Trump judge hammered for convoluted, hour-long jury instructions

Trump judge hammered for convoluted, hour-long jury instructions

Trump judge hammered for convoluted, hour-long jury instructions

As the dust begins to settle on a jury's verdict in the New York case against Donald Trump, conservatives are being advised not to comfortable with the idea that it could only happen to the former president.

The reality of a former U.S. president being found guilty in what many legal analysts describe as a trial of persecution is settling in. For many that means rationalizing the felony convictions of Donald Trump to say, "That won't happen to me." Well, Josh Hammer has news for those so inclined.

Hammer, the Newsweek editor and senior counsel for the Article III Project, said on Washington Watch Friday that a Manhattan jury's failure to exonerate Trump in attacks of leftist lawfare will have far-reaching consequences.

"I've heard a lot of chatter [since the verdict] that says, 'Oh, it's just Donald Trump. They're not actually coming for conservatives. They're not actually coming for traditionalists, religious people or the infamous people that Hillary Clinton referred to as the so-called 'deplorables' back in 2016.' They actually are coming for all of us," Hammer told show host Jody Hice.

Trump, the 45th president of the United States, was convicted of falsifying business records. He was found guilty of all 34 counts in connection with an alleged "hush money" payment to former porn actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election.

Hammer said the case of George Soros-backed District Attorney Alvin Bragg was flawed on multiple fronts.

"The jury instructions were outrageously convoluted," Hammer argued. "It apparently took [Judge Juan] Merchan in the courtroom one hour to actually read the jury instructions to the 12 jurors.

Hammer, Josh (Newsweek journalist) Hammer

"How the heck can a juror be expected to understand the law then actually apply the law to the facts of the case if it takes an hour for the judge to even read the jury instructions?" Hammer wondered. "I'm a lawyer, and I probably wouldn't know what to do if I heard jury instructions that lasted for an hour."

Most egregious, according to Hammer, was Merchan's instruction that it was not necessary for the jury to unanimously agree on a charge against Trump.

"The jurors did not have to reach unanimity when it came to those unlawful means. Put another way, four people could say, 'Oh, it was actually a campaign finance violation.' Four could say, 'Oh, it was a tax violation,' and then four could say 'It was an additional bookkeeping misdemeanor.' You have to have a unanimous jury conviction or acquittal here. Going back to my first year of law school, criminal law, that's just literally now how it works," Hammer said.

CNN guests blast Merchan

Merchan's instructions have been battered by numerous attorneys in reaction appearances on various media outlets. Defense attorney Randy Zelin and former Trump attorney Tim Parlatore, appearing on "CNN Special Report" Friday, said Merchan's instructions will be a focal point of appeal proceedings.

"Those jury instructions were just a complete … just take the Constitution, throw it out a window, burn it, shoot it and hang it," Zelin said.

Parlatore told the network that falsification of business records had to be in furtherance of some other crime, and the jury wasn't given a clear picture of the other crime.

Hammer agreed. He said there was no hint of Bragg's strategy until Merchan gave the jury their instructions – and even then, it was hard to follow.

"It could have been New York State fraudulent bookkeeping in furtherance of a federal campaign finance act violation, which the prosecutor, Alvin Bragg, doesn't even have jurisdiction to bring that charge because he's a local prosecutor. He can't bring a federal offense. The second alleged 'in furtherance of unlawful means' was an alleged tax violation. Same thing," Hammer said.

"The third possible unlawful means is that the fraudulent bookkeeping was actually in furtherance of additional fraudulent bookkeeping, so a bit of circular logic there."

Rep. Keith Self (R-Texas) told Hice the heavy-handedness of Judge Merchan toward the Trump team far exceeded what people could imagine from available media coverage.

"I was in the courtroom a week ago, and the judge is worse than anything you can see on TV. The way the judge reacted to objections by the prosecution, immediately sustaining them, then responding to virtually every defense objection with immediate overrule. It was beyond the pale," Self said.

"The sidebars they held near the bench, we obviously couldn't hear them, but the body language told me that he was lecturing the defense attorneys," he said.

Biden admin amps up an Obama plan

If weaponization of the Justice Department looks new, it's not. It's just reaching higher levels, Hammer said. The first glaring example, he explained, came during the Obama administration.

The Little Sisters of the Poor – a Catholic charity focused on the needs of sick and elderly – spent almost a decade battling an Obamacare mandate that employers who offer health insurance provide contraceptives for employees.

When Trump took office, he expanded the list of exemptions to the mandate. The Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that Trump had the authority to exempt the Little Sisters and similar organizations.

Hammer says conservatives should take note not only of the Trump case – in which lawfare from the Left convicted a former president – but of the Little Sisters case also.

"The Obama administration put in the prosecutorial apparatus, the Eric Holder DOJ, on the nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor just because they didn't want to get involved in subsidizing abortion as part of Obamacare. The Left has been doing this nakedly out in the open for a very long time now. It is shocking that we are here. They have crossed many Rubicons at this point, not just one Rubicon – but this is reality, and we have to deal with it the best we can," Hammer said.