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May 20, 2024

Cohen Collapses the Prosecution’s Case

The worst witness in the history of witnessing was exposed by Donald Trump’s legal team last week, as the hush-money show trial moved toward its conclusion.

It’s said that the show must go on, but, mercifully, show trials must eventually come to an end.

Such will be the case this week in Manhattan, as the prosecution’s “star” witness — perjurer, convicted felon, disbarred lawyer, and avowed Trump-hater Michael Cohen — lived down to his expectations last week under a withering cross-examination from Donald Trump’s legal team.

The privilege of clobbering Cohen fell to Trump attorney Todd Blanche, and he didn’t disappoint. Indeed, he masterfully exposed this most consequential of Cohen’s lies and, in doing so, destroyed Cohen’s credibility regarding a key component of the prosecution’s argument: that Trump ordered a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to hide the scandal of his alleged infidelity from voters — as if that were a crime for anyone not named Former President Donald John Trump.

As the New York Post reports, the “Perry Mason Moment,” as it were, came Thursday when Blanche broke the following news to the jury: “Michael Cohen was actually whining about a 14-year-old prank caller when he claimed to have had a key conversation with Donald Trump about the hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.”

Blanche shared call logs and text messages between Cohen and Trump’s then-bodyguard, Keith Schiller. The texts showed that Cohen wanted to talk to Schiller about a 14-year-old kid who was prank-calling him, but there’s no mention whatsoever of Daniels. As for the contents of the accompanying call, which lasted a mere 96 seconds, Blanche said: “That was a lie. You did not talk to President Trump — you talked to Keith Schiller, you can admit it. … A 1:36 phone call and you had enough time to update Schiller about all the problems you were having and also update President Trump about the status of the Stormy Daniels situation because you had to keep him informed.”

Jury trials often hinge on complex matters, but this one seemed to hinge on something that couldn’t be simpler: the utter lack of credibility of Trump’s main accuser. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a star cooperating witness get his knees chopped out quite as clearly and dramatically as what just happened with Michael Cohen,” admitted CNN legal analyst Elie Honig. “I’ve certainly seen very effective cross-examinations of cooperating witnesses. I’ve seen aspects of their story cut into and called into question. But this goes to the heart of the allegation here.”

No less a Trump-hater than CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who was in the courtroom during that exchange, understood the gravity of the moment: “I think it’s devastating for Michael Cohen’s credibility on this one particular topic,” he said.

On this one particular topic?

Perhaps Cooper wasn’t paying as much attention to the jurors as Matt Gaetz was. The Florida Republican congressman said afterward that one juror seemed to be holding back laughter as Cohen was being undressed on the stand.

It’s said that when a witness gets caught lying on the stand, the jury no longer sees a witness; it sees a liar. Surely that’s the case with Cohen. But Cohen isn’t the prosecution’s only problem; the case itself is a problem. As constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley notes:

For any discerning juror, the trial has been conspicuously lacking any clear statement from the prosecutors of what crime Trump was attempting to commit by allegedly mischaracterizing payments as “legal expenses.” Even liberal legal experts have continued to express doubt over what crime is being alleged as the government rests its case.

There is also the failure of the prosecutors to establish that Trump even knew of how payments were denoted or that these denotations were actually fraudulent in denoting payments to a lawyer as legal expenses. The judge [a political donor to Biden and other Democrat causes, whose daughter’s firm has raised millions for Democrats by attacking Trump] has allowed this dangerously undefined case to proceed without demanding greater clarity from the prosecution.

As no less than Michael Cohen’s former attorney, Robert Costello, noted during Cohen’s implosion: “There’s nothing that I know about this case that could give the prosecution more life. This case is dead. It was dead on arrival. It never should have been brought. It should have been dismissed by this judge. He still has an opportunity to do that, but I doubt very much he will do that.”

So the question is: Has reasonable doubt been introduced to at least one juror, either about the veracity of the charges against Trump or the witnesses arrayed against him? Today, Trump’s defense team will take their final shots at Cohen, after which the prosecution will try to “rehab” him. Good luck with that.

“New Yorkers are a curious breed,” observes Turley. “Yes, they overwhelmingly hate Trump, but they also universally hate being treated like chumps. When they get this case, they just might look around the courtroom and decide that they are the suckers in a crooked game.”

What Turley is hinting at is a larger issue in all this — yes, a larger issue than the guilt or innocence of a former and perhaps future president. “All Americans, regardless of political affiliation, should be appalled at this selective prosecution,” said Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz recently. “Today the target is Trump. Tomorrow it may be a Democrat. After that, you and me. The criminal justice system is on trial in New York. If Trump is convicted based on the distortion of law and facts that we’re seeing, the system will have failed us all.”

The issue is selective prosecution — prosecution based political differences. It’s the stuff of banana republics and failed states — and, increasingly, of Democrats.

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