HomeTop StoriesWe could learn Trump's fate in the hush money case next week

We could learn Trump’s fate in the hush money case next week

NEW YORK — This time next week, Donald Trump could be a convicted criminal – or a newly exonerated man declaring complete and total exoneration.

His trial in Manhattan on charges of covering up a 2016 hush money scheme is coming to a sudden end, with Judge Juan Merchan encouraging lawyers to prepare for closing arguments as early as Tuesday. He then instructed jurors on legal issues before sending them for deliberation.

Trump’s former fixer for now Michael Cohen – the most important and likely last witness for the prosecution – remains on the stand after three full days of testimony. After a scheduled day off on Friday, Cohen will return Monday morning, when Trump’s defense team expects to wrap up a cross-examination that has been punishing, if uneven.

Once Cohen finishes testifying, prosecutors appear ready to drop their case. And on Thursday afternoon, Trump’s lead attorney, Todd Blanche, predicted that the case, if she were to file one at all, would likely be quick. It could be completed by the end of Monday.

However, there is one crucial variable: will Trump himself take the stand? Blanche told the judge he would discuss it with Trump this weekend before making a final decision.

If Trump chooses to testify, it would likely extend the trial by several days. However, most legal experts doubt he will take this position as it would expose him to cross-examination that could be legally ruinous and politically damaging.

It all means that, fourteen months after a New York grand jury indicted him for falsifying company records to conceal an affair with a porn star, Trump’s odyssey through Manhattan’s criminal courts appears to be coming to an end. The outcome will be a turning point in both American history — Trump is the first former president to face criminal charges — and in Trump’s bid to return to the White House.

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A conviction would naturally raise questions about when and whether Trump could be sentenced to prison, even as he barrels toward Election Day as the sure Republican nominee for president. Many experts consider prison sentences for these low-level, non-violent crimes unlikely, but not outside the realm of possibility.

An acquittal, on the other hand, would bolster Trump’s efforts to portray the criminal cases against him as deeply flawed and politically motivated. And it would be a rebuke to District Attorney Alvin Bragg for his decision to bring a case that has been questioned by many legal scholars.

The jury has other options that would lead to a muddle — including convicting Trump of the crime, rather than the misdemeanor version of the crimes, or returning a mixed verdict convicting Trump on some of the 34 charges , while others acquitted him. And of course, the jury could be stuck because they don’t agree on any of the charges. That would result in a mistrial, although Trump would certainly claim this as an effective victory.

What outcome the jury reaches may depend largely on what transpired in the courtroom during the three trials this week: the testimony of Cohen, the prosecution’s brash and erratic key witness.

Although Cohen has tried – largely successfully – to remain subdued and measured in his tone, Blanche has spent hours portraying him to jurors as compulsively dishonest, selfish and willing to lie to achieve the desired result.

And while Blanche’s cross-examination failed to deliver a decisive blow, appearing disjointed and sometimes confusing to follow, it wounded Cohen with a series of minor cuts that damaged his credibility and raised questions about his motivations.

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Things came to a head Thursday just before the trial’s lunch break, when Blanche questioned Cohen about apparent inconsistencies with his memory of a key phone conversation.

Two days earlier, under direct examination by the prosecutor, Cohen had testified that he spoke to Trump on the phone on October 24, 2016, and informed him that the hush money deal with porn star Stormy Daniels had been finalized. Cohen said he delivered the news by calling Trump’s bodyguard, Keith Schiller, who handed the phone to Trump.

Blanche showed jurors evidence that Cohen had received numerous threatening phone calls from a supposed 14-year-old “dope” in the days leading up to that phone call. The lawyer suggested that Cohen call Schiller that day to discuss the threats — and not to confirm the hush money payment with Trump. The content and timing of the call are important because it could show how much Trump knew about the hush money program in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Blanche’s evidence included a text message from Cohen to Schiller that day informing him of the threatening phone calls. After the text, Schiller left a voicemail for Cohen, and the former fixer called him back shortly afterward, according to the evidence.

Blanche raised his voice from a courtroom lectern and asked Cohen if his previous trial testimony about the call was accurate.

“That was a lie,” Blanche insisted several times, his voice growing louder and more passionate. “You can admit it.”

“No sir, that’s not possible,” Cohen said, reiterating that in addition to speaking to Schiller about the calls, I also spoke to Mr. Trump and told him that everything regarding Stormy Daniels was being worked on. it will be resolved.”

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“We don’t ask for your faith,” Blanche said angrily. “This jury doesn’t want to hear what you think happened.”

Blanche also cleverly undermined Cohen’s carefully maintained calm demeanor, puncturing it in front of the jury by presenting them with excerpts from Cohen’s podcast “Mea Culpa.” As a subdued, polite Cohen sat before them on the witness stand, jurors heard a growling, foul-mouthed voice from Cohen echoing through the courtroom.

And, as would be expected from a witness who has pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, Cohen was subjected to Blanche repeatedly addressing Cohen’s criminal record and his credibility.

Cohen previously testified that while he believed the underlying facts of the criminal tax charges against him were not wrong, he maintained he had been wrongfully prosecuted.

However, on Thursday, Blanche Cohen presented evidence from his public statements and his books showing that he called the tax charges “100% inaccurate” and that he recently said on TikTok that his case in the Southern District of New York was “the most inaccurate.” corrupt prosecution over the past 100 years.” Blanche suggested that the evidence showed that Cohen’s testimony was inconsistent not only with his public comments on the case, but also with his federal guilty pleas in court.

And Blanche asked Cohen a series of questions about testimony he gave to Congress in 2019 that related to his guilty plea in federal court the year before. Blanche asked whether Cohen had failed to state that he had lied during the plea hearing, despite telling Congress that he “accepted responsibility.”

“Do you agree with me that lying under oath does not accept responsibility?” Blanche asked.

Rather than respond with “yes” or “no,” Cohen simply said he accepted responsibility for the crime.

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