Trump’s Trial Could Bring a Rarity: Consequences for His Words

“So that’s not true? That’s not true?”

The judge in control of Donald J. Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial had just cut off the former president’s lawyer, Todd Blanche. Mr. Blanche had been in the midst of defending a social media post in which his client wrote that a statement that had been public for years “WAS JUST FOUND!”

Mr. Blanche had already acknowledged during the Tuesday hearing that Mr. Trump’s post was false. But the judge, Juan M. Merchan, wasn’t satisfied.

“I need to understand,” Justice Merchan said, glaring down at the lawyer from the bench, “what I am dealing with.”

The question of what is true — or at least what can be proven — is at the heart of any trial. But this particular defendant, accused by the Manhattan district attorney’s office of falsifying business records to conceal a sex scandal, has spent five decades spewing thousands and thousands of words, sometimes contradicting himself within minutes, sometimes within the same breath, with little concern for the consequences of what he said.

Mr. Trump has treated his own words as disposable commodities, intended for single use, and not necessarily indicative of any deeply held beliefs. And his tendency to pile phrases on top of one another has often worked to his benefit, amusing or engaging his supporters — sometimes spurring threats and even violence — while distracting, enraging or just plain disorienting his critics and adversaries.

If Mr. Blanche seemed unconcerned at the hearing that he was telling a criminal judge that his client had said something false, it may have been simply because the routine has become so familiar.

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