Trump's defense dismantles prosecution's imaginary crimes. But did jury listen?

An expired crime that’s no crime at all.  A mysterious secondary crime that was shrouded incognito. A lying witness and convicted perjurer who is also a thief.  That is the sum and substance of the inane criminal case brought against former President Donald Trump in a Manhattan courtroom.  

It came into full focus during closing arguments on Tuesday as lead defense attorney Todd Blanche pierced the veil of this charade of a trial by dismantling nearly every aspect of District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s farcical prosecution.  

“President Trump is innocent,” declared Blanche. “He did not commit any crimes. The district attorney did not meet the burden of proof. Period.”  

If there is a victim in this sordid saga, it is Trump.  A greedy ex-porn star, Stormy Daniels, extorted money as the 2016 presidential election approached.  The candidate’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, capitulated by forking over cash in exchange for a non-disclosure 8 years ago.  There is nothing illegal about that transaction, and evidence is compelling that he did it all on his own.    


Undeterred, prosecutors conjured up a mythical set of crimes by claiming that when Trump Organization accountants booked reimbursements to Cohen in a computer ledger as “legal expenses,” they were falsifying private business records, an expired misdemeanor multiplied by 34 invoices in a contemptible act called “count stacking.”  

But as Blanche explained to the jury, “the bookings were accurate.”  Cohen was recompensed for his legal work in negotiating a lawful contract and the associated legal costs incurred.  His compensation also included more conventional legal services rendered.

Bragg’s legal theory that voters were somehow defrauded in a conspiracy to influence the 2016 election is nonsensical, argued Blanche.  The booking entries occurred in 2017, the year after the presidential contest ended.  It’s factually impossible to influence an election when it is over.  Regardless, there was no credible evidence that Trump had anything to do with the accounting methods or even knew about them.  Why would he?  He was the CEO, not the bookkeeper.   

On that basis alone, jurors should acquit.  Who exactly was defrauded?  Voters who had already voted?  The government which received full payment on all taxable income?  The Federal Election Commission (FEC) that concluded the money paid did not constitute a campaign donation under law?  Prosecutors never actually disclosed the lynchpin of their case during the trial because they could not.  There was no fraud and no conspiracy.  It is that simple.  Moreover, without a primary crime, there can be no secondary crime.  


Not once during the trial did the DA offer any plausible evidence that Trump intended to defraud anyone.  Instead, prosecutors invented a chimera —an imaginary crime that exists nowhere in the law.  In a normal case with a neutral jury, the perversity of that shameless prosecutorial tactic would be obvious and a “not guilty” verdict would immediately follow.  

But here, Bragg and his confederates are betting the farm on a biased jury that is predisposed to convict Trump based on their own political views of the accused despite a paucity of incriminating facts.  Any impartial jury would have little trouble rendering an acquittal in short order.  It should never have gotten this far.  Honest prosecutors would never have brought such perverse charges or hung their entire case on a convicted perjurer.

The defense took direct aim at Cohen’s already shattered credibility.  In his closing argument, Blanche recounted multiple occasions in which Cohen lied directly to the jurors during his trial testimony.  That’s on top of the myriad of other lies that he peddled to Congress, banks, a special counsel, the media, his wife, the IRS, the FEC, government lawyers, and judges in courts of law.  His sudden and forced admission to larceny on cross-examination suggests that he also lied to the very prosecutors who called him to the stand.

In a stinging rebuke that may ring memorably in the minds of jurors, the defense said, “Michael Cohen is the GLOAT…he is the greatest liar of all time.”    

It is incomprehensible that Bragg would rely on a chronic liar, but he had nothing else.  As I’ve noted before, the DA knew his star witness would lie even more when he slithered to the stand. One can only conclude that prosecutors wanted him to do so.  That is perilously close to suborning perjury, although Bragg and his acolytes couldn’t care less. In their book, honesty is for chumps. All they care about is contorting the law and mangling the evidence to convict an innocent man for purely political reasons.      


