Scales of Justice: The Trump Trials
Episode XIV - The Gazpacho Papers (Part 1)
(The scene is a Federal District Court in the Southern District of Florida, in Miami. The Honorable Judge Alan S. Silver presiding.)
Judge: "As you all know, this is a closed hearing today. Everything that is said or revealed in this Courtroom stays in this Courtroom. In addition to Court staff today, we have counsel for the National Archives and for Mr. Donald John Trump. That is all.
"The National Archives and Records Administration contends that approximately 15 boxes of documents discovered in the basement of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence are legally the property of the United States Government, pursuant to the Presidential Records Act of 1978. Counsel for Mr. Trump disputes that contention, claiming that all the documents are letters to Mr. Trump of a personal nature.
"We are here today to begin the process of determining which side is correct. Here is the procedure. Nine documents have been selected at random. The court clerk will read each of the selected documents into the record. Any questions?
"No? Then let us begin. Court clerk, please proceed."
Court clerk: "The first document is a letter to Donald Trump from Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The letter is dated 18 July 2019. I quote:
'Dearest BFF Donald,
I hope this letter finds you well.
On my end, things almost got out of hand last week. My personal congee chef added a bit too much salt and I almost choked. I wondered if it was a deliberate attempt at poisoning. My suspicions were confirmed when photos surfaced of him purchasing salt in a grocery store. Naturally, I went ballistic. I had him and, for good measure, all North Korean congee chefs living in Paris, assassinated. I know you’ll understand.
As to the specifics of what we discussed in the DMZ a few weeks ago, I would love to accept, but things around here are just too hectic right now, so I need a rain check. Perhaps in a few months, I can accept your kind offer of becoming Secretary of Hair, with full Cabinet status. I can’t wait to work on Nancy!
With kind regards, your kindred spirit,
Judge: “Most interesting. Please continue.”
Court clerk: “Yes, Your Honor. The next document is a letter to Donald Trump from Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. The letter is dated 24 July 2018. I believe that was shortly after the Trump/Putin summit in Helsinki. I quote:
‘My dear Donald Fredovich,
I must apologize for my delay in responding to your letter. I lay the blame at the feet of two things: 1). I have been losing sleep trying to figure out which Eastern European country to invade next and 2). pardon my French, but your handwriting is shit.
As to the invasion, it turns out that preparing for a physical invasion is more difficult than doing so for a clandestine one, like the one you and I pulled off together in 2016. My thanks, again. Viewing the state of affairs in the United States from over here, it would appear that the results exceeded my wildest dreams.
As to your kind offer that I relocate to Washington, D.C. to take on the position of Secretary of Modeling Without Wearing a Shirt, with full Cabinet status, I must regretfully decline. While I would relish wielding my newfound authority over Melania, thinking about Pelosi gives me pause.
Please write soon and ask Ivanka to do the penmanship.
Your dear friend,
Judge: “More and more interesting. The next one, please.”
Court clerk: “The next document is a letter to Donald Trump from Xi Jinping, President of China, dated 12 November 2018. I believe that was the Year of the Dog, Your Honor.”
Judge: “How fitting. Please read the letter.”
Court clerk: “I quote:
‘Dear President Trump,
I am in receipt of your application for a work permit to study the Chinese mastery of wall building. I am sympathetic to your argument that a wall needs to be built between your country and the Mexican State.
However, we are not alone in that opinion. Furthermore, the Chinese government grants only one wall-studying permit at a time and Mexican President López Obrador and his team are presently in China doing their studying. Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau is set to arrive in September. Sorry.
Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China’”
Judge: “Did we place a tariff on that letter?”
Court clerk: “It appears that we did, Your Honor. Best I can tell, the tariffs cost the recipient of the letter – effectively U.S. taxpayers - $73.27. Shall I continue with the next document?”
Judge: “By all means.”
Court clerk: “This one is from Israel. I can tell because it still has little crumbly pieces of falafel stuck to the letter. It is a letter to Donald Trump from then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s dated 2 June 2019. I quote:
I am excited about your upcoming visit to Israel. I've arranged personally guided tours of our two main walls - the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, and the West Bank Barrier Wall. You will be accompanied by structural engineers so you can bring our Israeli wall expertise home with you. As to your current wall problems, I can only offer you some old Jewish wisdom from Pincus Floydberg - "All in all, it's just another break in the wall."
On a personal note, I hope you will be able to give me some advice about avoiding being convicted of corruption charges. I'm having some problems with that. The stress has even caused me to lose some hair. There's barely enough left to pin my kippah on.
All the best.
Judge: ‘Now that one had a bit of schmaltz in it. I can’t wait to hear the next. Go for it, court clerk.”
Court clerk: “Yes, Your Honor. It seems that the next document departs from the world leader theme. It is a letter to Donald Trump from George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones. If I might pause for a moment here, Your Honor, isn’t it getting a bit chilly in the Courtroom?”
Judge: “Winter is coming. Continue.”
Court clerk: “Yes, Your Honor. I quote from the letter, which is undated:
‘Dear Mr. Trump,
I am in receipt of your letter regarding the Ice Wall across the northern border of Westeros in Game of Thrones. Your description of the wall as "huge" does not do it justice. It measures 345 miles long and is approximately 700 feet tall.
You state in your letter the desire of your Administration to employ the services of the builder of the Ice Wall for your project along the southern border of the United States. Unlike some people, I am not one to deceive others just to make money. Therefore, I must decline your request for two reasons:
1). The wall's builder was Brandon the Builder, who built the Wall 8,000 years ago. He's dead now. And, no, I don't think your Bob the Builder doll is up to the task.
