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Two men say they’re Jesus, one of them must be wrong

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This very matter of fact story about how the Republican nominee for president’s 2024 campaign is going to face major logistical issues because he’s going to be dealing with multiple criminal trials, and multiple civil trials dealing with underlying criminal conduct, is the kind of thing that would have seemed incomprehensible not very long ago:

Already, Mr. Trump is facing a state trial on civil fraud accusations in New York in October. Another trial on whether he defamed the writer E. Jean Carroll is set to open on Jan. 15 — the same day as the Iowa caucuses. On Jan. 29, a trial begins in yet another lawsuit, this one accusing Mr. Trump, his company and three of his children of using the family name to entice vulnerable people to invest in sham business opportunities.

Because those cases are civil, Mr. Trump could choose not to attend the trials, just as he shunned an earlier lawsuit by Ms. Carroll, in which a jury found him liable for sexual abuse.

But he will not have that option in a criminal case on charges in New York that he falsified business records as part of covering up a sex scandal shortly before the 2016 election. The opening date for that trial, which will most likely last several weeks, is in late March, about three weeks after Super Tuesday, when over a dozen states vote on March 5.

Jack Smith, the special counsel leading two federal investigations into Mr. Trump, has asked the judge overseeing the indictment in the criminal inquiry into Mr. Trump’s hoarding of sensitive documents to set a trial date for late 2023.

But on Tuesday — the same day Mr. Trump disclosed that federal prosecutors may charge him in the investigation into the events that culminated in the Capitol riot — his defense lawyers argued to Judge Aileen M. Cannon that she ought to put off any trial in the documents case until after the 2024 election. The intense publicity of the campaign calendar, they said, would impair his rights.

Mr. Trump has long pursued a strategy of delay in legal matters, seeking to run out the clock. If he can push his federal trial — or trials, if he is ultimately indicted in the Jan. 6 inquiry — beyond the 2024 election, it is possible that he or another Republican would win the presidency and order the Justice Department to drop the cases.

Donald Trump’s situation is open to two radically divergent interpretations:

(1) Trump is a career criminal, whose criminality is finally catching up with him, after 77 years of being largely shielded from any consequences for it by his immense social privilege and (quasi) wealth.

(2) What’s really going on here is that a wholly or at least mostly innocent man is being persecuted by his political enemies.

Interpretation (2) is obviously false, but obviously false interpretations can be very persuasive when the alternative is facing up to the actual facts of the matter. The actual facts of the matter here are that a frankly sociopathic career criminal is going to be the Republican nominee for president, and indeed is pursuing the office primarily in order to abuse its powers so he can stay out of jail.

Somehow this all reminds me of the story of Sabbatai Zevi, a (spoiler alert) false messiah of the 17th century Jewish world. The detail of this extremely interesting saga that appeals to me the most is that after Zevi was forced by the threat of execution to convert to Islam — a development that one would think would have been rather discouraging to his followers — the fervor surrounding his claims to be the Messiah only grew in many quarters.

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