It is an unfortunate advantage that prosecutors in New York have the final say to a jury. But that edge seemed squandered.  In his counter arguments, Joshua Steinglass tried in vain to rehabilitate the discredited Cohen.  It was a fool’s errand.  There were too many lies to rationalize and too many sleazy maneuvers to cleanse.  Prosecutors tainted themselves by aligning with a notorious con artist.  They vouched for a “serial perjurer,” as a federal judge recently called him.   

The best that Steinglass could say about Cohen is, “He doesn’t lie all the time.”  Really?  How about most of the time?  Whenever his lips are moving?  When he talks in his sleep?  In reality, there was no fixing the self-proclaimed “fixer.”  He’s an irreparable reprobate.

In a head-turning feat of gymnastics, the assistant DA then told jurors to forget about Cohen because there is “a mountain” of other incriminating evidence without him.  If so, then why was it necessary to call Cohen to the stand if his testimony was superfluous?  

It was a clever sleight of hand, but a feint that jurors just might fall for.  

Recognizing the conspicuous weakness of their case, Judge Juan Merchan deputized himself as co-prosecutor in the trial.  His prejudice was on full display in almost every ruling from the bench.  He sided with the DA in most objections, rejected defense pleas for fairness, and rigged jury instructions to help ensure a conviction.           

I dare say that in the history of American jurisprudence, never has a defendant been tried on an unidentified charge.  No ethical prosecutor would ever do it.  No fair or competent judge would ever allow it because every defendant has a right to be informed of the precise accusations against him.  It is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and rigorously guarded.      

Until now. 

In the criminal case against Trump, prosecutors claimed that the accused falsified private business records to conceal another crime.  That crime, however, was never charged in the indictment and never disclosed during testimony in the five-week trial.  Like the suspense thriller, “American Psycho,” the twisted plot was unraveled in the final scene. Maybe. Sort of.  

Only in closing arguments did the prosecution finally specify which of the three potential crimes that Trump supposedly intended to conceal.  But even that reveal was a jumble of confusion.  Steinglass contended that state law was violated, which contradicted his earlier pronouncement to the jury that the mystery crime was a federal election violation.  

Forget that Bragg has no authority as a local prosecutor to enforce federal law or that state law has no application in a federal election.  And forget that no campaign finance laws were transgressed.  The feds, which have exclusive jurisdiction, declined to prosecute what were obviously non-crimes.     

No matter. Those are pesky details. Jurors are being told to gloss over them.  But it gets worse.  

In a decision that should shock any respectable jurist, Merchan ruled that jurors do not have to agree unanimously on the secondary crime Trump allegedly meant to commit.  In his zeal to wrongfully convict, the judge has torn up a fundamental right embedded in Constitutional principles.  

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that unanimity in jury verdicts is required under the Sixth and Seventh Amendments.  That requirement extends to all issues, said the high court.  To find someone guilty, jurors must always agree —without dissent— on every necessary element of the purported crime.  This is an indispensable feature of jury trials.  

Yet, it has inexplicably vanished in this case.  

District Attorney Alvin Bragg has deprived Trump of a fair trial by robbing him of his due process rights guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment. Is anyone really surprised?

This case was never about criminality or fidelity to the law. That was a grotesque pretext.  

Bragg’s scheme was to manipulate the legal system by bringing specious criminal charges to damage or delegitimize Trump’s candidacy for president.  It is classic “lawfare” —weaponizing statutes not because the law has been broken but because the accused poses a political threat.  


But the real threat is found in unscrupulous prosecutors like Alvin Bragg who have forsaken their duty to see that justice is done.  Armed with immense power, they have become a law unto themselves.  Creating the illusion of wrongdoing to annul Trump is the end that justifies any means.      

The legendary U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it best when he said, “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal.”  That description fits Alvin Bragg like a glove.  Under color of law, he seeks to oppress.  

And where law ends, tyranny begins.  

It is now up to the jury to correct a manifest injustice. 


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