How The Trump Trial Has Backfired Spectacularly On The Democrats

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 20: Former U.S. President Donald Trump with attorney Todd Blanche speaks to the media as he arrives for his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 20, 2024 in New York City. Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney, will take the stand again to continue his cross examination by the defense in the former president's hush money trial. Cohen is the prosecution's final witness in the trial and are expected to rest their case this week. Cohen's $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels is tied to Trump's 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Unlike the national news media, I haven’t spent a lot of time covering the day-to-day happenings in the Donald Trump criminal trial in New York. There’s a few reasons for that.

First of all, everyone (regardless of politics) already understands that the trial is a farce. It’s a criminal proceeding over an alleged bookkeeping error that was supposedly made many years ago, which harmed no one. The idea that the leading presidential candidate should be imprisoned on this basis — even if these charges were somehow proven in court beyond a reasonable doubt — is laughable. In the third world, they at least invent plausible-sounding charges before they throw political dissidents and opposition leaders in jail. But in this case, we’re left with “falsifying business records in the first degree.” It sounds like something Michael Scott would accuse one of his employees of doing. It’s laughable on its face.

The other problem with going into any great detail about this case is that it risks legitimizing the proceedings. This is why CNN has panels of 25 guests every night, breaking down all of the testimony in excruciating detail. They want people to think of this trial as serious and fair — something worth analyzing at a technical level. But it’s not. There’s no reason whatsoever to accept the premise that this proceeding is anything more than a show trial, brought by a partisan prosecutor in one of the most partisan jurisdictions in the country, before a clearly unfavorable judge. 

Today, however, I’m going to make an exception to my general approach to this trial. Because at this stage, it’s important to highlight what an unmitigated disaster it’s been for the Democratic Party, with less than six months to go until the election. It’s actually comical, as you’ll see in a second. 

At a minimum, from a purely political perspective, this trial — and the decision to make this case the first Trump prosecution — has backfired so spectacularly that it’s been a clear net positive for Trump and his campaign. That’s why Donald Trump was able to hold a massive rally in the Bronx last night — not exactly a traditionally pro-Trump part of town. And right now it’s all but certain that this is the only criminal trial Trump will face before the election, so there’s no real hope for Democrats to salvage their strategy of using lawfare to swing the vote.

The collapse of the prosecution’s case was sealed with the testimony of their star witness, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. It was always clear — as even the most partisan CNN panelists have admitted on-air — that without Cohen, there is no case. He’s the one claiming that Trump ordered him to pay hush money to a porn star to protect Trump’s campaign, and that Trump also tried to reimburse him through fake invoices for legal services.

WATCH: The Matt Walsh Show

There are no cameras allowed in the courtroom, because in New York, judges do everything they can to imprison presidential candidates in secret. Fortunately, we do have transcripts of the proceedings, and a handful of YouTube channels have conducted dramatic readings of Cohen’s cross-examinations by Trump’s defense team. One of those channels is called “Good Lawgic.” It’s run by a lawyer and it’s known for its legal analysis, so they’re perfect for the job. They understand how absurd Cohen’s testimony is, so they have a hard time keeping a straight face.

I’ll go in chronological order throughout the testimony, so you can get a sense of how things escalated — or rather, spiraled out of control for the prosecution. Let’s start with Michael Cohen claiming that Trump’s team had secretly reimbursed him, in part, for the hush money payment.

For context, Michael Cohen had previously testified that he made around $420,000 a year from the Trump organization. That was his consistent pay, year after year. But in this testimony, Cohen attempts to claim that one year, his $420,000 salary was actually a partial reimbursement for the hush money payment. Watch:

Cohen says he wasn’t paid his normal salary; was paid for the loan.

In case it’s not clear, everything after the re-enactors started laughing wasn’t the actual testimony. They couldn’t even get through the transcript because the claim they were reading was too absurd.

Cohen’s saying that the Trump Organization didn’t pay him $420,000 because that’s what they always paid him. Instead, Cohen is claiming that during that particular year, the Trump team paid him $420,000 because they were giving him the hush money loan repayment and then doubling it, and then adding a bonus because they were feeling generous.

In other words, Cohen is claiming that this secret arrangement, which allegedly involves funneling a lot of money to a porn star and then reimbursing Cohen, just so happens to add up to Cohen receiving the same pay he’d normally receive.

