Donald Trump may be in serious trouble, but Michael Cohen’s testimony isn’t the reason.
On this week’s episode, Ken and I talk about the thud with which Cohen’s testimony landed at the civil trial over alleged fraud at various Trump businesses. Cohen, a convicted perjurer who admitted to additional lies under cross-examination from Trump’s attorneys, is less than an ideal witness. His testimony also wasn’t important to the New York Attorney General’s case, which raises the question of why he was on the witness stand at all. (Publicity reasons, Ken surmises.) Where Cohen’s testimony is likely to matter a lot is in Trump’s upcoming criminal trial related to the hush payment to Stormy Daniels, so both the Manhattan DA’s office and Trump’s criminal attorneys had an eye on Cohen’s testimony — and Ken suspects the Manhattan DA may be annoyed that the AG chose to have Cohen give this public preview of that more consequential performance to come next year.
Also at that trial, Judge Arthur Engoron called a little impromptu hearing in which Trump took the witness stand, testifying about who exactly he was referring to when he told reporters a person sitting “alongside” the judge was even more partisan than him. Trump insisted he was referring to Cohen, and not to the judge’s principal law clerk, whom he’s already been sanctioned for attacking in violation of Judge Engoron’s gag order. Engoron then said he didn’t believe Trump’s claim to have been talking about Cohen and fined him $10,000.
In Washington DC, Judge Tanya Chutkan has un-stayed her broader gag order, so Trump is again prohibited from “targeting” court staff, the prosecution team, and likely potential witnesses. In her un-staying order, Chutkan also somewhat clarified what “targeting” means, which should help her order survive an appeal.
And in Colorado, there’s a trial to decide whether Trump can even be on the state’s presidential ballot, or whether Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars him from serving as president again on the grounds that he participated in an insurrection or rebellion in violation of his oath of office. It’s a novel and complicated legal issue that scrambles the usual positions of scholars — some proponents of the disqualification theory are far from #resistance figures, while some critics of the theory are severe critics of Trump — and it’s unclear which courts will even choose to involve themselves in the question of whether Trump is qualified to serve. But we discuss some of the issues and we’ll be watching this case and related ones as they proceed.
Back in New York, Sam Bankman-Fried has testified in his defense — first just for the judge, and subsequently in front of the jury. While his testimony hasn’t exactly been a disaster, it also doesn’t seem to have done a lot to pierce the government’s damning case against him. (We also discuss about the courtroom sketches of Bankman-Fried, some of which bear little relation to his real life appearance — though I’d note, I think the one that makes him look like a heartthrob was an intentional joke, not a sign of a courtroom artist in thrall to the disgraced CEO.)
Finally, out on Long Island, George Santos has been arraigned again, and his new scheduled trial date isn’t until September. So if he actually goes to trial, it’s likely he’ll serve out nearly a full term in Congress before he receives a jury verdict. Good for him!
Paid subscribers get this whole episode. Free subscribers get just the conversations about the proceedings before judges Engoron and Chutkan — so if you’re a free subscriber and you want to hear about whether Trump is going to be allowed on the ballot next year or not, I suggest you smash the “subscribe” button below so you can get the full episode.