Susan Estrich: Will the Teflon Don survive?

From the commentary: Will Republicans fall in line, like Tommy Tuberville did, or will they have the courage to stand up and say that character counts and that Trump is fatally flawed?

Donald Trump
FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., April 27, 2023.
REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

Can he get away with this, too?

A New York jury award of $5 million for sexual abuse and defamation would be enough to sink any normal candidate for high office. But Donald Trump is no normal candidate. In the wake of the jury verdict, he did it again β€” that is, he again attacked E. Jean Carroll, defaming her again, notwithstanding the jury verdict in her favor.

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich commentary
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On Tuesday night, Trump said that the case was "another scam," and that "it's a political witch hunt." He accused Carroll of being financed "by Democrat operatives" and claimed that "she totally lied about it."

Trump vowed to appeal, although it is not clear what grounds he will have. He presented no witnesses. Judge Lewis Kaplan, who Trump repeatedly attacked, has a reputation of being a solid judge who is not often reversed. The jury clearly compromised on the verdict, choosing to hold Trump liable not for rape but for the lesser battery of sexual abuse as well as defamation.

"It makes me want to vote for him twice," Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama told HuffPost. "People are going to see through the lines," he said, claiming that with "a New York jury, he had no chance."


Will this be the Republican response?

Trump doesn't just make a fool of himself. He makes a fool of everyone in his party as they turn themselves into pretzels to defend a man whose attitude toward women is vile at best. This is the man who continues to defend his "Access Hollywood" claim that as a celebrity, he was free to grab women by the genitals. Asked in his deposition if that was true, he stood by his comments: "Well, if you look over the last million years, I guess that's been largely true," Trump said. "Not always, but largely true."

Imagine that in a general election advertisement.

The Republicans may be afraid to attack the golden boy, but the Democrats will have no such fears. The problem for the Trumpers is that this was not Alvin Bragg and the deep-state Democrats who went after Donald Trump; this was not a government conspiracy; this case cannot be dismissed as the work of an ambitious district attorney playing politics at the expense of the former president.

What can you say about this jury? That they can't be trusted because they came from New York? Is that the best that Republicans can do?
Will the Teflon ever wear off?

Will Republicans fall in line, like Tommy Tuberville did, or will they have the courage to stand up and say that character counts and that Trump is fatally flawed?

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The irony is that the indictment of Trump by Alvin Bragg led to a surge in the polls in Trump's favor. Trump succeeded in spinning the indictment into a victory lap, pulling ahead of DeSantis by successfully selling the spin that he was the target of a Democrat witch hunt. Bragg was the perfect foil.

Can he blast past this verdict as well? Will Republicans give him yet another pass?


As a Democrat who wants to see Joe Biden reelected, I can't help but be cheered by every new piece of baggage that Trump collects. But as an American, it is deeply disconcerting to see a man so deeply and fundamentally flawed commanding the loyalty and respect of one of the two major parties in our country.

This Susan Estrich commentary is her opinion. She can be reached at


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Opinion by Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich is an American lawyer, professor, author, political operative, and political commentator. She can be reached via
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