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Trump trial reaches crescendo as tempers clash in courtroom

Trump trial reaches crescendo as tempers clash in courtroom

 


CNN-

Twelve New Yorkers are on deck.

As Donald Trump's first criminal trial nears its climax, his lawyers contemplate how they will implore a jury next week to spare their client the shame of being the first ex-president to be convicted of a crime.

In a wild day in court Monday, Judge Juan Merchan accused a disrespectful defense witness of trying to put him down, while the ex-president's former fixer Michael Cohen admitted in a manner sensationalist for stealing thousands of dollars from her former boss.

But behind this uproar there is also the clear feeling that this trial, closely linked to the future of the country, given Trump's attempt to win back the White House, is now in its fateful final phase.

The Republican candidates' alleged lawyers made a long-shot attempt to get his first criminal trial dismissed before the jury had even been asked to deliberate. This gambit is familiar to defense teams and rarely works, but it offers a glimpse of the narrative Trump's lawyers will present to the jury, likely next Tuesday, after the Memorial Day holiday.

Trump's lawyer, Todd Blanche, argued that prosecutors failed to prove that Trump intended to mislead voters in 2016 by falsifying financial records to conceal a secret payment to the star. adult cinema Stormy Daniels. And he implored Merchan not to trust jurors with a case so dependent on the testimony of Cohen, a confessed liar.

The jury having left the room, Merchan tried several times to clarify things. He said: Do you want me to take the matter out of the hands of the jury and decide, before it even gets to the jury, that as a matter of law this person is so untrustworthy that he should not be examined by the jury?

Blanche responded: We didn't just catch him lying, Your Honor, he came here with a history of lying.

The judge didn't seem impressed. You said his lies were irrefutable; that you think he's going to fool 12 New Yorkers into believing this lie? Merchan said.

Blanche replied: I sure hope he doesn't convince 12 jurors.

The judge said he would consider the request, but it would be very surprising if something happened now that prevented the jury from reaching a verdict.

Meanwhile, Trump has intensified his inside-out legal strategy that has turned his four criminal indictments into a justification for his bid to win back the White House. He attacked Merchan in the hallway while he was surrounded by another group of Republican Party supplicants.

This case should be dropped by the judge. “I think if he did that, the judge would get his respect back,” Trump said, insisting there was no crime and complaining once again about a courtroom that he called it a freezing icebox. Trump has denied the affair with Daniels and pleaded not guilty in that case, as he has in all other cases against him.

The prosecution rested its arguments Monday, after attempting to rehabilitate the sometimes difficult testimony of Cohen, the self-described former Trump thug who once wrote that he knew where the ex-president's skeletons were buried because it was he who buried them. Barring a last-minute change of heart, it appears the former president himself will not testify in his own defense in what would be a shrewd legal decision, as he was almost certain to put the case back on himself after his lawyers spent days trying to resolve the issue. Cohen's questionable credibility.

Monday's legal action threatened at times to spiral out of control, as only a Trump trial can. But several key developments underscored how the case is moving inexorably toward a jury deliberation that will keep the country in suspense.

The prosecution's main task was to try to repair the damage done to Cohen's credibility and to emphasize to the jury and judge in the exchanges on the motion to dismiss that the case was about much more than the former fixer. Trump. Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo argued that evidence presented in court before Cohen's testimony corroborated what he had to say. Colangelo said that at a minimum, a reasonable juror could conclude that the invoices, the ledger entries, the signed checks with check stubs all contain false information. And he argued that there were a staggering number of cover-ups that supported Trump's intent to defraud.

Until Cohen launched into a bruising cross-examination last week, the case appeared to be going well for the prosecution. But the witness, who always posed a significant risk, turned into a disaster with the potential to derail the case. He faced evidence that called into question his sworn testimony about his conversation with Trump on Oct. 24, 2016, to tell him the secret payment plan was proceeding as planned. The defense presented Cohen with text messages he sent to Trump's bodyguard Keith Schiller, who was with Trump at the time, just before the call, suggesting the conversation was about an entirely different topic . The implication was that Cohen did not tell Trump about the hush money payment, raising questions about the veracity of his fixers.

The defense suggests that if Cohen cannot be trusted on this detail, his entire testimony implicating Trump cannot be believed. Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger tried Monday to clean up some of Cohen's mess. I know you might feel like you're being judged here after cross-examination, but are you really being judged? she asked Cohen. No ma'am, said the man who once said he idolized Trump.

But Cohen may have further damaged his reputation with jurors earlier in the day when he admitted to stealing $60,000 from the Trump Organization. His admission, regarding a cut he took of a payment to a tech company and a subsequent repayment with interest from his boss, led Blanche to ask: Have you ever had to plead guilty to theft? which drew a smirk from Trump.

Some legal commentators have suggested that this episode was another bombshell shattering Cohen's credibility. But others argued that it was simply another data point for jurors who would have few illusions about Cohen's character after he admitted to repeatedly lying about himself and on that of Trump.

What is portrayed in the media is not what jurors will ever see if they follow the judges' instructions not to watch stories on television or read anything about it. That's another piece of information to consider, retired Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell told CNN's Jake Tapper.

Veteran lawyers and court reporters said they had never seen anything like the scene rushed by defense witness Robert Costello. The lawyer who had advised Cohen was called to the stand to testify for the defense, but it didn't take long for him to get on Merchan's bad side. When the judge granted an objection to a question from the defense, Costello let out an audible scream, prompting the judge to lean forward and say: Sorry?

Costello's disdain was evident again when the same thing happened shortly afterward and the judge asked the jury to leave the courtroom.

Don't look at me sideways or roll your eyes, the judge warned. When there's a witness on the stand, if you don't like my decision, you don't say damn it, you don't say hit him, Merchan said. Costello responded with a glare. Are you looking down on me? » Mercan asked before leaving the courtroom.

Costello's behavior was a stunning display of disrespect toward a judge in his own courtroom and the first part of it was visible to the jurors.

I don't think this witness really helped this defense, Cordell told Tapper. I guess maybe they called this witness because their client wanted them to do this. It really didn't add anything and really created more problems than help, she said.

As expected, the agent of ultimate chaos appreciated the disruption. Trump told reporters after the day's hearing ended: You saw today what happened to a well-respected lawyer, Bob Costello. Wow. I've never seen anything like it.

Terri Austin, a former longtime attorney, agreed. In all my years of practice, over 30 years, I have never seen a moment like this, she told CNN's Erin Burnett.

It's a superlative worn by repetition since Trump descended the golden escalator in 2015 in his eponymous skyscraper, not far from the Manhattan courtroom. And whatever happens in the coming days, it's likely we'll hear it again.

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