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Alvin Bragg has bad day in court



Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, prosecuting the first Trump case, had his worst day in court since the trial began. His star witness admitted having stolen from the Trump organization and lied to its CEO. In the process he destroyed the value of the one piece of evidence anyone thought could still be probative – indeed decisive – against Donald Trump. Judge Juan Merchan, who has been in the tank for the prosecution all along, lost his temper and ejected a defense witness from court in mid-testimony. By now everyone knows fully well about the conflicts of interest that riddle this case. And this as Trump prepares to hold a campaign rally in New York’s South Bronx.

The Alvin Bragg case

Alvin Bragg is the first public prosecutor to get an indictment against Trump. The case alleges that Trump paid off a former alleged intimate associate, Stephanie “Stormy Daniels” Clifford, to keep quiet about their alleged affair, so as not to hurt his campaign. The case then alleges that Trump falsified business records to cover up the true purpose of the expenditure. Because this expenditure is supposed to be in aid of a campaign, it would constitute a felonious campaign-finance violation. But even Merrick Garland’s Department of (Political) Justice wouldn’t touch the case with a proverbial ten-footer. Nevertheless, Alvin Bragg brought the case anyway, to the Supreme (actually, Superior) Court of the State of New York, in and for the County of New York (i.e., Manhattan), The (Allegedly) Honorable Juan Merchan presiding.

Judge Merchan has consistently ruled to make Trump’s life miserable, forbidding him to comment directly on the case. Nor to comment on his daughter running a consulting firm that has key Democrats as clients. Nor on his own history of heavy donations to Democrats. This gives the judge a conflict of interest, partly on financial grounds (his daughter’s consultancy) but also on ideological grounds (he supports Democrats). Under any other circumstances, he would be off the case, which would then be reassigned – if not dismissed. But New York’s courts are the most ideologically corrupt in the country. Witness their stonewalling of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen and their repeated violations of the Second Amendment.

Does Alvin Bragg have a smoking gun?

Last Thursday (May 16), Trump’s defense counsel, cross-examining “star” witness Michael Cohen, caught Cohen out in a lie. At issue then was Cohen’s telephone call to Keith Schiller, in charge of security for Trump, in 2016. The details of Cohen’s interchange with Schiller are sketchy, except that Cohen left the exchange out of his account of the call. Cohen was trying to establish that this was the call in which Schiller handed the phone to Trump, who then cleared Cohen to pay Ms. Clifford $130,000 to keep quiet. The point: only Cohen could substantiate that he was one the phone with Trump at all. And if he lied about a material point, that account of Trump being on the phone is now suspect. (Call this Aesop’s Razor: when a person lies, none can credit him with telling the truth.)

But Lanny Davis, author of the “Purple Nation” column, insisted that the media made too much of this omission. He further said that notes by Allen Weisselberg, Trump Organization CEO, show plainly that Trump was to reimburse Cohen to the tune of $210,000, including the $130,000 “hush money.” Weisselberg doubled that, to cover Cohen’s income taxes in the 50 percent tax bracket. $420,000, divided by twelve months over a year, amounts to a $35,000 a month repayment plan. Those checks, crowed Davis, are in evidence.


Michael Cohen destroys even that

Lanny Davis published that boast yesterday (May 20). And that very day, Michael Cohen confessed to lying about the whole thing. Shortly after the trial resumed, Todd Blanche, counsel for Trump, continued his cross-examination of Cohen. According to Jim Hoft at The Gateway Pundit, Cohen admitted that he stole $30,000 from the Trump organization, and lied to CEO Weisselberg.

Paul Ingrassia, a regular at TGP, was in court and live-posting during the trial.

The “Lawrence” is Lawrence O’Donnell, reporter for MSNBC.

In this exchange, Emil Bove, another member of the Trump defense team, reminds the court that the prosecution has not even established an intent to commit another crime.

One of Bragg’s subordinates objects to having an expert witness on federal campaign law testify.


Here Michael Cohen takes the stand, and Todd Blanche begins his cross-examination of him.

Here Cohen admits to stealing from the Trump organization.

See also this video on Fox News discussing that point:

Cohen admits here that he has a financial stake in the outcome of this case. (See also Christina Laila’s article on this point.)

Here Michael Cohen admits he would be willing to lie if the case affected him personally.


