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‘How Trump's Team Blew It’: Former Federal Prosecutor Reveals How Ex-Prez Lost the Winnable Trial — the Two Huge Mistakes Revealed

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Legal experts argue that Trump's defense lost the trial by mishandling a "winnable case."

May 31 2024, Published 12:00 p.m. ET

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Donald Trump was found guilty of 34 felony counts for falsifying business records. Despite the ex-president's repeated claims that the trial was "rigged," legal experts have argued that the loss in court came from his defense team fundamentally mishandling a "winnable case," has learned.

"If Mr. Trump’s lawyers had played their cards right, they most likely would have ended up with a hung jury or a misdemeanor conviction," Renato Mariotti, a partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in Chicago and a former federal prosecutor, wrote in an essay for The New York Times explaining exactly how Trump's team blew it.

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Donald Trump was found guilty on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records this week.

"The defense needs its own story, and in my experience, the side that tells the simpler story at trial usually wins," according to Mariotti. "Instead of telling a simple story, Mr. Trump’s defense was a haphazard cacophony of denials and personal attacks. That may work for a Trump rally or a segment on Fox News, but it doesn’t work in a courtroom."

The prosecution's case hinged on Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and fixer, who has been convicted of lying to Congress and charges of bank fraud, tax evasion, and campaign finance violation. Although "the evidence for most of the other relevant facts was rock solid," Cohen's testimony was the only direct evidence of Trump's personal approval of the falsification of business records.

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New York City's Rikers Island is said to be "ready" for the ex-prez if he does get jail time.

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"The defense could argue that Mr. Cohen and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, who has pleaded guilty to lying under oath and tax fraud, came up with that scheme on their own," Mariotti said. "Mr. Trump, his lawyers could argue, was focused on his role as president."

But instead of zeroing in on the "key points" on which Cohen's testimony was not supported by documents, phone records, text messages, and recordings, the defense "sought to confront him with every lie it could identify, seemingly every misdeed he ever committed and every potential line of attack it could come up with" and failed to focus the jury on the weaknesses in the prosecution's case.

Donald Trump
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The embattled GOP frontrunner insisted that he and Daniels never had an affair.

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That "deny everything" approach caused the trial to drag on for weeks. While a "savvy defense counsel" could have just admitted Trump's affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, Mariotti argued, the defense "forced the prosecution to prove that the affair occurred and proceeded to aggressively attack Ms. Daniels, whom some of the jury likely found sympathetic in her testimony," distracting from the actual issue at hand.

Trump's team also decided "not to seek a jury instruction that would have permitted jurors to find that Mr. Trump committed a misdemeanor rather than a felony. It’s unclear whether that decision to deny the jury an option that would have given the defense a win was an act of hubris or a refusal to compromise, but both are characteristics of Mr. Trump that don’t translate well into a criminal trial."

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"The defense lost a winnable case by adopting an ill-advised strategy that was right out of Mr. Trump’s playbook," Mariotti wrote. "Mr. Trump’s team was a reflection of its client, always attacking and never backing down. That playbook has worked for Mr. Trump again and again. For this trial and in a Manhattan courtroom, the attitude and strategy backfired."

After the verdict came down, Trump insisted, "We didn’t do a thing wrong. I’m a very innocent man ... Our whole country is being rigged right now. This was done by the Biden administration in order to wound or hurt an opponent, a political opponent. We’ll fight til the end and we’ll win, because our country’s gone to hell." He will be sentenced on July 11.



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