A total eclipse of Donald Trump: First felony trial could finally humble him

Donald Trump faces the first of four felony trials in less than a week and boy is he scared

By Brian Karem


Published April 11, 2024 9:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump | The 2024 Total Solar Eclipse (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump | The 2024 Total Solar Eclipse (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

“So the universe is not quite as you thought it was. You’d better rearrange your beliefs, then. Because you certainly can’t rearrange the universe.”

  • Isaac Asimov “Nightfall” 1941

Total solar eclipses over the heartland of America are rare. But they are totally normal celestial events.

Donald Trump isn’t rare these days; unfortunately, we see him every day.  But his actions are increasingly abnormal. They’re getting that way because next week he’s potentially facing the first of four criminal trials which could lead to prison time for Trump. Three times a judge has denied him a motion that would delay his trial.

While philosophers may opine about the recent solar eclipse with far more erudition than I, let me simply say that it’s doubtful we took the hint. I know Trump didn’t. He has no ability to express humility.

With the efficiency and simplicity of someone flicking on and off a light switch, I witnessed from the birthplace of John Mellencamp (Seymour, Indiana if you can’t look it up) what millions across the country saw: The sun was turned off and then on, plunging us into total darkness and then back into the bright light of day three minutes later.

It was an awesome display of celestial mechanics, but pales in comparison to the mechanics of the justice system holding Donald Trump accountable for his disruptive, divisive and illegal activities. Much as the ancient viewers of total solar eclipses once were, Trump today is in the pit of despair – and he’s melting down.

His emails to followers are pointed and accusatory. He complains Biden will fundraise off of his courtroom drama while Trump campaigns and fundraises off his courtroom drama. “None of these BIDEN TRIALS should be allowed to take place during my campaign. They’re all rigged and political,” Trump wrote in one recent dispatch.

It’s everyone else’s fault. The fix is in. As much as the celestial mechanics of a total eclipse are commonly known, so are the reactions of Donald Trump when someone tries to hold him accountable for something he’s done.

The total eclipse of the sun should bring about a bit of humility. The Universe doesn’t care about our petty squabbles. It certainly doesn’t care about Trump – as much as he would like to think he’s the center of the Universe. His hubris and arrogance aren’t rare in a society that ignores science and puts people ahead of property and competition ahead of cooperation. That’s probably Trump’s mantra.

This week the demonic angel of despair and divisiveness remains as angry and as scared as I’ve ever seen him. I doubt there’s a safe ketchup bottle within 100 miles of Mar-a-Lago. Trump is scared out of his befouled shorts. His former CFO Allen Weisselberg got sentenced to five months in jail after committing perjury in the former president’s civil fraud case. Think he’ll talk? I don’t know but, according to those in Trump’s orbit, the Donald is worried. After his third attempt to delay his trial in Manhattan was denied, there’s no doubt Trump has slipped a cog.

But, let’s be honest, Donny Darko isn’t the only one.

This week a Robert F. Kennedy Jr. campaign official was exposed for promoting false claims that the 2020 election was rigged. At the same time, Rita Palma, a New York activist working for Kennedy boasted that his candidacy is a way to block President Biden from being re-elected.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, meanwhile, still wants to dump Michael Johnson, the Republican House speaker, because he won’t anoint her queen and offer subservience to her lunacy.

And finally in today’s Top Ten list, “Weird things we’d like to blame on the eclipse but can’t” sponsored by David Letterman, the New York Times came out with a blistering analysis of Donald Trump that claims he “grossly distorts his opponents’ records” and “exaggerates and twists the fact”, often turns his criminal cases into rallying cries, makes up unverifiable claims, continues to scream about the “rigged election” and describes the United States as a “Nation in Ruins.”

That’s news? It sounds like every day I spent covering Trump during his presidency.

We need your help to stay independent

As much as evangelical Christians, astrologists, numerologists, Big Foot hunters, those who believe in spirits, fairies, conspiracy theorists, and alien hybrids would love to give credit to the eclipse for what they see as signs of society’s apocalypse, the fact is we’re back to blaming ourselves – or at least Donald Trump — for this nonsense.  I’m waiting for some MAGA member of our technologically medieval society to burn their own village as a show of support or frustration – you know, much like University of Kentucky basketball fans do whenever their team loses a coach or wins or loses an important ball game.

