What America needs is a good show trial of Donald Trump

Trump expects the MAGA faithful to turn out in thousands to intimidate the Manhattan district attorney out of indicting him for funneling hush money to noted porn actress Stormy Daniels. Not going to happen.

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A supporter of former President Donald Trump stands outside of Trump Tower in New York City on March 21.

A supporter of former President Donald Trump stands outside of Trump Tower in New York City on March 21.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

There’s a good reason why you can’t place a bet on WWE professional wrestling, even in Las Vegas. It’s because everybody smart enough to come in out of the rain understands that the matches are make-believe — not merely fixed, but scripted. That’s also why sports pages don’t report the results.

“Kayfabe,” it’s called — what I always thought Donald Trump meant by the nonsense word “covfefe” — an imaginary storyline featuring heels and heroes who enact phony vendettas that make Mexican TV soap operas look subtle. And it’s where Trump got his whole act. Also, his ridiculous hairstyle.

If you want to see the Trump method’s origins, Google videos of Dr. Jerry Graham, the bleached-blond bad guy of Sunnyside Gardens in Queens when Trump was a lad. Graham was a swaggering performer who became the first pro wrestler to sell out Madison Square Garden, where his villainy provoked fans into a riot that made The New York Times’ front page.

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It’s all there. The dyed pompadour, the boasting — “I have the body that men fear and women adore,” Graham bragged — brazen defiance of the rules and hoodwinking referees. Balsa-wood folding chairs and fake blood capsules fooled the crowd into believing that real mayhem had broken out. It was among the most vivid things on TV back when Trump was in junior high.

Asked what kind of doctorate Dr. Graham held, his manager once claimed, “He’s a tree surgeon.”

Something else to Google is the video of Trump himself entering the ring in the “Battle of the Billionaires” during “WrestleMania 23” and throwing some of the weakest fake punches in the history of fake punches. Anybody gullible enough to think they were real is gullible enough ...

Well, gullible enough to elect this brazen sociopath president, I suppose. No doubt many WWE fans are also MAGA supporters. Machiavelli wrote about them in the 16th century: “One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.”

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Call them what you will: suckers, marks, dupes, pigeons. Trump now expects the MAGA faithful to turn out in thousands to intimidate the Manhattan district attorney out of indicting him for accounting scams to funnel hush money to noted porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Not going to happen. The bigger the stink Trump makes, the better for prosecutor Alvin Bragg politically. In 2020, Trump got 14.5% of the vote in Manhattan; Bragg got 67%.

Even so, writes Tom Nichols in The Atlantic, “Trump’s message ... to the American people has already come through loud and clear: I am too dangerous to arrest ... He is warning all of us, point-blank, that he will violate the law if he wants to, and if you don’t like it, you can take it up with the mob that he can summon at will. This is pure authoritarianism.”

No doubt. But it says here that it’s not going to work. I’m personally agnostic about the New York prosecution. Indeed, Bragg may be doing Trump a favor by busting him for disguising payola to a porn star.

Who wouldn’t try to hide such a thing?

True, Trump is a coward who’s terrified of going to prison. But as much as the TV networks would love it, no Jan. 6-style mob is going to show up in lower Manhattan to save him.

Too many people have seen the NYPD in action. And while Trump is doubtless more popular among New York cops than among the general public, no way are they letting MAGA goons run wild in their city. Trump toughs know they’d get their asses kicked and be hauled off to Riker’s Island — nobody’s idea of a spring break destination.

That said, it would be better by far to prosecute the former president for his grave crimes against the U.S. Constitution, both the Georgia fake electors scheme and the Jan. 6 mob assault on the Capitol. Not only does Trump deserve imprisonment over the events of Jan. 6, but his trial would constitute a civics lesson his followers need badly.

Consider the preposterous scam cooked up by Fox News personality Tucker Carlson. Allowed exclusive access by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to hundreds of hours of Capitol surveillance videos taken during the Jan. 6 riot, Carlson’s staff edited it down to fewer than five minutes in which nothing much was going on. They presented that as the whole story.

The liberal media, the shameless Carlson claimed, had peddled a big lie.

Never mind that literally hundreds of rioters have already pleaded guilty; millions of Fox News viewers swallowed it whole. I saw Facebook friends assuring each other that “the media and that b—h Nancy Pelosi” made the whole thing up because her daughter was shooting a documentary.

What this country really needs is a good show trial.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com

Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President.”

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