This week alone, Donald Trump has attacked career prosecutors because they refused to go along with a political decision to interfere in the sentencing of one of Trump’s advisers. Trump has also taken multiple swings at the federal judge involved in the case, including demanding a do-over for his pal Roger Stone after Stone was convicted on seven out of seven counts. But as bad as those attacks on the justice system may be, there’s one other thrust from Trump that may be the most deadly to anything resembling impartial justice: Trump has been attacking jurors.
Leveraging a statement from the jury foreman that they thought the U.S. attorneys involved in the case were “honorable,” Trump has made multiple assertions that the jury was biased against Stone from the start. Not only that, but he has tweeted attacks against the jury foreman by name, destroying the concept that a private citizen serving on a jury out of civic duty deserves to be shielded from political pressure and threats.
Trump’s attack on the jurors isn’t just a head-on assault on the American system of jurisprudence; it’s also a slam at the attorneys. Not the U.S. attorneys—Stone’s attorneys. After all, every one of the jurors survived questioning and challenges from Stone’s legal team to be seated. The transcript of the jury selection even shows Stone’s team learning that a juror had previously been a Democratic candidate for office and declaring themselves fine with it. Trump is creating a standard by which there’s no trial in America that could hold up. Or at least, no trial that Trump wants to see hold up.
And it’s not just Trump. Naturally, Fox News is all-in on the idea of attacking the privacy and assumed independence of jurors. Judge Andrew Napolitano has been all over this topic, insisting that the juror had an obligation to reveal information that very much was revealed during the jury selection. In fact, Stone’s attorneys were absolutely aware that some of the jurors had political positions opposed to Trump, with the transcript showing an attorney questioning one potential juror’s previous response, repeating, “Your answer was supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. Deeply opposed to everything Donald Trump stands for,” and the juror responding, “Yes.”
Stone’s attorney accepted that juror, along with others who said they had political positions opposed to Trump. There is no basis here for any retrial unless Stone wants to file an appeal on the grounds that his counsel was inadequate, which is a tough play, considering the essentially unlimited funds he had available to surround himself with a multimember team.
In many ways, Trump’s attack on the jurors resembles another campaign that he and his Republican allies just waged: the one against the intelligence community whistleblower whose information spurred the investigation that led to Trump’s impeachment. In that case, the whistleblower’s role was simply to bring information to the attention of authorities—no different than someone who called in on a tip line, or sent police anonymous information about a potential crime. The identity and motivations of the whistleblower mattered not one whit as soon as that role was performed. Not one piece of evidence came from the whistleblower. Not one action taken was based on testimony by the whistleblower.
But the IG whistleblower and Stone trial juror both represent something that Trump, and Fox, cannot stand: ordinary people trying to do the right thing, even in the face of pressure from the powerful. When that happens, Republicans spring into action. To attack. To threaten. To demean.
Because until people learn that they should just shut up around their betters, the world just can’t be the way that Trump and his allies demand.