Trump bungled the trial

Trump bungled the trial

Ankush Khardori writes:

It may not have been the trial that the country deserves, but it’s the trial that we got.

On Thursday, Donald Trump became the first president in U.S. history to become a convicted felon thanks to a jury of 12 New Yorkers. The verdict was swift, coming after less than two days of deliberations in the hush money trial.

But a conviction was not inevitable. The legal issues were intricate and in some key respects novel, and some of them will credibly be at issue on appeal. The state’s evidence was voluminous but far from airtight, and there were weaknesses and gaps in the prosecution’s evidence as the case unfolded.

In fact, this was probably a winnable case — not in the form of an acquittal perhaps, but in the form of a hung jury that could have resulted by persuading one or more jurors that a case built around Michael Cohen — the former Trump lawyer/fixer turned convicted felon turned media personality — was simply not strong or reliable enough to warrant this watershed moment in American history. Trump also probably could have gotten off with convictions on misdemeanor counts of falsifying his company’s business records instead of felonies, but he never asked the judge to instruct the jurors on that point, perhaps fearing that the request might make him look weak — the worst offense of them all in his mind.

In life and in the law, hindsight is 20/20. In close political campaigns, analysts are often tempted to treat the eventual winner as the candidate that made the right decisions at the crucial points, and to treat the loser as having fumbled along. The same dynamic applies to legal proceedings too, so some caution is warranted. At some point, we may hear from some of the jurors themselves about what guided their decision, which would be a welcome addition to the historical record.

In the meantime, we are left to our own devices and to a tentative but unavoidable conclusion — that Trump and his lawyers bungled this trial. [Continue reading…]

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