Verdict in New York Are Trump's lawyers to blame for the guilty verdict?

Donald Trump has once again made history in the United States, this time as the first convicted former president. He may also have his lawyers to thank for this, as they have learned a lot from him.

At least Todd Blanche still had enough time to change. A Republican red tie looks better on Fox News than the pale purple one he was wearing when he came out of the courthouse on New York's Centre Street at Donald Trump's side. But he stuck to his grave expression. No wonder. After all, his client was the first ex-president in US history to be found guilty in a criminal case.

Blanche did not bring any new information to the TV studio. The trial was unfair from the start, Judge Juan Merchan was biased, and so on. But no matter how the lawyer looks at it, the jury's verdict is a severe blow not only for his client, but also for himself.

Even before the verdict was announced, experts were wondering whether Trump was well advised to go with Blanche and Co. Now the question arises: Was a poor defense ultimately the reason why the 77-year-old now has one toe in prison?

Unsuccessful defense strategy: denial instead of argument

It's true: As a rule, the jury tends to follow the prosecution. That makes sense, since the prosecution controls the narrative at the beginning by presenting the charges. The defense is naturally on the defensive. But the starting conditions for Team Trump could have been worse.

The prosecution was on shaky ground from the start. Neither the flood of alleged evidence (over 200) nor the legal skills of District Attorney Alvin Bragg could disguise this. Because hush money payments are not illegal in the USA, the offensive had to come up with something else: It was not the payment of $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels by Trump fixer Michael Cohen that violated the law. But because the then presidential candidate concealed the flow of money, he manipulated the 2016 election campaign. Sounds overly intellectual? It is.

If the defense had played its cards right, “the case would most likely have been dropped,” writes former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti in a guest article for the New York Times. Blanche and Co. should have put everything into defaming Cohen as a key witness. They should have made it clear to the jury that he is neither credible as an admitted fraudster nor neutral as a former employee.

Instead, Team Trump reacted almost allergically to every accusation made by the prosecution, confusing denial with argument and increasingly getting caught up in absurd excuses. The cross-examination of Stormy Daniels also went completely wrong from Trump's point of view. The defense had sent attorney Susan Necheles into the ring – in the justified assumption that jurors generally welcome it when a woman questions the alleged victim of a sexual assault. But Necheles gave away the advantage by displaying an impressive lack of empathy. In the end, Daniels was more credible than before.

Donald Trump – a terrible client

In defense of the defense, Trump is probably a terrible client. As the highly flammable alpha male that he is, he basically hindered his team in their work on a daily basis by calling the judge corrupt, accusing the justice system of a left-wing witch hunt, and calling witnesses liars. And he did this on a continuous loop. It is also quite possible that Trump refused to make any potential compromise, thereby depriving his lawyers of any room for maneuver.

But difficult customer or not: If the jury had any doubts about the defendant's guilt at the end of the trial, the defense swept them aside. Their closing argument on Tuesday turned into an absurd mixture of ramblings and stand-up comedy. In true Trump fashion, Blanche ranted that Cohen was “the human embodiment of reasonable doubt” and the “Greatest Liar of All Time.” Cohen later countered on MSNBC: If he was the GLOAT, then Blanche was the “SLOAT: Stupidest Lawyer of All Time.”

Now, the former president has done quite well with denial, shouting and insults so far. “This loudmouth rhetoric may work at a Trump rally or a segment on Fox News, but not in a courtroom,” summarizes New York Times expert Mariotti. Ultimately, Trump's tendency to surround himself with yes-men was his undoing.

Sources: “New York Times”; “Daily Beast”; “Politico”; “FoxNews”