Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

The question looming over the Trump trial jury: From the Politics Desk

By 37ci3 May29,2024



Welcome to the online version of From the policy deskevening bulletin that brings you the latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill from the NBC News Politics team.

In today’s edition, a top national politics reporter looks at how the burden of reasonable doubt fell on the jury in Donald Trump’s silent money trial in New York. Plus, senior politics editor Scott Bland examines how congressional primaries have become more competitive in recent years.

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Trump’s trial jury must now decide whether prosecutors should leave room for doubt in the “mountain of evidence.”

By Jonathan Allen

It’s easy to look at trial of former President Donald Trump and conclude that he probably did what prosecutors allege: Protect his 2016 campaign by paying a porn star and then cover it up with false payment records.

Michael Cohen, who was the fixer of the former president, said that he was the tool used by Trump.

But “probably” is not a bar for jurors. They are tasked with assessing whether there is any reasonable doubt. If only one of them believes that the state has failed to meet its burden, it can hang the jury.


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Then the question They began reviewing the evidence for 4.5 hours on Wednesdayis whether the witnesses and documents presented by the prosecution leave any room for suspicion of Trump’s criminality.

Like any veteran prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass told the jury Tuesday 34 that they saw a “mountain” of evidence of the alleged crime.

Trump himself tweeted in 2018 that he was compensating Cohen for hush money. That’s a contention Cohen confirmed, saying the $35,000-a-month payments to him from Trump’s personal trust were an extra payment to cover taxes, not the “legal custodian” described in Trump’s business records. and money for a separate contract with a tech company.

Trump’s attorneys say the records are accurate and that Cohen, who does little legal work, was paid more than $400,000 a year for the call as a lawyer.

They say Trump had nothing to do with Cohen’s invoices or the corporate checks involved in approving the monthly payments. They argue that Trump’s signature on the checks doesn’t prove he knew what he was paying for.

Space for comment on the nature of the payments may be limited by Trump’s tweet, which said Cohen was paid through an employee. Trump also described compensation in his filing with the Office of Government Ethics during his presidency.

Trump’s attorneys, led by Todd Blanche, argued that Cohen rigged negotiations to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels – something that Trump did not know about. No one has said that Trump and Daniels didn’t meet in a hotel room in 2006. Trump has denied that Daniels had sex. But that’s less important than whether – or why – he wanted to stop her from making her case publicly.

More →


It’s still hard for members of Congress to win primaries, but they’re feeling the pressure

By Scott Bland

The Republican establishment scored a victory Tuesday night in West Texas, where GOP Rep. Tony Gonzalez narrowly defeated the main opponent of the right wingBrandon Herrera, in the second round.

Groups like the American Action Network, which is aligned with the House GOP leadership, have poured large sums of money into helping Gonzalez, ultimately helping to protect the incumbent, who voted to pass key legislation against potential gerrymandering. This is very important in most Slim House. But the whole episode also shows how much more pressure the rank-and-file members of the House of Representatives feel in Republican primaries these days than in the recent past, and how that affects legislative action in Congress.

Members of Congress don’t often lose primaries, but they’ve been drawn into competitive races more often than in the past decade or so. More than three-quarters of them regularly won their primaries unopposed or with more than 90 percent of the vote between 2000 and 2008.

But there’s been a steep decline since the Great Recession, largely due to the tea party and anti-government activism that existed on the Republican side in the pre-Trump era.

The word for anti-coercion opponents, which had previously been essentially 0%, suddenly rose. That means paying more attention to protecting the fringes and avoiding issues that might anger votes or the core voting base. Gonzalez’s apostasy in Texas includes voting for bipartisan gun legislation in 2022 after the school shooting in Uvalde, his district. It’s not hard to say that such legislation is becoming increasingly rare, as colleagues see the tough races that incumbents like Gonzalez are drawn to after such a vote, even if they ultimately win.

Notably, Democrats saw their downfall in 2020 in super-safe incumbent primaries. We are still working on collecting data from 2022, but it will be very interesting to see if this is a blip or the start of a new trend. Washington, as ever attuned to the power of primary voters.



🗞️ The best stories of the day

  • 🦅 Philly special: President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Philadelphia to make their appeal to black voters who played a key role in the Keystone State’s victory. More →
  • Convicted question: If Trump is convicted of a felony in the New York hush money case, he may still be able to vote in Florida, depending on whether he ends up in prison. More →
  • 👀 Red line clock: The White House said that Israel did not cross the administration’s “red line” by going deep into Rafah. More →
  • 🤝 Action of the mask: The Wall Street Journal detailed recent meetings and conversations between Trump and Elon Musk, including discussions about whether Musk could advise the incoming Trump administration, saying it was “the latest sign of a thaw in the once frosty relationship between the two men.” More →
  • 🏛️ Stay in place: Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said he would not recuse himself from two cases involving Trump and the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot after reports of controversial flags on his private property. More →
  • 🗣️ Debate drama: Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that CNN and the Trump and Biden campaigns violated federal law in preparing criteria for next month’s debate. More →
  • 🐼 Panda Diplomacy: Two giant pandas, Bao Li and Qing Bao, will be heading to the National Zoo in DC this year, filling the void left by two giant pandas and their cubs that returned to China last year. More →

For now, that’s it from The Politics Desk. If you have feedback – like it or not – send us an email politicsnewsletter@nbcuni.com

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