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Judge finally takes matters into own hands in New York trial after Trump attorney’s strategy backfires

Taking into consideration all the happenings related to former President Donald Trump’s legal cases from this week, it’s easy to assume that he and his legal team have had a decent week. As the New York hush-money trial progressed, Trump managed to strike two huge wins: in Florida and Georgia. The recent developments are completely in line with Trump and his legal teams’ long-term strategy to postpone the cases for as long as possible, preferably until after the November general election. So far, it seems that the strategy is working.

What happened this week

The trial in Florida’s classified documents case is unlikely to start until before the November election after Trump appointed Judge Aileen Cannon this week postponed the case indefinitely. The decision to set the next hearing for the case on July 22 almost completely eliminates the possibility of a trial in the upcoming months. On the other hand, in Georgia, the start of the election interference case trial is almost certainly not taking place anytime soon since a Georgia appeals court on Wednesday agreed to review a lower court ruling allowing District Attorney Fani Willis to continue to prosecute the case brought against former President Donald Trump.

The New York hush-money case

Although Trump’s other cases progressed in the right direction for him, the judge in the New York trial, Judge Juan Merchan, ordered Trump to once again pay for violating the gag order. Early in the week, Judge Merchan further threatened Trump with jail if he continued to violate the gag order during the trial, which is expected to last about six weeks. This has intensified the already tense atmosphere in the courtroom, resulting in Trump’s attorneys stepping up their aggressive behavior in court. And that behavior resulted in Judge Merchan changing his tone and setting a new direction in his relationships with the defendant and his legal representatives.

A frustrated judge

Maggie Haberman, the New York Times journalist who’s been closely covering Donald Trump’s hush-money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court, has noticed rising frustration in Judge Juan Merchan as Trump’s legal team becomes increasingly aggressive. In a conversation with CNN, Haberman, a former White House correspondent for Trump, discussed how Trump’s lawyers frequently clash with Merchan, who she says appears to have “finally just had enough.”

“Merchan — while the Trump team doesn’t like him — he has tried being really fair on a bunch of points,” Haberman said, citing an example where the judge called Trump’s attorney to a private sidebar to avoid causing embarrassment to the client. Haberman, describing the trial as a “circus,” mentioned that Merchan’s treatment of Trump had been noticeably different up until now.

There is rising frustration in Judge Juan Merchan as Trump's legal team becomes increasingly aggressive in their courtroom behavior
Former President Donald Trump (right) during New York hush-money trial with his attorneys Todd Blanche (left) and Susan Necheles (center), Courtesy of James Nava on X (@JamesNavaCom)

“Bad faith” arguments in the focus

Per Haberman, Merchan is becoming increasingly frustrated with Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles, Trump’s main attorneys, and their “bad faith” arguments.

“He really lit into Susan Necheles, who had done the cross examination of Stormy Daniels, and said she had every opportunity to object to X, Y, Z, and didn’t,” Haberman explained. “Merchan said, ‘Your opening was that there was no sexual encounter. That opens the door for all the other questions.’”

A strategy that backfires

Judge Juan Merchan refused to grant Trump’s request for a mistrial, questioning why Necheles didn’t object to elements of Daniels’ testimony that the defense found problematic. He asked, “why on Earth [Necheles] wouldn’t object?” Maggie Haberman also expressed doubts about whether Necheles’ aggressive cross-examination of Daniels proved beneficial.

“The jury sees this, and it ends up risking looking like you’re just badgering this woman,” Haberman said. “Continuing to go at Stormy Daniels in this very contentious back and forth felt, in the courtroom, like a losing prospect after the first several times.”

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