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Trump Legal News: Today's the Day

It's like a new Star Wars movie. People started lining up Monday afternoon in hopes of securing a seat for Tuesday's closing arguments in the Donald Trump criminal fraud case. Do you think Maggie Haberman pays someone to hold a spot for her? Or is she going to be camping out on the sidewalk with all the rest?

The prosecution's closing argument will undoubtedly be the more coherent, since they have the more straightforward narrative to tell: Donald Trump freaked out after the Access Hollywood tape went public, was scared witless that if Stormy Daniels went public it would deal a mortal blow to his campaign, and so paid her off via Michael Cohen, illegally misrepresenting the payments as being for legal services.

The defense's closing argument will be all over the place, in part because they haven't really put forward a competing narrative, and in part because all they really need to do is poke a few holes in the prosecution's case. To that end, the defense will focus on a few things, some of them internally inconsistent. Team Trump will argue that Cohen is not credible, for example, but will also rely on his testimony to argue that he really was doing legal work for Trump, and that he and Trump often had informal retainer agreements that were not committed to paper. The defense will also assert that Trump's involvement in the scheme has not been proven, and that whatever did happen does not rise to the level of being a crime.

By all indications, there is zero chance of a straight acquittal for Trump, so what his attorneys will be shooting for is a hung jury. Hence the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to the defense's closing: It doesn't matter if their arguments are internally inconsistent, or even if they don't really comport with what was said in court, all they need is one thing that persuades one juror.

It's not going to be easy to get a hung jury, since the pressure on a holdout (or on two holdouts, or even three) will be immense. After all, if nine or ten or eleven people were convinced, that probably means something. Further, everyone wants to go home and get back to their daily lives, as opposed to spending endless days cooped up in a jury room in Manhattan. For what it is worth, MSNBC legal analyst Neal Katyal has been following the case closely, and he thinks that a conviction is "all but certain." CNN legal analyst Norman Eisen has been following the case closely, as well, and he puts the odds of a conviction at 80%. In short, it appears more likely than not that Trump is convicted, but don't be too surprised if there's a hung jury. Even if you split the difference between Katyal and Eisen, and say that the odds of a conviction are 90%, well, 1-in-10 chances come to pass all the time.

It is at least possible that there will be a verdict today, if the closings are on the short side, and if the jury moves quickly. But probably not, since they have a bushel of counts to consider. We cannot find confirmation of this, but we assume that deliberations will continue Wednesday, despite the usual day off court, since Judge Juan Merchan will probably prefer the jury continue uninterrupted, and since he can still do his usual other stuff on Wednesday while the jurors chat.

Needless to say, if we get to the end of the week without a verdict, then the odds of a hung jury increase dramatically. So, it's going to be a tense week for all involved. (Z)

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