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Justice: Criminal President? Twelve jurors judge Trump

Justice: Criminal President? Twelve jurors judge Trump

There is a lot at stake in the US election year – for Donald Trump, the United States and the whole world. Now twelve ordinary people will decide the fate of the once most powerful man.

Donald Trump was born in New York and conquered his hometown as a real estate magnate. He pulled the strings in his extensive corporate network, shaped US politics after his sensational victory in the 2016 presidential election and controls the Republican Party to this day. Trump sets the tone – actually always. Just not here: in the court in Manhattan, where his fate now lies in the hands of twelve ordinary New Yorkers. The jury is to decide whether the presidential candidate is a criminal. They are only bound by their conscience.

The trial, with the legal title “The People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump,” marks a first in the history of the United States. Never before has a former US president been charged in a criminal trial. Trump is said to have concealed the payment of $130,000 in hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels in order to preserve his chances of winning the 2016 presidential election. The 77-year-old Republican, who is seeking re-election to the White House in November, denies this.

Since mid-April, a state of emergency has prevailed around the courthouse in downtown Manhattan. The streets are cordoned off when Trump arrives in a convoy of vehicles from his high-rise on 5th Avenue. Some people queue up in the middle of the night for a seat in court. Demonstrators shout slogans either for or against the 45th President of the United States.

If the jury can now agree and find him guilty, Trump could even face a prison sentence. Even then, he could still run in the upcoming election and face the Democratic incumbent Joe Biden for a second time. But the verdict is likely to have an impact on the election campaign in the USA in any case. Trump has repeatedly expressed doubts that he could get a neutral jury in New York – knowing full well that in liberal Manhattan only a good 12 percent voted for him in the 2020 election.

Over the past six weeks, US media have covered the trial like a major sporting event. Six highlights:

The “Trump System”: How reports should be suppressed

At the heart of the case is a meeting between three men, which prosecutors described as a “conspiracy” or “plot” like in a mafia film. In 2015, according to the statements, Trump, his then personal lawyer Michael Cohen and the former editor of the tabloid “National Enquirer”, David Pecker, met in New York’s Trump Tower. During the conversation, the publicist is said to have agreed to help the presidential candidate track down unflattering stories about him – with the aim of never letting them see the light of day.

As a result, according to Pecker, the National Enquirer actually bought the rights to several stories that the paper ultimately never published. However, Cohen himself paid for the confidentiality agreement with Stormy Daniels, as witnesses and documents confirm. Much depends on whether the jury is convinced that the payment to Daniels was actually intended to improve Trump’s election chances – and not to save his marriage.

Does the jury believe a “serial liar”?

No prosecutor in the world would be happy to have a key witness like Cohen. But Trump’s former confidant and legal “cleaner” is, despite his long history of publicly spreading untruths, the only one who can link the ex-president to the disputed payments. The trial therefore stands or falls on whether the jury believes the repeatedly convicted “serial liar” (New York Times quote).

The hush money payments to Daniels have been a concern for the US judiciary for years. Cohen was found guilty in this connection in 2018 and served a prison sentence for, among other things, giving false testimony. At that time, Trump was still president and was not prosecuted by the prosecution.

Now Cohen’s cross-examination by Trump’s lawyer Blanche turned into a confrontational exchange at times. “You called me a crying little bastard on Tiktok just before this trial started?” asked Blanche. “Sounds like something I would say,” replied Cohen. The prosecution, in turn, did everything it could to support the statements of the 57-year-old key witness as much as possible with documents, checks, phone data or other witness statements.

Short interlude without a condom

During the trial, some things would have been “better left unsaid,” Judge Juan Merchan commented contritely after Daniels’ testimony. The 45-year-old porn actress had previously described in great detail how Trump had approached her at a golf tournament in 2006. The subsequent sexual intercourse in Trump’s suite was a brief interlude, and she just let it happen. Trump had not used a condom.

Why didn’t she turn the multimillionaire down, didn’t she say no clearly? “Because I didn’t say anything at all,” is how Daniels described it – but she didn’t actually want to have sex. Afterwards she was shaking so much that she had trouble getting dressed again. The defense failed with a motion that aimed to bring the trial to a halt because of the statements.

Court as election campaign stage

On every day of the hearing, Trump transformed the gloomy corridor outside Room 1530 into a small campaign stage, where he described the trial as a politically motivated farce in a way that was suitable for the cameras. But what also showed was that Trump can pull himself together when he wants to. If he had made repeated comments about those involved in the trial, he would have been threatened with prison. He didn’t.

Trump also turned the process into a loyalty test for his Republican followers. In addition to the Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, and populist representatives such as Matt Gaetz, candidates for the office of Vice President such as Senator JD Vance and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy also came to the event.

When even the judge loses his composure

Merchan is known as a “no nonsense” judge who doesn’t take any nonsense. Robert Costello, who was called by the defense as a witness for the defense, also found this out. Cohen’s former legal advisor audibly commented on a granted objection by the prosecution with “Jeesh” – which could be translated as a derogatory “Oh my God.” Merchan then had the jury brought out of the courtroom and reprimanded Costello. When the latter continued to stare at the judge with a dark, red face, Merchan burst out in audible annoyance: “Are you staring at me?” He then had the courtroom temporarily cleared.

The one who is missing

It is not surprising that Trump’s wife Melania stayed away from a trial that is largely about her husband’s alleged extramarital affairs. There was hardly any sign of life from her – or her daughter Ivanka – during the entire duration of the proceedings. And certainly no open support. Trump congratulated Melania on her 54th birthday in front of the cameras in court. The couple attended their son Barron’s graduation party together. Melania wore a wide-brimmed hat that covered her eyes most of the time.

Source: Stern

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