The facts show that all of this creepy news is due to the fact that Donald Trump has been normalized by too many members of the press. It’s as if we’re shocked and what has been going on with Trump for the last decade is new to us.

Jim Acosta mentioned Tuesday on CNN that he was stunned that Trump faces no backlash for accusing Biden of using cocaine before a recent speech and former and former Republican presidential candidate and CNN analyst Joe Walsh backed up Acosta, saying it is part of the “normalization” of Trump by the pressThe New York Times offering insights into Trump that aren’t actually anything new underscores how we’ve simply and collectively forgotten that Donald Trump is a slithering slimeball. 

He denounced a near-total ban on abortion in Arizona while proudly claiming responsibility for the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade which enabled the state action in Arizona. He’s selling $60 Bibles while being unable to recite a single verse in it.

We in the media continue to treat him as a legitimate candidate while half of the electorate agrees. Every time Donald Trump goes after a judge, a jury, witnesses or his charges, we cover it – but curiously we never mention Judge Aileen Cannon. Trump never goes after the judge in the Mar-a-Lago documents case against him. “That’s because she’s a MAGA sycophant,” a prosecutor close to the case explained. Maybe that’s worth reporting a little more often. 

Perhaps we should be covering Trump based on the facts – and not the blathering, bloviated nonsense he spouts on a daily basis. I don’t care about the wild and dramatic ramblings of the demented former president. The fact is Trump has more reasons to fear the coming months than Middle Age peasants feared a solar eclipse. The eclipse, while humbling, isn’t a threat to our existence. Next week Trump will face a case in court that is a threat to his existence – even though it’s considered the weakest case against him.

The truth is much different.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

While he faces charges related to insurrection, election denial, and classified documents that sound extremely frightening, and are, there is no doubt about the facts in the Manhattan district attorney’s case against Trump. They are solid. Rock solid. 

I worked with Michael Cohen for many months on “Revenge,” his latest book that deals with the facts that have led to the charges against Trump in New York. Trump paid off Stormy Daniels for her silence. He didn’t want people knowing he’d been having fun with her. He used Cohen to pay her and he did it to hide that fact from potential voters. While you can pay off anyone you want, it was hiding the payoff that really hurts Donald. In the state of New York it’s a misdemeanor. But it became a felony when it became tied to a federal election.

Having researched this for months, it’s obvious what was done and why. And right now, Trump will do anything to keep from facing those charges because he knows exactly what he did. If you’ve ever seen “My Cousin Vinny” you also know that through discovery Trump has all the factual information that will be presented against him. 

On background, one of the people close to the prosecution maintains that “Trump is toast.”

His only hope is to find one juror who loves him and will see it his way. In Manhattan, that’s not a likelihood. So, the next few weeks Donald will remain extremely tense, cornered and frightened. And we all know the danger of cornering a New York sewer rat.

“Defense?” my source said on background, “It’s in de-backyard. He has no defense and he knows it.”

Other than hoping for a sympathetic juror, Trump’s best effort in court will be in trying to discredit Michael Cohen – who made the payoff for him. Trump has already tried to do that as often as the sun rises, and has been successful fewer times than I’ve personally witnessed a total solar eclipse. 

The reason why he has been unsuccessful is because of the paper trail that Trump can neither deny nor explain away.

Donald Trump is, for the first time, facing something he can’t wish away or pay off.

In the Science Fiction Novella “Nightfall”, Isaac Asimov postulates how a civilization would face a solar eclipse in a multiple star solar system that only experienced night once every two thousand years.

“It's one thing to predict [the complete breakdown of civilization]. It's something else again to be right in the middle of it. It's a very humbling thing,” a character in the novel noted.

The recent total solar eclipse didn’t lead to a breakdown of civilization – and we aren’t in the middle of one.

But Donald Trump is and the Manhattan case against him will be the first of four blows from which he will likely not recover. It should be “a very humbling thing.”

By Brian Karem

Brian Karem is the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He has covered every presidential administration since Ronald Reagan, sued Donald Trump three times successfully to keep his press pass, spent time in jail to protect a confidential source, covered wars in the Middle East and is the author of seven books. His latest is "Free the Press."

MORE FROM Brian Karem

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Commentary Donald Trump Elections 2024 Hush Money Trial Solar Eclipse Stormy Daniels