s head) was an horror of emission, rather than commission: the Anglo-Irish aristocracy had no interest in seeing their rent-paying tenantry dying.
    See also Bengal Famines.

  24. CSK says:


    Well, damn, I was right. Trump is saying his lawyers want him to save this irrefutable evidence for the trial. 😀

  25. Matt Bernius says:

    Can I adequately convey how much I cherish that this thread d/evolved into an unpacking of Cromwell and the English Civil War?

    Y’all rock.

    I saw that and I will be updating the post.

  26. Not the IT Dept. says:


    Not Louis XIV but Louis XVI lost his head. Sorry to be pedantic but XIV died in his bed after one of the longest reigns in French history.

  27. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: You are absolutely correct. Damned fat-finger syndrome!

  28. bernice says:

    all i want trump and his entire household to do is FLOAT AWAY

  29. Gavin says:

    Anyone interested in the specifics of most of the important revolutions should check out Revolutions podcast for hundreds of hours of detailed history. I’m up to the South American revolutions against the Spanish king.

    The tears of very special MAGA snowflakes are priceless.

  30. al Ameda says:


    A headsman decapitated Charles I. The guillotine decapitated Louis XIV. Trump may become the first ruler to decapitate himself (oh please oh please).

    You brought me back to around 1970, the band Traffic, their song ‘40,000 Headmen.’
    The song had great lyrics, the opening is what I remember … Thanks.

    40,000 headmen couldn’t make me change my mind
    If had to make the choice between the deaf man and the blind
    I know just where my feet should go and that’s enough for me
    So I turned around and knocked them down
    And walked across the sea