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NY vs. Trump: DA Bragg's web of deceit starts to unravel

When a prosecutor contorts statutes and deploys lying witnesses to fool a jury into convicting an innocent defendant, it is an assault on the rule of law and an abuse of our system.

Liars don’t win trials. The truth does. That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.

Fulfilling that maxim is the challenge for the defense in the Manhattan trial of Donald Trump. Lawyers for the former President are tasked with exposing the legal deceit of District Attorney Alvin Bragg and the chronic dishonesty of his star witness, Michael Cohen. Compounding the challenge is a presiding judge, Juan Merchan, whose anti-Trump bias is conspicuous and disgraceful.

Back on the stand Thursday was the Beverly Hills attorney who negotiated payments for two women who demanded exorbitant cash from Trump in exchange for their silence about purported affairs. But the witness, Keith Davidson, admitted he had no contact whatsoever with the defendant and never met him. He dealt exclusively with Trump’s ex-lawyer, Cohen, who appeared to be acting entirely on his own.  Nothing in his testimony involved crimes allegedly committed by Trump.  


Davidson’s description of Cohen was both accurate and scathing —profane, offensive, unceasingly angry, and often threatening. Importantly, he depicted Cohen as a liar who turned bitter toward Trump when the newly elected president refused to take him to Washington, D.C. Jurors learned that Cohen had delusions of grandeur, envisioning himself as White House chief of staff or even attorney general of the United States.  

When his bubble burst, Cohen detonated like a nuclear device with seething hatred for his former boss that became a maniacal obsession.  He raged to Davidson, "Jesus Christ, can you f***ing believe I’m not going to Washington after everything I’ve done for that guy?"  Cohen seemed suicidal.  This helps shape the defense theory that Cohen’s real objective in testifying against Trump is vengeance, not truth.   

It’s hard to imagine that any sentient or ethical prosecutor would ever rest his case on the slumped shoulders of an unhinged and inveterate liar like Cohen. After confessing in 2018 to a string of shameful fabrications under oath, he was dispatched to prison for perjury and fraud. He is exactly what a federal judge called him recently, "a serial perjurer." He’s the Talented Mr. Ripley…without the talent.  


After appearing incessantly on television shows trashing Trump and calling him a criminal, Cohen has taken to TikTok during the trial to comment on the testimony and escalate his Trump tirades.  His social media rants reap financial profits, which means that now, more than ever, he has an economic motive to lie.  Indeed, his livelihood depends on it. Prosecutors' heads must have exploded when they discovered what he was doing.  What little credibility Cohen might have brought to the courtroom has vanished.   

The mere mention of Cohen’s name in a court of law should equal "reasonable doubt." He’s the definition of untrustworthy. Without him there is no legitimate case to be prosecuted. But instead of throwing in the towel by admitting that their central witness has gone rogue and self-destructed, Bragg persists in his contemptible pursuit of Trump. The D.A. is like an attack dog who won’t let go.        

If Bragg thought that Davidson would be a stellar witness for the prosecution, it may have backfired. He refused to call the Stormy Daniels payment "hush money or a payoff" while insisting that its proper definition is "consideration." That is a fancy legal term in contract law that simply means an exchange of benefits.  Here, it was compensation in return for a non-disclosure agreement. Booking it as a legal expense would, therefore, be manifestly proper.  


This key testimony blows a gaping hole in all of Bragg’s 34 charges against Trump that he falsified private business records.  What was false?  The Daniels deal was a legal settlement negotiated by two lawyers that culminated in the execution of a legal document.  Of course it was a legal expense.  What else would it be?

On cross-examination, Davidson melted like a Joe Biden ice cream cone when confronted with evidence that he was once investigated by law enforcement for criminal extortion, although never charged.  He admitted that much of his practice involved "extracting" money (he preferred to label them "settlements") from celebrities.  He also "brokered sex tapes."  For the defense, it fits a pattern of squeezing prominent people for cash during times of vulnerability.  People such as Donald Trump.

If there is a sleaze factor to the trial, it has rubbed off on Bragg’s witnesses more than Trump. Increasingly, the defendant resembles a victim of blackmail, which the law defines as a demand for money under threat.  In 2016, as the presidential election neared, the cash ultimatums intensified and, in the case of Daniels, Trump reluctantly capitulated.  


However, that does not mean that Trump himself committed any crimes. His personal reimbursements to Cohen did not constitute a violation of election laws, as Bragg contends.  The two government departments that have exclusive authority over such matters —the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department— correctly concluded that the payments to Daniels did not constitute an unlawful contribution.  

In other words, there’s no there there. But Alvin Bragg could care less. He deliberately commandeered a state statute that has no application to a federal election and twisted it into a pretzel to bringing a preposterous charge against Trump that is utterly unsupported by the facts and the law.

The consternation for the defense is the jurors who may be predisposed to convict in a politically charged case involving a presidential candidate they might dislike.  Are they capable of setting aside their personal beliefs to see through the prosecution’s charade? Or will they be snookered into believing that there is an election crime here, even though there is none?

When an unscrupulous prosecutor contorts statutes and deploys nefarious or lying witnesses to fool a jury into convicting an innocent defendant, it is an assault on the rule of law and an abuse of our justice system. In Manhattan, the crooked cards are stacked against Trump.  

We’ll see whether liars win trials…or the truth.


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