Alvin Bragg and Judge Merchan both get a dose of reality

In the afternoon session, the defense called a paralegal from one of their law firms to testify.

While this was happening, Lawrence O’Donnell was outside, excusing (no one can justify this) Cohen’s theft from the Trump organization. Christina Laila mentioned this. O’Donnell threw up clouds of financial terminology to suggest Cohen was trying to recover his just due.

Paul Ingrassia reflects on O’Donnell’s demeanor in the press section:

Now came the real donnybrook, when the defense called Robert Costello, former legal adviser to Michael Cohen, to the stand.

This occasioned a flurry of objections, as the prosecution clearly did not want this man to testify. Why Judge Merchan ultimately cleared him to take the stand, is unclear.


But the reason for the prosecution’s frantic and strenuous objections became clear as crystal in short order.

Mr. Costello then revealed that Cohen told him he had nothing to say about Trump.

In fact, Cohen arranged to pay off Clifford on his own initiative.

The judge started doing a slow burn – and finally exploded.

See also Christina Laila’s article about this explosion, and another influencer mentioning the blow-up:


Ostensibly Judge Merchan was accusing Costello of rudeness in court, and toward him, the judge. But everyone in court knew what Judge Merchan’s real problem was.

Direct examination continued to the finish,…

… and then cross-examination began, during which the judge vented his spleen some more.

Defense moves to throw out Michael Cohen’s testimony

After a day that did not go as Judge Merchan might have anticipated (planned?), he hastily adjourned court.

But before the final adjournment, Mr. Blanche moved to strike all of Michael Cohen’s testimony.


That evening, Mr. Ingrassia offered this pithy summary of events:

The next day

This morning, Jim Hoft noted that Alvin Bragg “lost CNN.” Said panelist Alyse Adamson, “This is a lie that cuts at the heart of the evidence.” She also expressed shock that Alvin Bragg couldn’t build a case any better than that, and made such rookie mistake.

Recall Paul Ingrassia saying no sane jury would convict. Sadly, CNAV cannot know whether this jury is sane or insane.

This morning, the trial has resumed, Trump has a bevy of supporters, and Robert Costello is back on the stand. (If Trump can’t talk about the case, anyone else in court can – and they’ve been doing it, to devastating effect.)

After Emil Bove finished with Costello, a prosecutor had but two questions on cross-examination:


At 10:19 a.m. EDT, the defense rested.

Judge Merchan then recessed the trial for a week, to avoid “splitting” case summations with Memorial Day Weekend between them.

Afterward, Andrew H. Giuliani held a press conference, with video.


There can be no excuse for how this judge conducted the Monday session. Worse yet, Alvin Bragg brought a case with the most flimsy support imaginable. In essence, he expects this jury to convict Donald Trump for being Donald Trump. This is an absolute travesty of justice. Robert Morgenthau, the legendary Manhattan District Attorney until 2009, must be spinning in his grave to consider his current successor. Only in the surreal story universe that Franz Kafka created would anyone bring a case like this to trial.

The worse part of this, is that this jury might still “reverse nullify” Trump’s legal rights. James Madison, in writing the Bill of Rights, specified that:


[N]o fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. U.S. Constitution, Amendment VII

Mr. Madison likely never imagined a scenario like this, in which a jury convicted a man “just because.” Jury nullification normally results in an acquittal. For a nullifying jury to convict, will stain the courts of the State of New York for decades to come. It will also mark Alvin Bragg as a prosecutor out of a dystopian novel – or short story. Obviously, Trump will appeal.

Judge Merchan’s conduct is worse. Lanny Davis scornfully referred to a “Perry Mason moment.” But in nine years of trying murder cases, the famed (though fictitious) criminal attorney never once dealt with a judge who lost his temper to this degree. (For that matter, neither Hamilton Burger nor any other prosecutor who opposed Perry Mason would dare bring such a case.)

What remains?

Summations, as mentioned, will take place next week, after Memorial Day. After that, the case goes to the jury. Whether the defense asked for a directed verdict of acquittal and the judge denied it, or whether the defense didn’t even bother asking for a directed verdict of acquittal, is not clear. Perhaps the defense knew they’d never get that directed verdict, and sought to entice the court to embarrass itself. And embarrass itself, this court certainly did. The only thing that remains to see, is whether this jury will embarrass itself.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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