How Trump lost the winnable trial: The two HUGE mistakes Donald’s bombastic lawyers made

Donald Trump squandered a ‘winnable case’ where he could have got a hung jury or escaped with only a misdemeanor, legal experts have argued.

The former president was found guilty by a jury of 34 counts of falsifying business records in the so-called ‘hush money’ trial in New York.

Trump covered up $130,000 in payments to porn star Stormy Daniels to hide extramarital affairs and now faces the unlikely possibility of jail time.

Veteran lawyers argue District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case had weaknesses – despite 200 pieces of evidence and weeks of witness testimony.

But Trump’s lawyers failed to exploit them, confusing the jury by fighting every aspect of the indictment and refusing to offer the option of a lesser charge.

Donald Trump after being found guilty on all 34 counts in his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, detailed in analysis for the New York Times how Trump’s defense was undone by two critical errors.

The first was using a defense that amounted to ‘a haphazard cacophony of denials and personal attacks’ instead of a tightly woven narrative.

Trump has used this deny everything, attack everyone strategy for years on TV, social media, and his boisterous and vulgar campaign rallies.

But Mariotti said it was ill-suited to a courtroom and torpedoed his chances of winning, or at least fighting the case to a draw he could call a victory.

Mariotti explained the prosecution case hinged on the testimony of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and ‘fixer’ who was the only evidence that Trump knew of the plot to falsify the records.

Trump was in the White House by the time the fake records were created and could have argued Cohen and Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg cooked up the scheme on their own while he was busy being president.

Cohen’s credibility is shot, he is known to hate Trump, and he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and charges of bank fraud, tax evasion and campaign finance violation.

‘You don’t need to be a lawyer to see how this could be a powerful legal defense,’ Mariotti wrote.

Trump covered up $130,000 in payments to porn star Stormy Daniels to hide extramarital affairs and now faces the unlikely possibility of jail time

Trump’s lawyers did try to do this, but the trial lasted weeks with a dizzying array of witnesses and pieces of evidence for the jury to keep up with.

Todd Blanche, who made the defense’s closing argument, even addressed it – but his speech to the jury lasted three hours.

‘The problem is that the defense made so many other points, and fought so many other things, that it failed to focus the jury on the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and instead tried to fight everything and everyone, even when it gained little by doing so,’ Mariotti wrote.

‘The defense needs its own story, and in my experience, the side that tells the simpler story at trial usually wins.’

Mariotti wrote that if he was running the defense he would have had Trump admit his affair with Daniels and take her off the board.

Instead, the prosecution further complicated the trial by seeking to prove the affair happened, and jurors sympathized with Daniels’ testimony.

Trump’s defense again failed the ‘keep it simple’ maxim when it interrogated Cohen on the stand for days over every little point.

In response, prosecutors produced dozens of documents that backed up Cohen’s testimony and made him look more credible and the case stronger.

‘It’s not about whether you like Michael Cohen. It’s not about whether you want to go into business with Michael Cohen,’ prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told jurors.

‘It’s whether he has useful, reliable information to give you about what went down in this case, and the truth is that he was in the best position to know.’

Bragg refuses to be drawn on possible Trump prison sentence

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (center) speaks with prosecutor Joshua Steinglass (left) next to him at a triumphant press conference after the verdict

Anti-Trump demonstrators gather with banners following Trump's hush money trial verdict

All the defense had to do was attack the parts of his testimony that weren’t backed up by the many texts, documents, and audio recordings and paint him as an unreliable witness.

‘It may be that a not-guilty verdict was always a long shot. But if the defense had been more effective, one of the two lawyers on the jury might have voted to acquit, all that is needed for a hung jury,’ Mariotti wrote.

Team Trump’s second fatal mistake, Mariotti explained, was adopting an ‘all-or-nothing approach that demanded a total victory without the possibility of escaping with a misdemeanor.

If they had let the judge instruct the jury that they could find him guilty of a lesser charge, they may have compromised on that instead of felonies.

‘Mr Trump’s team was a reflection of its client, always attacking and never backing down. That playbook has worked for Mr. Trump again and again. For this trial and in a Manhattan courtroom, the attitude and strategy backfired,’ Mariotti wrote.

Trump will be sentenced on July 11.

Stormy Daniels a key witness in the trial, with Donald Trump in 2006

Trump waves to supporters outside Trump Tower after the verdict

‘It was ‘a rigged trial. A disgrace. They wouldn’t give us a venue change,’ Trump complained, shortly after Judge Juan Merchan wrapped up the trial.

‘The real verdict is going to be November 5th by the people, and they know what happened here and everybody knows what happened here,’ Trump said, pointing to Election Day.

‘You have a Soros-backed DA, and the whole thing. We didn’t do a thing wrong. I’m a very innocent man.

