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Defense guts Bragg’s star witness Cohen for doing what he does best

Hell hath no fury like Michael Cohen scorned.

Hell hath no fury like Michael Cohen scorned.

After Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the new president told Cohen to pound sand when he begged his then-boss to let him tag along to the pinnacle of power in Washington. Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney, had delusions of grandeur that he’d serve as the next attorney general or White House chief of staff. (Try to stifle the raucous laughter.)

But by then, Trump had figured out that his bumbling, self-proclaimed “fixer” couldn’t fix a broken shoelace. He was the Barney Fife of lawyers. Smug, self-important, officious, and oafish. Trump dropped Cohen like a bad prom date.

Rejected, a furious Cohen blew a head gasket. He felt humiliated. His anger became a festering boil that exploded in a rabid campaign of rage and a thirst for vengeance against the man he had so idolized and revered. He fueled his wrath with a torrent of lies.

It’s no wonder that a federal judge recently denounced Cohen as a ‘serial perjurer’

Those lies were exposed and Cohen’s credibility was shredded on Thursday in the Manhattan trial of the former president. District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s star witness was put through the equivalent of a woodchipper in a searing cross-examination. On the stand, Cohen was rendered into a pile of mulch.

Under withering questions, lie after lie after lie was laid bare. The defense peeled Cohen like an onion. He lied about everything to everyone —Congress, banks, a special counsel, the media, the IRS, the FEC, government lawyers, and to judges in courts of law. The sheer volume of his breathtaking lies could be best measured by tonnage.

To Cohen, sworn oaths to tell the truth are trivial words because he is constitutionally incapable of honesty. Lying is compulsive and habitual. A psychiatric disorder. Shrinks would have a field day. Often, he did it to benefit himself or to wound Trump, but sometimes he’d tell a whopper for no apparent reason.

Naturally, Cohen tried to weasel out of his fabrications in court. He rationalized some, but was forced to admit others, even a few he peddled in court. You’d need a calculator to keep track of all his fictions and fantasies that unspooled like a ball of yarn in front of the jury. No wonder a federal judge recently denounced him as a “serial perjurer.”

The jury should believe nothing that Cohen has told them about Trump. It was all cooked up to falsely incriminate an innocent man. But there’s a standard jury instruction in New York that could —and should— cook Cohen’s goose during jury deliberations. Here it is:

“If you find that any witness has intentionally testified falsely as to any material fact, you may disregard that witness’s entire testimony.”

The instruction proceeds to pose a vital question to jurors, “Did the witness have a bias, hostility or some other attitude that affected the truthfulness of the witness’s testimony?”

With Cohen, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

To that end, the defense scrutinized his two main motives: revenge and greed. Cohen blames Trump for his convictions and prison term. But along the way he discovered that lying is highly profitable. His lunatic rants against Trump on social media rake in big bucks. His livelihood depends on it. He’ll keep lying until the greenbacks dry up and he slithers away.

It was foolhardy for Bragg and his team of partisans to hang their case on a notorious fabulist. But even if jurors believe some of Cohen’s testimony, there is still no credible evidence that business records were falsified as the indictment alleges. Reimbursements to Cohen for his own Stormy Daniels payments were booked as “legal expenses” because that is precisely what they were —a negotiated non-disclosure contract (NDA).

More importantly, there is no plausible evidence that Trump knew how Cohen’s fees were booked. Why would he?

Trump was not the accountant or controller. He was the CEO of a multi-billion dollar international company. He did not designate computer entries on non-public ledgers. That was an administrative function in a private business, not an executive responsibility by the corporate chairman.

So where is the crime? Nowhere. Prosecutors have failed miserably to meet the standard of proof that the law requires.

The indictment against Trump identifies the aforementioned payments as having occurred in 2017. How is it factually possible to falsify records in 2017 with the felonious intent to “unlawfully” influence an election after the election occurred in 2016? It makes no sense, which is consistent with Bragg’s entire case.

What exactly was unlawful? Campaigns are designed to influence elections. That’s their core purpose. No matter. Bragg criminalized non-criminal behavior by conjuring up an inapplicable (and expired) statute to persecute Trump under the guise of a prosecution.

Yet, the D.A. seems utterly unbothered that he is butchering the law. Trump used his personal money, not campaign funds to compensate Cohen. That’s perfectly lawful. The payments did not qualify as illegal contributions, which is why the Federal Election Commission (FEC) chose not to even levy a civil penalty. Likewise, the Justice Department found no evidence of crimes.

Neither the absence of facts nor the support of law deterred Bragg. He commandeered authority to enforce a federal campaign law over which he has no jurisdiction as a local prosecutor. He usurped power to fulfill his campaign promise to put Trump behind bars and to damage a political enemy while benefiting his presidential opponent, Joe Biden.

No fair or competent judge dedicated to upholding justice would have ever allowed such a train wreck of a trial to have desecrated the integrity of our legal system. But Judge Juan Merchan is the engineer who is driving this out-of-control locomotive. He has all but jettisoned his black robe, stepped down from the bench, and take up residence at the prosecution’s table.

The judge has mangled the rules of evidence that strictly prohibit irrelevant and prejudicial testimony. It is fundamentally unfair to smear a defendant with sordid stories that have little or nothing to do with the offenses charged. The nucleus of the prosecution’s case has been shameless character assassination.

Merchand should have stopped this legal charade long ago. His errant rulings have reversible error written all over them. But neither he nor his co-prosecutor, Bragg, give a damn. Their objective is to convict Trump to interfere in the upcoming presidential election.

When Michael Cohen’s testimony ends and he eventually stumbles in shock off the witness stand after being bludgeoned by the defense, the prosecution will rest its case. The question arises of what’s next?

It may be tempting for Trump’s lawyers to call Robert Costello to the stand. In testimony before Congress Wednesday and in a lengthy interview on Fox News, Cohen’s former lawyer recounted in vivid detail how his client has been lying all along about Trump. It was Cohen’s idea to capitulate to Daniels’ blackmail scheme with an NDA. He handled it all. Trump had nothing to do with it. Cohen understood that the then-candidate wanted to protect his family, not his campaign as the D.A. claims.

Costello also disclosed an appalling episode when Bragg’s prosecutors concealed exculpatory evidence from the grand jury by concocting a phony hearsay excuse that does not even exist in such proceedings. That’s called obstruction of justice. It is a revealing window into a corrupt district attorney who is determined to lacerate the law while suborning perjury to gain a wrongful conviction.

Perhaps it is Alvin Bragg and his confederates who should be on trial, not Donald Trump.