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Politics: Verdict On Trump Judge’s Bias At 'hush Money' Trial Is

POLITICS: Verdict on Trump judge’s bias at ‘hush-money’ trial is in: Guilty

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Joe Biden is salivating at the prospect of his political archrival being convicted in the Stormy Daniels hush money trial in Manhattan, with jury deliberations set to begin this week.

If Donald Trump is found guilty in the first criminal prosecution of a former president, it will be a travesty of justice and a clear attempt to rig the 2024 presidential election.

But the ploy risks backfiring on Biden in the same way that Republican attacks on Bill Clinton over his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky did. Voters look dimly on the abuse of legal power to police private morals and, even though Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has tried to dress up his prosecution of Trump as a campaign-finance violation, it’s obvious to everyone that the whole point was the prurient retelling of his alleged night of passion with a porn star that so titillated the new prudes of MSNBC.

According to Politico, as soon as the jury comes back, Biden will deliver a statement addressing the verdict in a “White House setting — not a campaign one — to show his statement isn’t political.”
Hah! As if.

Biden gives game away

Nothing Biden can say will be cleansed of the taint of political dirty tricks, no matter how hard his media handmaidens try to characterize his attitude as taking “a vow of silence” and classily rising above the sordid legal woes of his opponent.

Biden has been taking plenty of sly digs, like when he “challenged” Trump to a debate and said, “I hear you have Wednesdays free.” Wednesdays are the days the hush-money trial doesn’t run.

During his speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Biden quipped: “I had a great stretch since the State of the Union. But Donald has had a few tough days lately. You might call it ‘stormy weather.’ ” Boom tish.

The real joke is pretending that Biden is decorously avoiding making hay from his rival’s mounting legal troubles. He is just trying to avoid fueling the suspicion that he weaponized the DOJ to go after his political rival, aided by Democratic DAs Alvin Bragg in New York and Fani Willis in Georgia, because he has nothing in the way of achievements or vision to run on in his own right.

By bleeding Trump of money and time to campaign in battleground states, and by dirtying up his image, Biden obviously is getting an unfair advantage, and he just can’t resist rubbing it in with cheap shots.
His surrogates never stop talking about Trump’s trials, and a super PAC laughably called Unite the Country reportedly is spending $40 million on ads targeting Trump’s legal issues. Not that it’s done any good, with polls showing the indictments are political rocket fuel for the former president.

It’s clear to even Trump-deranged observers that Manhattan Supreme Court Acting Justice Juan Merchan is a political hack. He was cautioned last year by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct over donations, albeit modest, to Biden and other Democrats. His daughter, Loren Merchan, has been profiting from the trial through her consulting firm as her Democrat clients reportedly raise millions in campaign donations through emails citing the trial over which her father is presiding.

It was a no-brainer for Merchan to recuse himself, and yet he refused, sullying the reputation of the New York legal system.

Rather than demonstrating that his personal political bent had no bearing on his courtroom conduct, Merchan has been a paragon of bias.

Cohen way too far

He gave free rein to prosecution star witness Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, a convicted perjurer and con man who revealed in court that he stole $60,000 from the Trump Organization because he was angry his bonus had been cut. “I just felt like it was self-help,” is how Cohen described his thieving.

By contrast, the judge muzzled defense witnesses — if he allowed them to be called at all.

Take the day that Cohen’s former lawyer Bob Costello took the stand. A well-respected former prosecutor and deputy chief of the criminal division of the Southern District of New York, Costello runs rings around Merchan in terms of reputation, skill and experience — which may explain why the judge was so thin-skinned and insecure during his testimony.

Costello was able to contradict Cohen’s sworn testimony that Trump ordered him to make the hush-money payment, saying that, as desperate and “manic” as Cohen was to avoid going to jail, he had insisted to his lawyers that “Trump knew nothing about those payments.”

The testimony was crucial to Trump’s defense — or it would have been, if Merchan hadn’t sustained every prosecution objection, accused Costello of giving him “side eye” and “staring [him] down,” thrown the media and public out of the courtroom and generally indicated to the jurors that Costello was a poor witness.

Juries are always stuck in a sort of “Stockholm Syndrome” relationship with their judges, so Merchan’s attitude toward the witness has a profound effect on how much weight they gave to his testimony.

Constitutional lawyer David Schoen, who defended Trump in his first impeachment, said Merchan’s conduct was “shocking” and “reprehensible.”

The judge never told Costello that he had ordered “very narrow limitations” on his testimony. For that matter, Trump’s lawyers should have warned Costello, instead of having the prosecution object to every second thing he said, leading to understandable frustration.

“But saying ‘Jeez’ under his breath was not a capital offense,” says Schoen. “It is difficult to see how the judge could have seen Costello rolling his eyes as his back was turned toward Merchan . . . Merchan closing the courtroom and accusing Bob of ‘staring [him] down’ is beyond bizarre, telling him his conduct was [in contempt was] totally inappropriate.”

Unconstitutional

By clearing the courtroom, Schoen says he believes Merchan violated the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial, and he cited other cases in New York of convictions being reversed because a judge, for instance, sent a defendant’s father out of the courtroom to make room for prospective jurors.

“Here the public and media had every right to see Merchan intimidating Costello as it affected Trump’s . . . rights by denying him Costello’s full testimony for fear of angering the judge.”

Schoen is scathing about Trump’s lawyers, who he says failed to prepare Costello properly, did not stand up for him during the judge’s tirade, and should have moved for a mistrial after he cleared the court.

“This is very unfair to President Trump. It is even more unfair and inappropriate to learn that apparently one of the lawyers ‘leaked’ to the media that they didn’t want to call Costello, but Trump forced them to.”

Merchan’s handling of the trial has been such a disaster that any guilty verdict will almost certainly be overturned on appeal. But that will only happen after the election, which allows Biden to smear his opponent as a “convicted felon” which, of course, is the whole point.

But the American people are wise to the ploy, and Biden should be careful what he hopes for.



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