‘This was done by the Biden administration in order to wound or hurt an opponent, a political opponent.

‘We’ll fight til the end and we’ll win, because our country’s gone to hell,’

Trump echoed attacks he has made inside the courthouse in daily statements, where he refused questions each time.

And he once again attacked Judge Juan Merchan, calling him ‘a conflicted judge who should have never been allowed to try this case. Never.’

Trump’s team is certain to appeal, and may revisit recusal issues that they raised months ago without success.

Trump didn’t mention the New York jury, who deliberated for 10 hours on the case, and who spent a month inside a Manhattan Criminal Court room that Trump repeatedly called ‘freezing.’

Judge Merchan called the jury ‘involved and engaged’ and told them, ‘You gave this matter the attention it deserved.’

A Trump supporter cries outside the Manhattan courthouse after hearing the former president was found guilty by a jury of all 34 counts of falsifying business records

The Biden campaign issued its own statement not long after the verdict.

‘In New York today, we saw that no one is above the law,’ communications director Michael Tyler said.

‘Donald Trump has always mistakenly believed he would never face consequences for breaking the law for his own personal gain.

‘But today’s verdict does not change the fact that the American people face a simple reality. There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box.

‘Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president.’

By contrast, the White House kept its distance: ‘We respect the rule of law, and have no additional comment.’

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg thanked the jury of 12 who convicted Donald Trump, crediting his team of prosecutors while refusing to say whether he would seek prison time for the former president who has relentlessly attacked him.

‘I did my job. Our job is to follow the facts and the law without fear or favour’ said Bragg, responding to criticism of the case.

Asked if his office would object to any effort by defense lawyers to stay a potential jail sentence for the former president – which experts call unlikely – Bragg responded, ‘I’m not going to address hypotheticals.’

Asked if his team would seek prison time for Trump, Bragg responded, ‘We will speak in our court filings as we’ve done throughout this proceeding,’ he said.

Trump supporters are angry after Trump is ‘falsely’ found guilty

Legal experts said a sentence of probation is far more likely for the first-time, non-violent offender.

Asked if he had any response to Trump repeatedly targeting him, Bragg said simply: ‘I do not.’

‘This defendant may be unlike any other in American history. But we arrived at this trial and this verdict in the same manner as every case that comes through the courtroom doors, by following the facts and the law and doing so without fear or favour,’ he said.

Trump’s supporters, both public figures and the crowd outside the courthouse, responded with shock and anger after the verdict was announced.

Some of his fans outside cried and moped, meekly holding their signs supporting the newly convicted criminal.

Trump waved to his supporters as he left, and slowed his motorcade as it passed those waving to him from the street. Hundreds more massed a Trump Tower.

Media personality Megyn Kelly warned Democrats that Donald Trump’s felony conviction opened a ‘Pandora’s box’ that meant no one was safe.

She predicted ‘tit-for-tat’ indictments of anyone from President Joe Biden and his wife Jill to former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

Chaotic scenes from outside Trump trial courthouse in New York City

Two Trump supporters hold each other in anguish as word of the verdict filters through to the crowd outside

Megyn Kelly warns conviction of Donald Trump declares ‘open lawfare’

The jury of seven men and five women at Manhattan Criminal Court deliberated for nearly 10 hours before convicting Trump.

It was the first time a former US President has faced a criminal trial and the verdict could upend the 2024 White House race, proving a pivotal moment in the history of the US.

Jurors endured five weeks of dramatic evidence and 22 witnesses being quizzed on the stand.

The charges Trump was convicted of each carry a maximum potential sentence of up to four years in prison. He has 30 days to appeal against the guilty verdicts.

Prosecutors told of a plot by Trump to ‘corrupt’ the 2016 election by hiding a $130,000 hush money payment by his ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Daniels alleged that she and Trump had sex a decade earlier, which he has denied.

The case featured explosive evidence by Daniels and lifted the lid on the ‘catch and kill’ practices of the National Enquirer tabloid, which bought stories that could be damaging to Trump and suppressed them.

But the actual criminal charges concern something more prosaic – the reimbursements Trump signed for Cohen for the payment.

The reimbursements, paid by Trump in monthly installments, were recorded as being for legal expenses.

Prosecutors say that was a fraudulent label designed to conceal the purpose of the hush money transaction and to illicitly interfere in the 2016 election.

Defense lawyers argued that Cohen actually did substantive legal work for Trump and his family and was paid for it.

In a marathon day of closing arguments on Tuesday prosecutors and defense lawyers had one final chance to score points with jurors as they embarked on their momentous task.

The two sides offered wildly different accounts of Trump’s culpability, the strength of the evidence, and the credibility of witnesses.

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