Alvin Bragg Praised for ‘Skillfully Played’ Trial Move: Legal Analyst

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has “skillfully” managed the jury’s expectations of his key witness, Michael Cohen, during former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial, legal analyst Norm Eisen said.

Speaking on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 Tuesday night, Eisen praised Bragg for how he has presented Cohen on the witness stand, who testified on Monday and Tuesday at the trial in which Trump faces 34 criminal felony counts tied to the falsification of business records. Prosecutors allege that Trump forged financial documents to conceal his reimbursement of a $130,000 hush payment that Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The former president has pleaded not guilty and denies all allegations against him, including his purported extramarital affair with Daniels.

“Credit where credit is due to the D.A. [district attorney], because they very skillfully played the expectation game throughout the trial,” said Eisen, who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Trump’s first impeachment in 2019.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference on March 21 in New York City. Bragg was praised by a legal analyst on Wednesday for “skillfully” managing expectations for his office’s star witness,…

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

“They elicited criticism of Cohen from every witness,” Eisen continued. “So they suppressed—the jury is the ultimate audience for the expectations—they suppressed the jury and the judge’s expectations … It’s like a presidential debate. Both sides want to suppress expectations. The D.A. did that brilliantly in setting this moment.”

Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani said in an email to Newsweek that by “eliciting bad testimony” from Cohen during their own examination, Bragg’s office has taken “the sting out of hearing it for the first time on cross-examination and shows the jurors that you aren’t hiding evidence, even bad evidence.”

Cohen faced cross-examination from Trump attorney Todd Blanche on Tuesday, who attempted to discredit the witness by focusing on Cohen’s grudge toward the former president since the two parted ways. Cohen previously served as Trump’s attorney and personal “fixer” heading into Trump’s first term in the White House, but he has since become a vocal critic of his former boss after pleading guilty to several federal charges in August 2018 in connection to the hush money paid to Daniels.

Blanche also attempted to paint a picture of Cohen being a serial liar during his questioning on Tuesday. Cohen will retake the witness stand for additional cross- examination when trial resumes on Thursday.

Rahmani also said in his email to Newsweek that Bragg’s office has done a good job of lowering expectations for Cohen while also presenting several pieces of hard evidence against the former president, including a secret recording that Cohen took of a conversation between him and Trump concerning an alleged hush money payment for Playboy model Karen McDougal. The jury has also been presented with documents and handwritten notes pertaining to the Daniels payment, some of which were from Allen Weisselberg, The Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer.

“By lowering the expectations for Cohen and corroborating his testimony with independent evidence like the secret Trump recording and Weisselberg writing, the prosecution has done the best they can with a star witness who is unlikeable, a convicted felon, and an admitted liar,” Rahmani said.