HomeTop StoriesAn exciting day during the Trump trial: from the Politics Desk

An exciting day during the Trump trial: from the Politics Desk

Welcome to the online version of From the Political Bureauan evening newsletter featuring the latest reporting and analysis from the NBC News Politics team from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition we have the latest news from an exciting day in the Trump trial and what to expect next. Plus, senior national politics reporter Jonathan Allen explains why Biden’s debate challenge shows he’s concerned about where his 2024 bid stands.

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‘That was a lie!’: Trump’s lawyer gets excited during interrogation Michael Cohen

By Adam Reiss, Gary Grumbach, Jillian Frankel and Dareh Gregorian

Michael Cohen returned to the witness stand in Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday for a tense cross-examination Donald Trump‘s lawyers, who try to portray him as a dishonest and unreliable narrator whose claims cannot be believed.

The key moment: In a heated argument, lawyer Todd Blanche Cohen spoke about the details of a telephone conversation he said he had with Trump on October 24, 2016, about the payment of $130,000 in hush money to porn actor Stormy Daniels. Cohen had testified that he contacted Trump through his bodyguard Keith Schiller to “discuss the Stormy Daniels case and its resolution.”

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Blanche noted that the call occurred at 8:02 PM and lasted 90 seconds, and at 8:04 PM, Cohen texted Schiller the phone number of a 14-year-old who he had complained had called him as a joke. He shouted that Cohen’s story about the conversation with Trump that evening was “a lie!” The real conversation was about the teenager, Blanche insisted. Cohen said he “believed he was telling the truth, based on the records and documents” he reviewed.

“We are not asking for your faith. This jury doesn’t want to hear what you think happened,” Blanche snapped.

The timeline: Prosecutors told Judge Juan Merchan this week that Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, is their final witness in the often sensational trial, which began April 15.

Blanche had not finished his cross-examination by the end of the day on Thursday, so Cohen will return to the witness stand on Monday. There will be no court Friday so Trump can attend his son’s high school graduation.

It is unclear at this time whether Trump will file a defense case. Blanche told the judge this week that he may provide expert testimony if he determines it is necessary.

The other possible witness is Trump himself, but Blanche said Thursday he did not know whether his client would take the stand. If he doesn’t, the judge says both sides should be prepared to make their closing arguments on Tuesday.

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Trump’s team: Trump reappeared with some high-profile allies in tow. His contingent Thursday included Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Bob Good of Virginia.

Read more from day 18 of the Trump trial →

What Biden’s debate challenge reveals about the state of his campaign

By Jonathan Allen

Sometimes a politician tells us something without saying it directly.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden told the political world that he is concerned about his re-election campaign.

He did so by releasing a quick and funny video refuting Trump’s debate challenge. Trump quickly agreed, and under Biden’s terms it appears they will meet in June and September.

If Biden felt he was in control of the race, there would be no reason to risk debating Trump.

It’s not that Trump will necessarily win debates against Biden. The first in 2020 was an epic debacle for Trump, leading many viewers to conclude that the then-sitting president was the non-presidential candidate.

But Biden clearly doesn’t like being on stage with Trump. When he was given the opportunity to cancel one of their debates in 2020, he grabbed it with both hands. Most importantly, a debate is one of the few opportunities a candidate has to shake up a race. Biden wouldn’t want to do that if he thought he was on the right track.

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Sure, Trump has said for months that he would debate Biden anywhere, anytime — but Trump often defies conventional political behavior, both to his advantage and to his detriment. His aides had to do everything but physically restrain him to prevent him from debating the also-rans trying to steal the Republican nomination from him.

Trump may be suffering from overconfidence, but he wants to debate Biden because he and his allies believe Biden will falter — not because he thinks he is losing.

Ultimately, it would have been difficult for Biden to avoid debates without giving the impression that he was afraid of Trump. So perhaps this outcome was inevitable. But the timing of the decision and the call for an earlier-than-usual debate in June were not. The early summer meeting suggests Biden wants time to recover if Trump gains the upper hand.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that both campaigns see this as a close race. But this is the first indication Biden has given that he is not happy with where he is now.

Read more about how Biden and Trump are tightening their messages ahead of the first debate →

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have any feedback – like it or not – please email us at politicsnieuwsbrief@nbcuni.com

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This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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