In order to sell a story like that to the jury — a story that doesn’t make much sense — you need to have a very trustworthy, unimpeachable witness. But in the next few minutes, Cohen made it clear he’s not only untrustworthy — he’s also done something far worse than anything Donald Trump is accused of doing. Watch:

This is the prosecution’s star witness admitting on the stand to willfully stealing tens of thousands of dollars from his employer, and not paying it back. By any measure, that’s a lot more serious than falsifying a business record. But New York prosecutors never had any interest in investigating Michael Cohen for that theft. Instead they gave him immunity to testify.

That wasn’t because Michael Cohen had any kind of credibility prior to this trial. Even before he admitted on the stand to stealing from his employer, Cohen previously lied to both Congress and the Justice Department. Additionally, Cohen had told numerous reporters — in recorded calls, on the record — that Trump had nothing to do with the hush money payment. He admitted that during his cross-examination as well:

Cohen admits Trump had nothing to do with the hush money.

These are conversations that Cohen recorded, sometimes secretly, in which he affirmed again and again that Trump had nothing to do with these payments. And Cohen apparently didn’t only tell that story to reporters. A defense witness, Robert Costello, also testified that Cohen told him in 2018 that Trump “knew nothing” about the $130,000 payment he made to Stormy Daniels.

Throughout the trial, Trump’s defense team outlined why Cohen has a motive to change his story and lie about Donald Trump. One of the main reasons is that he was apparently upset that Trump didn’t give him a job in the White House. Getting left on the sidelines like this seems to have caused some problems in the relationship. Earlier in the trial, Trump’s lawyers played audio tapes of Cohen saying the trial, “fills me with delight” and that he felt, “giddy with hope and laughter” imagining both Trump and his family in prison.

In court, in front of the jury, Cohen essentially said the same thing. He admitted on cross-examination to saying that he wanted revenge against Donald Trump:

Again, this is the man the prosecution’s case depends on. Without his testimony, they have no chance of convicting Donald Trump, even if they manage to prove the existence of falsified records. Cohen’s testimony is the link between Trump and those records. And there’s no reason to believe anything he says.

In a sane jurisdiction, the judge would have issued a directed verdict by now. The case would be dismissed and the prosecutors would be sanctioned for attempting to imprison the leading candidate for president on the basis of testimony from a witness who’s clearly been discredited.

But it’s not clear what will happen next, because this case is being tried in New York, with a clearly pro-prosecution judge and an electorate that overwhelmingly supported Joe Biden in the last election. Still, there are signs that there is some political diversity on the jury. During jury selection, eight jurors said they read the New York Times, while one juror said he gets his news from Truth Social. In a political show trial like this, that’s as good a sign as any that there might be a hung jury, because it’s hard to imagine a Truth Social user voting to convict Donald Trump.

At the same time, the judge is doing everything he can to encourage the jury to convict. Under New York law, in order to convict Donald Trump of felony falsification of business records, the jury needs to unanimously agree that Trump falsified documents in order to conceal a separate crime. But the judge recently ruled that the jury doesn’t need to unanimously agree about what that “separate crime” was. The prosecution certainly hasn’t suggested anything.

As far as I can tell, it seems like the idea is to suggest that Trump was trying to conceal some kind of campaign finance violation — which is a notoriously confusing area of law. That’s why the defense wanted to put a campaign finance law expert on the stand. But the judge prevented the defense from doing that. Instead, the judge allowed Michael Cohen to strongly imply Trump had violated campaign finance law, without explaining how.

This was a predictable problem from the moment New York prosecutors unveiled their criminal complaint against Trump, which listed 34 felony counts — all of them saying Trump had concealed some other crime. But the complaint never mentioned what that other crime was.

Everyone assumed the prosecution would eventually get around to explaining that part. Well, they’ve just rested their case. And still have no idea what that other crime is. Apparently the jury doesn’t have to figure it out, either.

For all the talk about how Donald Trump is a “threat to the rule of law” and “democracy,” this trial is easily the single most lawless, vindictive and undemocratic prosecution that’s been brought in modern history. They’re trying to imprison the man who could very well be the next president on the basis of a crime they can’t even define, based on the testimony of a witness who admits he’s a liar who’s out for revenge.

If there’s any upside, it’s that prosecutors in New York have managed to thoroughly discredit not only themselves, but every other effort to imprison Donald Trump.

Thanks to Alvin Bragg, now everyone can see these prosecutions for what they are.

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