Saturday, June 1, 2024

Something to Know - 1 June

Here are two tid-bits of cocktail topics to discuss in following up to Trump's conviction.  The air will be ripe with speculations until 11 July.  After that, more of the same:

. ET5 hours ago
5 hours ago

Editorial Board Member

Fantasies Aside, Sentencing Trump Poses a Very Tough Choice

Donald Trump is not your average felon. That creates a devil of a dilemma for Juan Merchan, the New York trial judge who by July 11 must decide on an appropriate sentence for Trump after his conviction on 34 counts of falsifying business records. Send him to prison? Fine him, put him on probation, order him to perform 300 hours of community service?

It's not a straightforward question. Unlike the federal system, New York has no formal sentencing guidelines, but decades of case law help judges weigh several familiar factors  including age, criminal record, and the severity of the offense — in determining the right punishment.

"So much depends on the individual," Michael J. Obus, who sat on the New York State Supreme Court bench for 28 years, and alongside Merchan for more than a decade, told me. "There's just no precedent for this particular individual that makes this an easy decision. Everything pulls you in different directions. On the one hand, you've got a man who's 77 years old and is convicted of the lowest-level, Class E felony. On the other hand, he's been held in contempt 10 times and is not showing any remorse." 

May 31, 2024, 5:31 p.m. ETMay 31, 2024
May 31, 2024

Contributing Opinion Writer

Six of Trump's Dumbest Trial Mistakes

In the avalanche of post-conviction coverage, we've all heard that if Donald Trump had just copped to a misdemeanor, or admitted to having sex with Stormy Daniels, or been allowed to have his expert witness testify fully, he wouldn't be a felon.

Maybe so, but that's beside the point. Trump could still have been Trumpy and possibly won the case if he and his lawyers had not made six critical mistakes:

  • Trump disrespected the judge. The last thing any defendant should do is tick off the judge. Trump and his team did so repeatedly. His 10 citations for contempt of court, which almost got him thrown in jail, were just the start of it. Trump's lawyers made a series of frivolous and repetitive motions that did their case — and their own reputations — no good. The only explanation is that their volcanic client must have insisted on it.

  • Trump dozed for much of the trial. Jurors might have been fine with him falling asleep occasionally. But inside the courtroom we noticed on the monitors (which showed Trump from the front) that his eyes were closed every day and for large portions of the testimony. That's a bad look for any defendant trying to win favor with the jury.

  • The defense blew its cross-examination of Stormy Daniels. Susan Necheles, one of the defense lawyers, had a tough assignment: Prove Stormy Daniels was lying about her sexual encounter with Trump when she clearly was not. But Necheles made it worse by seeming to shame Daniels for her career choices, falsely hinting she had records to disprove the account, and by failing to object more when Daniels got prurient, as the judge later pointed out.

  • The defense dropped its best anti-Michael Cohen argument. The lead defense attorney, Todd Blanche, elicited on cross-examination that Cohen thought William H. Pauley, a former federal judge, was in on some kind of crazy conspiracy with Cohen's enemies to hurt him. But Blanche was so eager to catalog all of Cohen's lies that he failed to focus on Cohen's wildest charge later.

  • The defense insisted on putting on a case. If the defense had rested without calling witnesses, Trump's refusal to testify would have made a certain sense, suggesting the prosecution's case was so weak there was no need to rebut it. Instead, the defense called the thuggish Robert Costello, who was by far the worst, least credible witness in the entire trial and was destroyed on cross-examination. This ended the trial on a down note for the defense.

  • The defense lied about the "Access Hollywood" tape. "You heard that politicians reacted negatively to the 'Access Hollywood' tape," Blanche said, in one of the biggest lies during his closing. "None of that is true." Oh, yeah? So why was Trump nearly dumped from the 2016 ticket over it? This jury wasn't born yesterday, and they had heard lots of testimony about the effect of that explosive tape.

Trump still doesn't get that a court of law is not the same as the court of public opinion. Politicizing the trial might be good for donations and even polling but it will hurt him on July 11, when he will have to answer for his antics at sentencing.

Juan Matute
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― The Lincoln Project

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