EXCLUSIVE: ‘Seriously Depressing Place’ — Trump’s Top Allies, VP Contenders Describe Sights & Sounds Of NY Courtroom


Henry Rodgers Chief National Correspondent
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Many of former President Donald Trump’s closest allies in Congress — and rumored vice presidential contenders — described a “depressing” and dreary scene in the former president’s Manhattan courtroom during exclusive interviews with the Daily Caller.

Since his trial began in April, a number of allies from the House and Senate have visited Trump in court to show their support as he and his campaign are restricted by a gag order from New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan. The gag order has hamstrung his campaign, preventing the GOP nominee from speaking about individuals like Matthew Colangelo, a lead prosecutor in the case who spent two years serving in the Biden administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ).

Allies have stepped in to defend Trump in the court of public opinion while he cannot do so himself.

“These are politically motivated trials, and you can feel that the system there has been rigged against him. This is not about justice, it’s all about politics,” House Speaker Mike Johnson told the Caller. “The judge’s attitude towards President Trump is shown clearly by his actions, procedural decisions, and his broad gag order. They are working to keep him in the courtroom and off the campaign trail. The people of this country can see that the judicial system there is using all the tools at its disposal to punish one president and provide cover for another.”

Many have raised questions about Colangelo’s move from the DOJ to work in the Manhattan DA’s office at the same time District Attorney Alvin Bragg was investigating Trump for a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. Bragg, who ran for office on convicting Trump as Manhattan District Attorney, indicted Trump on 34 counts of falsifying business records, all of which the former president pleaded not guilty to.

Trump and his campaign are also not allowed to speak about his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, or the jury. Cohen, who is a key witness in the case, has come under fire for discussing the case on TikTok while raising money for himself.

“I mean, It was depressing because you’re watching this mockery of the court system in front of your eyes, like the star witnesses is Michael Cohen, the guy’s a liar, a tax evader. He makes money going after President Trump. He makes money, frankly, defaming President Trump, and that’s your star witness. It was a joke,” Republican Florida Rep. Byron Donalds said. “And so, it was actually good to be there when they were actually going through their evidence. And you’re sitting there and as a layperson, you’re like, where is the crime? Can somebody explain this to me?”

The limitations apply to the entire campaign, tying the hands of the Trump political operation to fight back on a critical issue in the presidential race, one source familiar with the situation told the Caller.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom during his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 20, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Donalds said that Judge Merchan’s body language came off as “arrogant” and said he seemed like a “jerk.”

“You know, there was like a there was like a arrogance. Not somebody who was just like, okay, this is very serious, this is a serious matter. Obviously, you know, you have a former president in here. So, oh my gosh. No, this guy was just kind of arrogant, a jerk, that was kind of like his body language.”

He also said that he believes some of the jurors realized Cohen is a “liar” after Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche cross-examined him.

“I think, you know, watching Todd Blanche cross-examine Cohen, you could even see some of the faces of the jurors being like, wow, this guy Cohen is a moron and a liar. So, that’s what I picked up in body language,” Donalds added. (RELATED: Trump Details Endless Legal Fights In Primetime Mar-A-Lago Address After Indictment)

Representative Byron Donalds, a Republican from Florida, from left, Doug Burgum, governor of North Dakota, US House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, Vivek Ramaswamy, chairman and co-founder of Strive Asset Management, and Representative Cory Mills, a Republican from Florida, watch as former US President Donald Trump, center left, and Todd Blanche, attorney for former US President Donald Trump, center right, speak to members of the media while arriving at Manhattan criminal court in New York, US, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Photographer: Curtis Means/Daily Mail/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Republican Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, who is rumored to be on Trump’s short list for vice president, said he was glad he could show up to the court house and speak up against the “corrupt weaponization of our criminal justice system.” Vance also said that Trump was in “excellent spirits” despite the courthouse in New York being “a seriously depressing place.”

“It isn’t fair what they’re doing to him,” Vance added. (RELATED: ‘Election Interference’: Bragg Case Gag Order Puts Unprecedented Limitations On Trump Campaign)

Senator JD Vance, a Republican from Ohio, center, Senator Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama, left, and Representative Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican from New York, right, speak to members of the media outside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse in New York, US, on Monday, May 13, 2024. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republican Florida Sen. Rick Scott said he wanted to attend because Trump is someone he considers “a friend” who he has known “for a long time.” He described what’s happening to Trump as “criminal.” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: One Of Trump-World’s Favorite Lawyers Hatched Playbook With House GOP On Ending Biden Lawfare Against Trump)

“I didn’t know this when I went there that I couldn’t give an interview in the courthouse. I guess the judge didn’t want to have live pictures of our pictures taken of people like me sitting behind him and supporting him. The fact I couldn’t talk to the press in the courthouse — it makes no sense to me. I couldn’t even go up and stand next to him. They wouldn’t let me,” Scott told the Caller.

Scott also mentioned that he was there when Stormy Daniels was being cross-examined and described the jury as “attentive” and said “they were watching us.”

Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville said he was not asked to show up, but reached out to Trump’s staff personally to see if he could support the former president, saying Trump “helped me every time I’ve needed something and he needs help right now, somebody to support him.” Tuberville said Trump’s mood was “upbeat” and ripped Cohen.

“I just kept on looking at the jury and I think it was about 15 of them, because they have alternates and most of the time they paid pretty good attention and took notes, but, you know, it only takes one. I can’t imagine, if a lot of them are just saying, ‘hey, how do you trust a guy that’s already been caught lying to Congress and didn’t pay taxes’ — and even admitted on the stand he’s lied in other cases before,” he said.

The Alabama senator also mentioned that the judge would not make eye contact with Trump: “He didn’t make eye contact with the president but maybe once the whole time. He just looked at the witness and the jury. His daughter has made a lot of money off of people in the Democratic Party. So he’s a Democrat. And, this is obviously a biased situation that the president has walked into. He’s knows it. Everybody around him knows it. His lawyers know it.”

US Representative Byron Donalds, Republican of Florida, speaks outside the Manhattan Criminal Court as former President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, in New York City, on May 14, 2024. (Photo by Alex Kent / AFP) (Photo by ALEX KENT/AFP via Getty Images)

Republican New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis reiterated the judge would not make eye contact with Trump and added the jurors were “very poker faced.”

“They wouldn’t really show any emotion or any response or anything. They were very poker faced. And again, no eye contact. The jury is made up of mostly young individuals, many of them women. You know, that could be concerning. Particularly in Manhattan, where more than 80% voted against Donald Trump. How do you get a fair jury? That’s the question, right? But there is no evidence from the star witness, who by the way, is a convicted, disbarred perjurer, who admitted he lied to Congress,” Malliotakis told the Caller.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives with attorney Todd Blanche (R) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) (2nd R) for his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 9, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Jeenah Moon-Pool/Getty Images)

Vivek Ramaswamy described the courtroom as a “third-world visual” and the atmosphere as “depressing” before going after Judge Merchan, and said his experience in the courtroom is a “parable of what America has become.”

“The most remarkable part was the one thing you get from being in that courtroom is a sense of the depressing atmosphere, which matches the depressing nature of what’s happening in there. It’s sort of like a concrete poem for the decline of America, actually. You get like a third-world visual, atmospheric courtroom, open wires sticking out, temperature regulation nonexistent, stuffy air a thick scent. And in the same place is happening. It’s not just third-world atmospherics, but a third-world proceeding,” Ramaswamy said.