From confusing instructions to misleading summations, the Trump trial now in jury’s hands

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The sound of laughter was revealing.

Inside the media room at the hush money trial, say those who were there, many of the reporters openly chuckled when the prosecutor took jabs at Donald Trump. They found that quite amusing.

For all the craziness surrounding the first criminal trial of a former president, the closing arguments – and the judge’s confusing instructions – packed some surprises. Now the media’s biggest challenge is filling air time and column inches – let’s bring in ex-jurors from other cases! – while waiting for the seven men and five women to deliver a verdict.

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The consensus of those who were there is that Trump lawyer Todd Blanche, who has little experience in such cases, spoke in a monotone EXCEPT FOR OCCASIONALLY RAISING HIS VOICE. At least his summation lasted only three hours.

Josh Steinglass of the Manhattan D.A.’s officer was far more passionate and animated, but he spoke for an eye-glazing five hours. Who on earth thought that was a smart idea? The jurors clearly lost focus as he got into the weeds of calls and emails, then repeated much of it, and kept them there until 8 p.m.   

How much information is the jury supposed to absorb?

That was equally true yesterday as Judge Juan Merchan spent an hour on the crucial jury instructions that only lawyers could love.

If someone testified falsely, you can disregard his entire account.

Michael Cohen, whose credibility was savaged by the defense, is an “accomplice.”

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The jury can’t convict on Cohen’s word alone, but can use his testimony if it’s corroborated with other evidence.

The extent of the defendant’s participation doesn’t matter as long as there’s a “general intent to defraud.” Ah, but intent does not require premeditation.

The defendant must be found to have falsified business records or caused them to be falsified.

As long as the jury agrees on the facts, they can use different reasoning, whether it applies to, say, election fraud or taxes. 

And the mystery crime that supposedly boosts this into felony territory? A violation of New York election law, about which we’d heard almost nothing.

Whew. Got that?

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It comes down to the jurors just using their common sense.

Todd Blanche scored some points, such as branding Cohen the GLOAT (Greatest Liar of All Time). But he left several gaping holes.

The defense lawyer began by saying that Trump and Stormy Daniels have repeatedly denied that a sexual encounter took place in 2006. Well, Stormy did lie about it in exchange for the money from Cohen, but she just as obviously now insists there was a hookup, as she testified.

Blanche said the president may have been too busy to focus on the 11 reimbursement checks he signed for Cohen. He argued that there was no email showing a conspiracy – uh, even incompetent criminals who have seen a couple of mob movies know you don’t leave a paper trail.

Blanche said the National Enquirer didn’t engage in catch-and-kill deals with the Trump campaign – of course they did, while the term wasn’t used, and that was confirmed by David Pecker.

The biggest shortcoming: The Trump defense didn’t address the emails, texts, Signal messages and banking records that back up Cohen’s account – because they don’t have an alternative version of events.

The prosecution tried to knock down Blanche’s argument that Cohen did legal work for Trump and his wife in 2017 which the president might have thought was legitimate. But Cohen devoted less than 10 hours to that work and, Steinglass said, had spent more time being cross-examined at the trial.

Yes, Cohen lied over the years, Steinglass said, yes he stole from the Trump Organization, but now he’s just a “tour guide” for the evidence. Right.

The prosecutor said Trump’s team had “shamed” Stormy and suggested her story has not changed over the years. Of course it has!

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Steinglass did rebut the argument that there was no panic as the media pursued the porn star after the “Access Hollywood” tape by citing Hope Hicks’ saying they all felt Trump could lose the election.

The most absurd moment for the prosecution came when he hypothetically reenacted a 90-second call in which Cohen claims he both complained about harassing calls from a 14-year-old and discussed the Stormy situation with Trump. Only took 46 seconds! But if you don’t buy that, Steinglass said, maybe Cohen got the date wrong.

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Oh, and who in the Biden campaign thought it was a brilliant idea for Robert De Niro to show up at the courthouse and start slamming Trump?