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New York trial has final acts



Donald Trump’s New York felony trial, a three-ring circus since the opening statements, has its final acts yesterday. Today the case went to the jury, equivalent to a real circus awaiting its critical reviews. Non-jury critical reviews are already in, and almost all of these are pans. Ironically, the only problem a conviction will pose for Trump is further inconvenience, and an unprecedented problem about carceral accommodation of a former President. Does he go to Maximum? Solitary? Is some inmate or inmates already waiting to shiv him? (And what happens if anyone tries it?) No one knows. We do know that this case has brought monumental discredit on the New York Unified Court System. It has brought similar discredit on the Democratic Party – so much so that Donald Trump might actually flip New York, even if, like Rep. Matthew Lyon (Dem-Rep-Vt.), he must do it from prison.

Atmosphere in and outside the New York trial

Closing arguments began at a quarter of nine and actually ran until eight o’clock at night. In some jurisdictions that would be “Wagon Train” hour – when court personnel retrieve their cars from relatively remote parking, and re-park them on the street in front of, or across from, the courthouse. But apparently Judge Juan Merchan didn’t even allow a break for that. Moreover – and only at the judge’s orders could this have happened – someone turned off the HVAC system. Thus a room many wags normally call “The Icebox” went to the opposite extreme: a stuffy room. Not only did court personnel and lawyers (and President Trump) have to sit and swelter, but so did the jury.

Outside, an appalling spectacle took place, as the Biden campaign held a press conference beginning at a quarter after ten. Cullen Linebarger of The Gateway Pundit filed a report at half-past ten.Has-been actor Robert DeNiro actually said that Trump’s reelection would spell the end of freedom in America. He specifically mentioned elections – which was either a flat attempt at irony or yet another insistence that nothing untoward happened in the Election of 2020. Catcalls, most of them unprintable, flowed almost at once. Then someone shouted, “They lied under oath,” referring to some prosecution witnesses standing behind DeNiro. The actor challenged the heckler to be specific, which he was. Then he said, “I don’t know how to deal with you people,” as if he were acting in a movie.

Other lowlights – and early pans

During DeNiro’s speech, a car horn started honking incessantly but regularly – a typical Panic Button response. Whether someone bumped the car, or its owner pressed the Panic Button on his key fob, no one knows. Nor does it matter – because it rattled DeNiro just the same.

Christina Laila (TGP) filed another report at a quarter to noon. Apparently, as DeNiro walked away from the press conference, he got into a shouting match with another heckler.


At 9:20 p.m., Mike LaChance (TGP) reported that even Karl Rove, who would just as soon see Trump lose, panned that press conference. From Fox News he got this transcript:

Stupid mistake by the Biden campaign. … While all the cameras were there, they wanted to get their moment in the sun. And it was a big mistake. It politicizes the trial. Better to have waited. And then what was said, with all due respect to Mr. De Niro, who’s a wonderful, wonderful actor… “Donald Trump wants to destroy New York, destroy America, and destroy the world. And if you reelect him, he’s never going to leave office. He’s going to make himself a tyrant for life.”

Are those the kind of credible statements that are going to cause people who don’t like Biden and don’t like Trump, but are trying to figure out who to vote for, are they going to cause people to say, ‘well, geez, you now told me you wanted to destroy our country.’ Of course he did. The people who believe that are already in the Biden camp. That’s not who they should be trying to reach out to. He came close in a moment of talking about January 6th and talking about the two officers, [and] that might have had an impact.

But this was so over-the-top as to simply be useless. And what a stupid mistake on the part of the Biden campaign. More reason why Democratic leaders are probably going to be concerned that he’s the likely nominee of their party.

Needless to say, dozens of influencers have pointed out that Trump didn’t play the tyrant in his first term. He has in the past talked about “being a dictator from day one,” but that’s a joke. Everyone knows that, but of course the Democrats want to hide that. They also are throwing off on Trump – and everyone knows that, too.

But maybe that press conference – and then someone shutting off the HVAC system in the courtroom – were all part of a plan to intimidate the jury. What made that plan more likely to succeed, is that the jury might know what happened, but “weren’t there.” Without direct witnessing or testimony, imagination supervenes, and can run wild.

