Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Opinion: In closing, Trump’s team takes the jurors for idiots. (Dana Milbank column, The Washington Post)

Good column by Dana Milbank on stumbling, bumbling, annoying, cloying Todd Blanche, lead lawyer for disgraced ex-President DONALD JOHN TRUMP.  Chief Justice Warren Burger once said that 90% of American lawyers don't know what to do in a courtroom.  This was only DJT lawyer Todd Blanche's second time as a criminal defense lawyer in trial.  Amateur Hour.  DJT has exhausted the supply of good lawyers with his criminal Trumpery, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.  Todd Blanche is a sixth-rate lawyer.  "But y'are, Blanche," in the words that Joan Crawford said to Bette Davis in the movie, "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"

From The Washington Post:

Opinion: In closing, Trump’s team takes the jurors for idiots

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche treated jurors as if they were deaf, or slow. “THAT. IS. A. LIE!” he bellowed at them.

May 29, 2024 at 9:33 a.m. EDT
Former president Donald Trump departs Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s lawyers ended their defense of the former president in a way uniquely suited to their client — with a ludicrous and easily debunked lie.

In Tuesday’s closing arguments of Trump’s hush money trial here, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told the jury that the revelation of the “Access Hollywood” tapes — Trump’s “grab ’em by the p---y” moment, which set off the fateful effort to buy Stormy Daniels’s silence — was not the earthshaking event we all remember it being for the 2016 Trump campaign. Rather, Blanche said, it was just one of those things “that happens all the time in campaigns.”

“The government wants you to believe that the release of that tape, from 2005, was so catastrophic to the campaign that it provided a motive, a motive for President Trump to do something criminal. But there is no evidence of that,” Blanche said. Rather, Trump’s lawyer maintained, “it was not a doomsday event,” and Trump “never thought that it was going to cause him to lose the campaign.”

With indignation, Blanche lied to the jury: “You heard that politicians reacted negatively to the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape. They didn’t testify. You heard that there was even talk about something consequential for President Trump, who was the Republican nominee. But none of that happened. None of that is true.”

Republican officeholders didn’t rain denunciations on Trump? Party elders didn’t discuss replacing him as the GOP nominee? Blanche must have supposed that these jurors have been sequestered. In a cave. For 10 years.

Eight years ago, Trump himself worried aloud that the “Access Hollywood” episode would cost him the election (and it may well have, if not for WikiLeaks and James Comey): “If 5 percent of the people think it’s true, and maybe 10 percent,” Trump said in one clip from a rally that prosecutors later played for the jury, “we don’t win.” Blanche was also suggesting that Trump’s own former White House assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, perjured herself in the trial when she testified about conversations at the Republican National Committee, where she then worked, about replacing Trump on the ticket.

lanche seemed to think that if he provided the jurors with punctuation instructions for his sentences, they would take his nonsense as fact.

The large number of documents in evidence showing that the Trump Organization falsified records to show that the hush money reimbursement payments going to Trump fixer Michael Cohen were “legal expenses” as part of a “retainer”?

“The payments were compensation to him — period,” Blanche said. “There is no falsification of business records — period.”

Euphemistically calling the reimbursements payment “for services rendered”?

“That’s a true statement — period,” Blanche said.

The absence of anything resembling a retainer agreement for which Cohen was supposedly being paid?

“Cohen was President Trump’s personal attorney — period.”

The huge volume of documentary evidence showing Trump’s involvement in the payments?

There is no way that you can find that President Trump knew about this payment at the time it was made without believing the words of Michael Cohen — period,” Blanche said.

Did Blanche realize he used that device 13 times in his closing argument — question mark? Or that his own delivery, like his client’s, relied rather more on exclamation points? He treated jurors as if they were deaf, or slow. “PER-JURE-EEE!” he yelled at them. “THAT. IS. A. LIE!” he bellowed. Despite all the evidence presented of a sexual encounter with the porn actress, Blanche still maintained (no doubt at his client’s insistence) that Trump never had sex with Daniels, “a woman who claims that something happened in 2006.”

Blanche closed his argument after three hours Tuesday with a final, audacious whopper: “You cannot send somebody to prison — you cannot convict somebody — based upon the words of Michael Cohen.” As Blanche well knows, these jurors don’t have anything to do with deciding punishment, prison or otherwise, and the judge had specifically ordered lawyers not to include anything about punishment in their arguments.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass howled an objection, and, when the jury had left the room, he complained about the “wholly inappropriate effort to cull sympathy for their client.” At this, Blanche raised his eyebrows twice, in a show of self-satisfaction.

