Trump’s Trial Challenge: Being Stripped of Control

“Sir, can you please have a seat.”

Donald J. Trump had stood up to leave the Manhattan criminal courtroom as Justice Juan M. Merchan was wrapping up a scheduling discussion on Tuesday.

But the judge had not yet adjourned the court or left the bench. Mr. Trump, the 45th president of the United States and the owner of his own company, is used to setting his own pace. Still, when Justice Merchan admonished him to sit back down, the former president did so without saying a word.

The moment underscored a central reality for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. For the next six weeks, a man who values control and tries to shape environments and outcomes to his will is in control of very little.

Everything about the circumstances in which the former president comes to court every day to sit as the defendant in the People v. Donald J. Trump at 100 Centre Street is repellent to him. The trapped-in-amber surroundings that evoke New York City’s more crime-ridden past. The lack of control. The details of a case in which he is accused of falsifying business records to conceal a payoff to a porn star to keep her claims of an affair with him from emerging in the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump in court on Friday.Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

Of the four criminal cases Mr. Trump is facing, this is the one that is the most acutely personal. And people close to him are blunt when privately discussing his reaction: He looks around each day and cannot believe he has to be there.

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