Not allowed even to explain New York law?

Paul Ingrassia (TGP) was present and posted live updates, as usual. He named several people who also would be “covering” the trial. They included one from the opposition: former Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

The judge warned both lawyers not to discuss the law – so he would be the sole authority on the law. Simiarly, as the jury came in, he said that nothing any lawyer said, during trial or in summation, was “evidence.”


The judge further said the jury could decide whether to hold summations through the evening, or break them off at half-past four.

Todd Blanche evidently wasn’t having that, because he began at once to explain an important point of law. Second-degree falsification of business records is a Class A misdemeanor – but the prosecution was charging a Class E felony. Felonious offenses rate prison time.

Blanche had three points to make, and he made them over about three and one-half hours (a quarter to ten, to a quarter past one. This evidently did not include a lunch break.

Defense closing argument

Blanche made three main points:

  • The facts do not support a felony charge, and arguably not even a misdemeanor charge, against Trump.
  • Stephanie Clifford (“Stormy Daniels”) sought to extort money from Trump in the context of the Election of 2016. This although the story of Clifford and Trump’s relationship (such as it was) came out in 2011.
  • Michael Cohen, the “star witness” who laid the foundation (such as it is) of the case, is an unreliable witness. In fact, as Jim Hoft (editor-in-chief of TGP) noted, Blanche called Cohen the “GLOAT”: Greatest Liar Of All Time.

In addition, Mr. Ingrassia noted that never once has Judge Merchan apprized the jury of Mr. Trump’s rights under the Constitution or State law.

The last half hour of Blanche’s summation provoked some high drama in court. Blanche began his peroration at about a quarter of one. In the process he made some off-hand remark about whether Trump should go to prison for a non-crime. Prosecutors objected, and Judge Merchan worked up to an explosion. First he denounced the statement as “highly inappropriate.” Then he roared – as he has done before:



At last, at about a quarter after one, Blanche finished.

Prosecution closing argument

Todd Blanche argued for a total of three and a half hours. Joshua Steinglass, counsel for the prosecution, argued for six and a half hours. Most of it was a filibuster worthy of Senator Marcus Porcius Cato Junior during Julius Caesar’s tumultuous decade in Rome. As Steven Richards of Just the News noted, Steinglass spent most of his time rehabilitating Michael Cohen as a witness.

CNN seems to be trying to let its audience down easily. Legal analyst Elie Honig said flatly that the prosecution can’t get past Cohen’s unreliability.

[Steinglass is] trying to bridge this gap. He’s trying to say he’s corroborated with a mountain of evidence everywhere you look, he’s backed up. They’re going to get into the checks in the ledgers and the handwritten notes.

Which, apparently, Steinglass did, even to rehashing the infamous Access Hollywood tape of Trump making some very crude remarks.But, says Honig, it’s not enough if you can’t “take Michael Cohen at his word.” Similarly, another CNN analyst, former criminal defender Randy Zelin, said the prosecution “fell way short.”

But signs of HVAC failure – or sabotage – became almost immediately apparent. Andrew Giuliani (Rudy’s son) noted in the morning that the overflow room was hot – and stank of someone’s body odor.


At a quarter to four, Steinglass advised the judge that he was only one-third through.

Then at five past four, Ingrassia noted that the HVAC system was no longer running.

At five of five, the judge announced that the session could run from seven to eight o’clock.

A very late finish

Ingrassia offered three possible reasons for Merchan to continue the sesssion for so long:

  1. Simple delight in the suffering of others (without regard to his own personal suffering),
  2. Trying to influence the jury to return a guilty verdict, and leveraging their personal discomfort to that end, and
  3. Securing personal profitability from the case.

But at a quarter after seven, Ingrassia seemed to think the judge wanted at least to finish by eight o’clock. But if that was not to be, then it was the judge’s fault for letting this filibuster go on.


At the same time, came a new development: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) had filed a misconduct complaint against the judge. She accused him of “stacking the deck” to make sure he would get “the Trump case.”(Source: Christine Laila, TGP.)

Steinglass did finish at about eight o’clock.

