Confusing instructions to misleading summations: Trump trial now in jury’s hands

The laughter was meaningful.

In the press room at the hush money trial, many reporters laughed openly when the prosecutor criticized Donald Trump, people who were there said. They thought it was hilarious.

Despite the uproar surrounding the first criminal trial of a former president, the closing arguments and the judge’s confusing instructions were packed with surprises. The media’s biggest challenge now is filling airtime and column spaces while we wait for the seven men and five women to deliver their verdicts. Bring in former jurors from other cases!

Trump’s strategy: Attack blue areas, attract minority and unfriendly audiences

The consensus among attendees was that Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, had little experience with these types of cases and spoke in a monotone, except for the occasional loud cry, and at least his closing statement lasted just three hours.

Manhattan District Attorney Josh Steinglass was much more passionate and animated, but he also spoke for a boring five hours. Who on earth would have thought that was a smart idea? The jury clearly lost focus as he dwelled on the minutiae of phone calls and emails, repeating them over and over, and continued speaking until 8pm.

How much information will jurors be expected to absorb?

Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower en route to Manhattan Criminal Court, Monday, April 15, 2024, in New York City. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

That was the case yesterday as well, with Judge Juan Merchan spending an hour on crucial jury instructions that only lawyers would enjoy.

If someone gives false testimony, their entire testimony can be disregarded.

Michael Cohen, whose credibility has been thoroughly attacked by the defense, is an “accomplice.”

Waiting for jury verdict feels ‘terrible’: criminal lawyer

Jurors cannot convict Cohen on his word alone, but they can use his testimony if it is supported by other evidence.

The degree of the defendant’s involvement doesn’t matter as long as there is a “general intent to defraud.” Ah, but intent doesn’t require premeditation.

It must be found that the defendant falsified or caused business records to be falsified.

Donald Trump sits in court in hush money trial in Manhattan Criminal Court

Former President Trump sits in court during his hush money trial in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on May 21, 2024. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

As long as jurors agree on the facts, whether that applies to election fraud or taxes, they can use different reasoning.

And what’s the mysterious crime that elevates this into felony territory? A violation of New York State election law about which we’ve barely heard anything.

Whew. Got it?

Judge Marchan ‘muddied the waters’ by trying to make Trump trial a ‘very complicated case’: Judge Jeanine Pirro

In the end, jurors will have to use their common sense.

Todd Blanche scored some points, calling Cohen “the biggest liar of all time,” but he also left some big holes.

The defense began by saying that Trump and Stormy Daniels have repeatedly denied having a sexual relationship in 2006. It’s true that Stormy lied to get money from Cohen, but she now clearly claims, as she testified, that they did have an affair.

Branche said the president may have been too busy to focus on the 11 repayment checks he signed to Cohen. He argued that there were no emails to indicate a conspiracy. Even an incompetent criminal who’s seen a few Mafia movies knows not to leave paper trails.

Blanche said the National Enquirer did not engage in a “catch-and-kill” deal with the Trump campaign. Of course, those words were not used, but the paper was involved, and that has been confirmed by David Pecker.

The biggest flaw is that Trump’s legal team has not touched on the emails, text messages, Signal messages or bank records that would support Cohen’s testimony, because they don’t have an alternative version of events.

Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen, a former lawyer and fixer for President Donald Trump, emerges from a Manhattan courtroom after testifying before a grand jury in New York, USA, March 15, 2023. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Prosecutors tried to deny Ms. Blanch’s claim that Mr. Cohen did legal work for Trump and his wife in 2017 that the president may have thought was legitimate, but Mr. Steinglass said Mr. Cohen spent less than 10 hours on that work and spent much more time on cross-examination at trial.

Yes, Cohen lied for years, yes, he stole from the Trump Organization, but now he’s just a “tour guide” to the evidence, Steinglass said.

Prosecutors said the Trump campaign “humiliated” Stormy and suggested her story hasn’t changed over the years. Of course it has!

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Steinglass countered claims that there was no panic when the media went after the porn star after the “Access Hollywood” tape, citing Hope Hicks as saying everyone felt Trump might lose the election.

The most ridiculous moment for the prosecution was when they hypothetically recreated a 90-second phone call in which Cohen allegedly complained about harassing calls from a 14-year-old girl and discussed the Stormy situation with Trump. It only lasted 46 seconds! But if you don’t believe that, Steinglass says Cohen may have got the date wrong.

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Oh man, who in the Biden campaign thought it would be a great idea for Robert De Niro to show up at the courthouse and start bashing Trump?