Prosecutors push salacious portrait of Trump, winning some but not all battles

Donald Trump wants as much media coverage as possible of his first criminal trial.How surprising is that, given that his campaign says he raised $1.5 million after the trial’s first day?CNN reports that Trump wants his surrogates “blanketing the airwaves,” and that at least four VP contenders have argued his case on air or on social media: Elise Stefanik, J.D. Vance, Tim Scott and Doug Burgum – making this a tryout of sorts.ISRAEL’S SUCCESS, IRAN’S FAILURE AND THE CHANCES OF IGNITING THE MIDEAST POWDER KEGBut the most important takeaway from the trial’s first two days is that prosecutors want to portray him as a playboy and a womanizer.News flash: Is there anyone on the planet that doesn’t already know that? Isn’t that baked into the judicial cake?Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg, who’s already been criticized for bringing a thin and highly partisan case, argues that his approach will illuminate Trump’s motives in steering hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. Each day, news outlets from around the world camp out early outside the dingy Lower Manhattan courthouse and, with only sketches from inside the courtroom, report on what’s happening through their filter. It is, after all, the first criminal proceeding against a former president, and a conviction, in a borough very unfriendly to Trump, could mean a jail sentence.But the need for something catchy caught fire when Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reported that Trump briefly nodded off, his chin hitting his chest. Trump denounced the story as fake news and Haberman says he later glared at her for several long seconds.As he has done with previous civil cases, Trump denounced the trial, and Judge Juan Merchan, as a travesty and election interference. One thing is true: Bragg’s predecessor, Cy Vance Jr., passed on the case, as did federal investigators, and Bragg himself declined to bring charges before reviving the case many months later. He stretched what would have been a misdemeanor – falsifying hush money business records – into the lowest class of New York felony.And Bragg won election by vowing to go after Trump.IS OUR FIERCELY TRIBAL POLITICS JUST A DISTORTION OF REALITY?In court, the D.A.’s office asked that the gag order be enforced because of Trump’s continued attacks on star witness/convicted felon Michael Cohen, and the judge’s daughter, who works for Democratic candidates.That didn’t stop Trump from asking for a day off from court to attend his son Barron’s high school graduation and saying Merchan “likely” wouldn’t grant the request.Trump has made these trials part of his campaign, and this one is no exception, as he unloads to the assembled media mob before and after the proceedings, and sometimes during breaks.On the prosecutors’ efforts to fill the testimony with salacious detail, the judge has issued mixed rulings.Merchan will not allow accusations against Trump by women from his past, calling these “rumors.”He also will not allow the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump boasted of grabbing women by their genitals, to be played, but said prosecutors could talk about it.In light of the National Enquirer’s central role, since Cohen passed the $130,000 in hush money to Stormy at the end of the 2016 campaign through the tabloid, then owned by Trump pal David Pecker, the judge said that Karen McDougal, a Playboy playmate, could testify. In another catch-and-kill case, she was paid $150,000 to write a fitness column for another of Pecker’s magazines as long as she didn’t talk about Trump.Daniels says she had a single sexual encounter with Trump; McDougal maintains they had a 10-month affair filled with love. Trump has denied both accounts.That brings us to jury selection.When the first group of 96 potential jurors was brought in Monday, 50 said they had such strong feelings about Trump that they could not be objective.More made the same claim yesterday, but when both sides got to question the jury pool, some members were not owning up to their anti-Trump sentiments.Trump lawyer Todd Blanche confronted one such person about a Facebook post applauding Trump losing a court case about his travel ban and said, “get him out and lock him up.” The judge dismissed him for cause.Another person, asked about an old social media post involving an anti-Trump video, which the potential juror said was only “reposted.” Merchan booted this person as well.SUBSCRIBE TO HOWIE’S MEDIA BUZZMETER PODCAST, A RIFF ON THE DAY’S HOTTEST STORIESBy day’s end, six jurors had been seated.There was another clash in court yesterday when the judge said Trump was saying something to one of the jurors.”Your client was audibly uttering…I will not have any jurors intimidated in the court,” Merchan told Trump’s lawyer.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPJust two days in and we’re basically mired in jury selection. Trump doesn’t need to worry about attracting lots of media coverage, as we’re already at saturation levels.
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