While running for president again and awaiting possible indictment in multiple cases, Donald Trump also faces a civil trial next month in a rape and defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll. But in one important respect, it’s being treated more like a terrorism or organized crime case — that is, when it comes to the jury, which the judge is taking the rare step of making anonymous.
What does this have to do with terrorism or organized crime, you ask?
Well, as Southern District of New York Judge Lewis Kaplan noted in an opinion Thursday, anonymous juries have been used when “the risk of tampering with or violent retaliation against jurors by criminal defendants or their confederates was palpable, most often in terrorism and organized crime cases.”
Kaplan saw fit to give Trump’s civil trial the same treatment. In explaining the move, in one of two similar suits brought against Trump by Carroll, the judge recapped what amounts to a greatest hits of the former president’s lashing out against various actors in the legal system — from judges to grand jurors. Kaplan recounted, among other things, Trump’s whipping up of Jan. 6 rioters, his criticism of the Georgia special grand jury foreperson and his urging of supporters to “take our country back” in the face of potential indictment by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s grand jury.
Underscoring the issue, Bragg received a death threat on Friday. According to NBC News sources, a letter was mailed to the DA that contained a white powder and said, “ALVIN: I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
So it’s all the more amazing when one stops and realizes that Kaplan’s ruling Thursday was written about a former president, with the judge worrying about “harassment or worse of jurors by supporters of Mr. Trump.” Kaplan took pains to clarify that he wasn’t weighing in on whether Trump was in fact inciting violence but, rather, whether jurors could perceive themselves to be at risk.
It’s worth pausing for a moment on the fact that a federal judge is worried about a former president and current presidential candidate effectively posing a risk to everyday citizens reporting for jury duty. The threat on Bragg’s life may show that Trump’s danger extends outside the jury box as well.