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I was in the courtroom with Trump. He seemed unhappy.

I was in the courtroom with Trump.  He seemed unhappy.


I was at the courthouse Monday for opening statements in former President Donald Trump's first criminal trial, the New York state case that alleges he falsified business records to conceal an affair with a adult film star and director Stormy Daniels to bolster her 2016 presidential bid.

It is a true privilege to be present in the courtroom. News organizations fought tooth and nail for seats; I was very grateful to have the chance to be there.

Some of my purely subjective observations about what it means to be there in person:

The courtroom is bare and inelegant. There is unflattering lighting. Think of the DMV office with a high ceiling. The courtroom doesn't smell good. Think old soup and stale breath. The general atmosphere is what I would describe as tense. The police officers guarding the courtroom are working very hard and appear very stressed. The judge in the case is soft-spoken and has a pleasant demeanor. voice.Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo talks like Seth Meyers when Seth Meyers isn't telling jokes.Trump looks much older than before.

It still seemed to me, in my purely subjective opinion, that Trump seemed unhappy to be there. That said, many of us seem older than we did at the start of the Trump era in news and politics (myself included).

It still seemed to me, in my purely subjective opinion, that Trump seemed unhappy to be there.

I also think that anyone has the right to look miserable while sitting in a courtroom charged with dozens of crimes as a criminal defendant.

From the opening statement of Trump's defense attorney, we got an idea of ​​how they are going to defend their client.

They're going to point out that he's a former president, that he's the presumptive Republican nominee for president again.

They will claim that every aspect of his conduct was innocent, that there was no underlying sexual relationship to cover up, that Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen paid a porn star on his own and for his own reasons, that Trump paid Cohen outright. for normal legal services. In short, their message to the jury is that Trump had nothing to do with an affair or any cover-up of an alleged affair, and that none of this had anything to do with the election.

While this is a basic defense strategy, the prosecution's opening statements presented a particular pattern of facts that may be the hardest thing for the defense to explain.

The prosecution's opening statements presented a particular pattern of facts that might be the hardest thing for the defense to explain.

In the prosecution's opening statement, Matthew Colangelo told the jury there was what he called a criminal conspiracy between Trump and AMI to publish positive articles about Trump in the National Enquirer and negative articles on his rivals, while also finding previously unpublished information about Trump. negative stories about Trump and paying people who might tell those stories to shut up before the election.

The final part of this alleged conspiracy, the so-called “catch and kill” part of the scheme, is what prosecutors are most interested in and which led to the charges that landed Trump in court.

Colangelo told the jury that AMI, owner of the National Enquirer, first found Dino Sajudin, a doorman at a Trump building, who said Trump had fathered a secret child with a housekeeper.

The doorman was the first person they paid to keep quiet about a Trump-related story, Colangelo said. Then there was a second person, a woman named Karen McDougal, who said she had an affair with Trump. Colangelo told the jury they also paid her to keep quiet about her story.

Then there was Stormy Daniels, and although the National Enquirer also arranged to pay her to stay silent, after their two previous payments to benefit the Trump campaign, Colangelo said, they decided they wouldn't Were not interested in investing even more money for this third take. -and-kill. Instead, it was Michael Cohen who had to provide the money for the payment to Daniels.

Here's what Colangelo explained next:

“Cohen made this payment at the direction of and for the benefit of Donald Trump, and he made it for the specific purpose of influencing the outcome of the election.

Look, no politician wants to get bad press, but the evidence presented at trial will show that this was not a manipulation or a communications strategy; this was a long-planned and coordinated conspiracy to influence the 2016 election, to help Donald Trump get elected, through illegal spending, to silence people who had something negative to say on his behavior, using falsified company documents and bank forms to conceal this information. payments along the way.

It was electoral fraud. Pure and simple.”

To the jury, Colangelo emphasized that the 2016 election was close and that the potential impact of this alleged criminal conspiracy on the outcome of the race will never be known. He continued:

“We will never know, and it doesn't matter, if this conspiracy made the difference in a close election.

But you will see evidence in the defendant's own words, in his social media posts, in his speeches at campaign rallies and other events, you will see in his own words, making clear that he was certainly concerned by how all this could harm his side with voters and voters in particular.

You'll also see evidence that on election night, as the media was closing in on Donald Trump's election…Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal's lawyer texted [editor] Dylan Howard of the National Enquirer and he said, “What have we done?

About a month after the election, Pecker then authorized AMI to release Sajudin and McDougal from their nondisclosure agreements. »

So, after paying for these articles in order to hide them from the public before Election Day, Pecker and AMI then told McDougal and Sajudin, a month after the election, that they were no longer bound by the election agreements. non-disclosure.

For context, it is important to know that the defense claimed that none of these payments had anything to do with the election.

But the prosecution says it will present evidence that Trump and AMI paid to keep these people silent until after the election, and then once the election was over, they released these people from their agreements.

Logically, if not legally, this flatly contradicts the defense's characterization of Trump's actions as described in his opening statement.

The inevitable implication is that once the election happened, Trump and AMI no longer cared about hiding these stories from the public. Because at that moment, it was mission accomplished; the mission had been to influence the elections.

From what I heard in court on Monday, this is the prosecution's argument that poses the most problems for the defense. If prosecutors can back up these claims with evidence and convince the jury of the truth of this factual pattern, it presents an almost irrefutable logical inference showing what the awards were for: Trump was not acting to avoid protecting his brand or to save embarrassment to his family. . The payments were made solely for the purpose of influencing the elections. Complete stop.

The prosecution calls what Trump and AMI did a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election, a scheme that was covered up by lies in the Trump Organization's business records. Logically, this seems to be the crux of the matter. Legally, see clearly.




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