Justice Juan Merchan, echoing Blanche’s own annotated punctuation, admonished the lawyer: “It’s simply not allowed — period. It’s hard for me to imagine how that was accidental in any way.”

But Trump’s defense relied on the very un-Trumpian belief that everything happens by accident. Before this trial, Trump had never met a conspiracy theory he didn’t like, from QAnon and the “deep state” to the “big lie” about the 2020 election and his latest fantasy about a corrupt judge and state prosecutors secretly controlled by the Biden administration.

Yet his irony-challenged lawyer’s closing argument portrayed prosecutors as the conspiracy mongers. “In life, usually the simplest answer is the right one,” said Blanche, whose client has surely never uttered such words. “There was no conspiracy,” Blanche told the jurors, again and again, and “it doesn’t matter if there was a conspiracy to try to win an election. Every campaign in this country is a conspiracy ... a group of people who are working together to help somebody win.” What is conspiracy but a synonym for teamwork?

Trump’s relationship with the publisher of National Enquirer to publish bogus stories about his opponents and then “catch and kill” negative stories about Trump by buying them and burying them? “Nothing unusual,” Blanche said. “It’s done all the time. ... It’s a regular practice. ... It’s not uncommon. ... Again, it’s not surprising.”

The shifting of Trump bank accounts from which the hush money reimbursement payments were made to Cohen?

“They made a mistake,” Blanche assured jurors. “That’s not evidence of some scheme or intent to defraud. ... That’s just what happens. And it shouldn’t surprise you.”

Trump’s personal signing of checks to Cohen for reimbursement for the hush money?

“Nothing sinister,” Blanche promised. “Sometimes he would sign checks even when he was meeting with people, while he was on the phone, and even without reviewing them. Again, nothing surprising there.”

It was all just an honest misunderstanding.

Blanche also spent much of his closing argument trying to assail Cohen’s credibility, which he did chiefly by repeatedly shouting about Trump’s former fixer being a “liar” who “lies.” “You cannot just minimize the lie and say, ‘Well, maybe he made a mistake,’” Blanche said piously. “A lie is a lie.”

“I mean, he’s literally, like, an MVP of liars. He lies constantly,” Blanche added. He asked the jurors: “Have you guys heard of a GOAT, like the GOAT, the greatest of all time? ... Michael Cohen is the GLOAT. He’s literally the greatest liar of all time!” Was Blanche truly unaware that there is another person who also has a claim to that title, and he had been sitting next to him at the defense table for the past five weeks? A lying competition between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump would be like a footrace between Superman and the Flash.

Prosecutor Steinglass, in his closing, pointed out some of Blanche’s absurdities, such as the “chutzpah” Trump’s lawyers had in attacking Cohen for lying to Congress — when the lies he told Congress were told on behalf of Trump. “We didn’t choose Michael Cohen to be our witness. We didn’t pick him up at the witness store,” Steinglass said. “The defendant chose Michael Cohen to be his fixer, because he was willing to lie and cheat on Mr. Trump’s behalf. Mr. Trump chose Mr. Cohen for the same qualities that his attorneys now urge you to reject his testimony because of.”

Steinglass portrayed Cohen as nothing more than a “tour guide through the physical evidence,” and in his methodical, five-hour closing, the prosecutor laid out a paper trail that showed in detail the false business records portraying Cohen’s hush money reimbursement as compensation and the audio and documentary evidence showing Trump was clearly aware of the scheme. It’s anybody’s guess whether the jury will find that sufficient evidence to convict.

But here in the reality-based community, a lie is a lie, as Blanche himself acknowledged. It was a lie to tell the jurors the “Access Hollywood” debacle was something that “happens all the time.” It was a lie to tell them there was “nothing unusual” about the Trump campaign’s conspiring with the National Enquirer publisher to buy the silence of Trump’s accusers, hide the origin of the funds and conceal the transactions from the Federal Election Commission.

Why tell such obvious lies?

That’s just how his client rolls. Period.

Opinion by 
Dana Milbank is an opinion columnist for The Washington Post. He sketches the foolish, the fallacious and the felonious in politics. His new book is “The Destructionists: The 25-Year Crackup of the Republican Party” (Doubleday).  Twitter

1 comment:

Rick said...

As the Trump train wreck continues to burn, these apes think he actually did something for them. He didn't. He sat on his fat ass and insulted people while enjoying the economy that OBAMA set in motion. His whole presidency was a scam. The placebo effect is always in play for conservatives.