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Cohen May Be Way For DA Bragg’s Prosecutors To Avoid Quick Defeat: Turley

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Georgetown University law school professor Jonathan Turley said on Monday, following testimony by Michael Cohen in former President Donald Trump’s hush money case, that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg may be using the longtime fixer-lawyer to prolong the case and avoid a quick defeat.

Cohen, previously convicted of lying to Congress while facing additional allegations of perjury, appeared in court to testify in the case revolving around a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Ahead of Cohen’s testimony, New York Judge Juan Merchan rejected prosecutors’ plea to present a severance agreement involving former Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg as evidence prior to Cohen’s testimony.

“It was really interesting before his testimony to watch this effort to get in the agreement of the accountant. That was such an obvious and dishonest move by the prosecutors,” Turley said, referring to Weisselberg’s severance agreement, during a Fox News segment.

“You have to wonder whether this judge is having second thoughts about his failure to stop this case or at least force the prosecution to be clear about it. There is nothing stopping the prosecutor from calling that accountant, so the introduction of that agreement was clearly intended to suggest to the jury that they have some smoking gun evidence, but because of this agreement, they can’t present it. That’s entirely untrue, and so Merchan was right to say I’m not going to let you do that,” Turley continued.

“It goes to how this is a Potemkin village of a case. They are proving stuff not in evidence while leaving suggestions of stuff that is in evidence with the jury,” Turley added. “So the thing to keep in mind is: When the prosecution wraps up its case, the defense will stand up and make a standard motion for a directed verdict to say there is insufficient evidence to support a crime in this case.

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“That’s an extremely powerful argument because you have seen we’re still debating what the crime is. Even on this network, you have people disagreeing as to what the theory of this case is, and the prosecution is about to wrap,” he added.

In March 2023, Bragg obtained an indictment containing 34 felony counts related to falsifying business records. He asserted that the payment to Daniels was executed to conceal or facilitate another unspecified crime, as outlined in the indictment, reports have said.

“Now, what the prosecution is worried about is that even Judge Merchan may just say, ‘You know what? I gave you a shot, and you didn’t sink it, and so I’m going to direct this verdict; I’m going to issue an acquittal,’” Turley said. “The way they are going to get around that is just get Cohen to say ‘this happened, that he intentionally wanted me to put – wanted this to be a legal expense, he intentionally was committing fraud, he was trying to conceal campaign violations,’ even though very few people on earth would believe Michael Cohen.

“The prosecutors will argue to the judge ‘that is a credibility question, judge, and you need to let this go to the jury, whether you believe him or not, that is a fact question for the jury.’ That is their entire strategy, and so as unbelievable as Cohen may be, I don’t think the prosecutors think he will be believable, they just want him to check a box,” he added.

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Meanwhile, a paralegal from Bragg’s office testified on Friday that three pages of phone records between Cohen and Daniels’s lawyer, Keith Davidson, were deleted from their evidence, while Trump’s legal team was not notified about the removal, according to reports.

According to CNN, Trump attorney Emil Bove questioned paralegal Jaden Jarmel-Schneider on Friday concerning the deletion of three pages of 2018 phone records between Davidson and Cohen by Bragg’s office.

The altered call records were submitted as evidence, the reports said, but Bragg’s office failed to inform Trump’s defense team that three pages were missing.

Tampering with evidence is a class E felony in the Empire State under New York Consolidation Laws, Penal Law § 215.40.

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