An unorthodox – and unconstitutional – jury charge, even for New York

This morning, Todd Blanche declined to make any response. Judge Merchan opened court late – at ten o’clock. Before court began, Ingrassia noted that his X account, and several other accounts, were throttled. He called on Elon Musk, who owns X, to repair what he said was a compromised algorithm.

Then Judge Merchan charged the jury. When he did, the reason for his forbidding the lawyers to opine on the law became chillingly apparent. He ruled that the jury need not agree on the predicate crime, in aid of which Trump is accused of falsifying his records. The three predicate crimes involve violations of the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, laws governing business records, and tax laws. According to this judge, jurors can individually pick one of these three predicates, and so long as all agree on what Trump did in furtherance of one of the three, that would be a unanimous verdict. Mr. Ingrassia explained all this in these posts:

Merchan finished charging the jury at eleven twenty-six. After some “buttering up” of the jurors, the judge excused himself temporarily from the courtroom. At twelve to one, Mr. Ingrassia left this long-form post explaining his outrage at the jury charge. In essence, he said, Judge Merchan has violated the unanimity principle that is fundamental to common law.



Shortly before three o’clock, the jury “buzzed” the judge and asked for four pieces of evidence, having to do with the testimony of David Pecker and Michael Cohen involving a meeting at Trump Tower.

At four minutes to four, the jury “buzzed” the judge again, asking to rehear the jury charge.

For answer, the judge ordered a thirty-page printout of a transcript of the jury charge. Or so Mr. Ingrassia assumes; apparently the judge’s instructions were barely audible. Finally, at five after four, Judge Merchan adjourned court for the day.


Everyone commenting on this case, except for die-hard leftists and Never-Trumpers (and not all of these), professes shock and astonishment. What, they ask, does Judge Merchan think he’s doing? His handling of this case is without precedent, in New York or any other State. Indeed, Donald Trump, speaking to reporters, ruefully observed that even Mother Theresa couldn’t beat this rap. Not, that is, with such an open-ended jury charge that significantly lowers the bar for a conviction.

Alan Dershowitz has suggested all the defense can do is file exception after exception, to build an appealable record. Obviously the New York Court of Appeal, the State’s highest, can void or reverse any conviction in a trial court. But if they do not, the United States Supreme Court could find that the New York courts have effectively:

  1. “Enforce[d]” a “law infringing the privileges and immunities of [a citizen] of the United States,”
  2. “Depriv[ed] a person of … liberty or property without due process of law,” and/or:
  3. “Denied to [a] person within [their] jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” [Amendment XIV Section 1.]

This jury could stop this by acquitting Trump, or deadlocking. At least one commentator has suggested that the first jury note suggested that several jurors were voting to acquit. If so, the rest of the jury, constituting a majority, was trying to apply pressure to them. But the pressure-cooker scene in Sidney Lumet’s 1957 film Twelve Angry Men will not take place.

How soon is a verdict required?

Technically no law sets a limit on jury deliberation. The only limits are practical – how long can a court keep a case on its docket? So deliberations could last a week, or more.

True, the New York Court of Appeal, or the U.S. Supreme Court, could quash a conviction. But neither court can remove a judge from the bench who so flagrantly violated a defendant’s right to due process. That requires the impeachment process, and in New York the only competent trier of fact is the State Senate, on a resolution of impeachment from the State Assembly. Proof of venal profiteering by the judge – through his daughter the political consultant – might create a situation neither Senate nor Assembly can ignore. Or not.

At least, not before the next Senate and Assembly elections. The people of New York State must now decide whether they care to live under courts that can run roughshod over people’s rights for political convenience. Judge Merchan, and District Attorney Bragg, might argue they were trying to stop the next Adolf Hitler. But after Trump’s South Bronx rally, that argument won’t convince.

But New York must do more than remove one judge who indulged his ideological (and venal) corruption. A good-hearted legislature might need to examine the record of every judge on the New York bench. To get that kind of legislature will require a leader of sufficient vision – and courage. Does New York have any such person waiting in the wings? Only time will tell.

Editor’s Note

CNAV intended publishing this article on May 29, the day before The Verdict. Unfortunately a malicious-destructive database attack erased the article. CNAV has endeavored to replace lost article content in the original order of publication. For that reason, this article appears on June 2, well after The Verdict. A response to that Verdict will be forthcoming.

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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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