2). The Ice Wall was constructed primarily of - ice. Have you considered what happens to ice on the southern border of the United States?
I am, therefore, returning the $5 retainer you so generously included in your inquiry letter.
All the best.
George R.R. Martin’”
Judge: “Fascinating. I was always a House Stark kind of guy. What about you, court clerk?”
Court clerk: ” Targaryen, Your Honor. Through and through.”
Judge: “Remember the time that the Night King – king of the White Walkers…”
(The judge pauses mid-sentence after a meaningful look from the court clerk.)
Judge: “Yes, as I was saying. Please continue with the documents, court clerk.”
Court clerk: “Certainly, Your Honor. This one is a letter to Donald Trump from French President Emmanuel Macron. It’s dated 14 July 2020. I do believe that’s Bastille Day in France. I quote:
‘Mon Cher M. le President,
It was such a pleasant surprise to receive your insightful letter. You know how much I desire to contribute to the dialogue on weighty world affairs. France has so much to offer. And I am also pleased to get a glimpse into how such an important man as yourself, with such weighty responsibilities, spends his time on behalf of the American people.
Now to specifics. Please pass this along to your new pastry chef at the White House. For the perfect French-style Tarte Tatin: 1). heat the oven to 200 degrees C., 2). peel and core the apples, 3). start the caramel sauce, 4). add the apples to the sauce, 5). cook the apples until caramelized, 6). top with the pie crust, 7). bake the Tarte Tatin, 8). cool the Tarte Tatin briefly, 9). invert the Tarte Tatin, 10). remove the skillet and make the dish presentable, 11). serve warm. Ice cream optional.
By the way, Angela is with me discussing our concerns about Russian aggression. She sends her regards and asks that I convey to you her preference for apfelstrudel.
Vive la France!
Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic’”
Judge: “If only I could get Rachel to try that recipe. Anyway, let’s move on.”
Court clerk: “Yes, Your Honor. We now move to the domestic front. The next document is a letter to Donald Trump from Dr. Scott Atlas, then Special Coronavirus Adviser to President Trump. The letter is dated August 7, 2020. I quote:
Just wanted to thank you for that promotion to the Coronavirus Task Force. It’s a real vote of confidence coming, as it does, from someone who knows even less than I do. And great news. Jimmy, the really smart 12-year-old who lives next door, has agreed to tutor me in epidemiology. First lesson is Friday.
One more thing, though. Could you have a word with that Miss Know-It-All Deborah Birx? I don’t think she likes me.
Your partner in sickness,
Judge: “Court clerk. There’s a bottle of hand disinfectant on the side table. You might want to use it after handling that letter.”
Court clerk: “Thank you, Your Honor, but this letter is almost two years old.”
Judge: “True enough. But as we’ve seen, there are things in Washington, D.C. that get even more dangerous as they age. But read on, son, we’re almost through.”
Court clerk: “This next document is a letter to Donald Trump from Congresswoman Lauren Boebert. It’s dated February 1, 2020. I quote:
‘Dear President Trump,
I just wanted to thank you again for inviting me and my husband, Jayson, to spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago. We had a great time. Your head butler, Ricardo, was just so wonderful. I never would have guessed that he's Mexican.
And your seven-year-old granddaughter Chloe is so smart. She was so excited to recite her multiplication tables for me. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I had no idea if they were right or not. Jayson sends his apologies. We both had assumed that his conviction for "public indecency and lewd exposure" was a thing of the past. So sorry.
Finally, if I may be so bold as to suggest an improvement to your Mar-a-Lago property. There was that nice area near the beach that would make for a great skeet shooting range. And with all the pigeons flying around, you wouldn't need to buy clay ones.
Anyway, thanks again. Love from all of us. I'm enclosing a photo of my four kids carrying assault rifles.
Yours in stupidity,
Judge (stroking his chin): “You know, court clerk, there are some things that are just better left unsaid. I believe we have one more document today. Let’s finish up.”
Court clerk: “Wow. Looks like we saved the biggie for last. This document is a letter to Donald Trump from His Holiness Pope Francis. It is dated 31 May 2017, one week after Trump met with the Holy Father.”
(Court clerk makes the sign of the cross, then continues.): “I will quote from the Holy letter:
I hope this letter finds you spiritually uplifted, my son, after your visit last week to the Holy See. I am sorry that I proved unable to satisfy your request to see a live bullfight with Holy animals. I humbly submit to you that: a). It is Spain that has the tradition of bullfighting, not Italy and b). I believe you misunderstand what is meant by a Papal bull.
I must thank you for one thing in particular. As you know, the Church has been through some rather difficult times in recent years. Yet through all our trials and tribulations, at least we haven’t had to defend against claims of “Of course, the Church is no good, Donald Trump is a Catholic.” So please, if you ever consider changing your faith, allow me to introduce you to my dear Rastafari friend James. You’d look great in dreadlocks.
Oh yes, one more thing. Have you seen my Papal staff? It went missing the day you left.
Always your humble servant in God.
Judge: “We have completed our work for today. I would like to thank the court clerk for his unstinting efforts. I will be reviewing this selection of documents and I expect to make my ruling in two weeks or so. I point out, however, that the question of how and why these 15 boxes came to rest at Mar-a-Lago remains a mystery. This session is adjourned.”