What happened in a New York courtroom in November had never happened before. Donald Trump was on the witness stand. the power dynamic of the courtroom had been upendeT — the defendant was not on defense, the most vulnerable person in the room was the most dominant person in the room, and the people nominally in charge could do little about it, Politico reports. Over the course of four hours Trump savaged the judge, the prosecutor, the attorney general, the case and the trial — savaged the system itself. He called the attorney general “a political hack.” He called the judge “very hostile.” He called the trial “crazy” and the court “a fraud” and the case “a disgrace.” He told the prosecutor he should be “ashamed” of himself. The judge all but pleaded repeatedly with Trump’s attorneys to “control” him. Trump said many of the same things in the same courtroom on Thursday.
While many found Trump’s conduct in court shocking, for Trump it is not shocking at all. Trump and his allies say he is the victim of the weaponization of the justice system, but the reality is exactly the opposite. For more than 50 years, according to court records and hundreds of interviews with legal experts, people who have worked for Trump, against Trump or both, Trump has taught himself how to use and abuse the legal system for his own advantage and aims. Conflict in courts is not for him the cost of doing business — it is how he does business. Throughout his vast record of lawsuits, whether on offense, defense or frequently a mix of the two, Trump has become a sort of layman’s master in the law and lawfare. “He doesn’t see the legal system as a means of obtaining justice for all,” said Jim Zirin, the author of Plaintiff In Chief. He sees it rather as a tool,” said Ian Bassin, a former White House lawyer for President now running Protect Democracy, “in his quest to command attention and ultimately power.” “There’s probably no single person in America,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a former prosecutor and Trump impeachment manager, “who is more ... knowledgeable and experienced in our legal system — as both a plaintiff and as a defendant — than Donald Trump.”