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CNN analyst says Trump wouldn't be convicted in non-blue area, case relies on known liar Michael Cohen

CNN legal analyst Elie Honig made the case that convicting former President Trump in the New York hush money trial is not the slam dunk many liberals believe it is.

CNN legal analyst Elie Honig criticized the New York hush money case against former President Trump in a new podcast interview as "middling" and overly reliant on former personal attorney Michael Cohen, saying his credibility was in tatters after telling "lies upon lies."

Appearing on Tuesday's episode of "Somebody's Gotta Win," Honig insisted a unanimous not guilty verdict is unlikely for Trump, particularly since the trial is taking place in deep-blue Manhattan, but the case was mediocre and would never get a conviction in a swing district.

"On the scale of cases that prosecutors charge, it's middling, it seems to me," Honig told Puck's Tara Palmeri. "If they were trying this case in a jurisdiction that would have gone 50-50 Trump-Biden, I would say there's no chance of a conviction. But you know, the healthy majority of criminal cases that go to trial do result in convictions." 

Trump’s historic trial kicked off Monday, where he faces 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. The case revolves around an accusation that he improperly reimbursed Cohen for a $130,000 payoff in 2016 to porn star Stormy Daniels to stay silent about an alleged affair with Trump. Trump has denied the affair and called the criminal case – the first ever against a former U.S. president – an act of "political persecution."

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Honig said it wasn't an "absurd case on the merits" but "not a strong case in particular." He explained the alleged crime was not making a hush money payment, but that Trump had made a campaign expenditure in excess of legal limits that wasn't properly reported.

"I think the odds are that Trump will get convicted here," he said. "But I wouldn't say 90%. I would put it, you know, 60 to 75% that he gets convicted. And you just never know what a jury is going to do."

Honig said Cohen may actually help Trump's defense team in a multitude of ways. 

He first pointed to the tape Cohen made, secretly recording his conversation with Trump about the hush money payment to Playboy playmate Karen McDougal, where Cohen is heard telling Trump that he and then-Trump financier Allen Weisselberg were going to "set the whole thing up" and when Trump suggested paying cash, Cohen repeatedly replied "no" and that he was "all over it."

"I would love that as a defense lawyer. I would go, ‘Right there! Game over!’" Honig said. "Michael Cohen and Allen Weisselberg are the ones who falsified the business records. The lawyer and the CFO. Donald Trump doesn't know or care about the accounting of it. And the crime is in the accounting." 

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He also took Cohen's lack of credibility to task.

"Michael Cohen has a unique kind of baggage because this guy has lied and then piled lies upon lies, and piled lies upon lies upon lies," Honig said. "Politico pointed out the other day that Michael Cohen has officially been caught lying to every branch of government. He's lied to DOJ and the IRS and the executive branch. He lied to Congress … He got convicted of that, and he lied to the courts because he now has this bizarre thing – see, Michael likes to say, 'I only ever committed crimes with and for Donald Trump. That's bulls---." 

Honig continued, "Michael Cohen pled guilty to tax fraud and bank fraud on his own for his own money having nothing to do with Trump. But his response to that is, 'When I pled guilty to those things under oath in federal court in 2018, I was lying to the judge then. I didn't actually commit those.' I mean, it's like lies upon lies upon lies. You don't even know what's real and what's up and what's down. And a jury is supposed to believe this guy beyond a reasonable doubt? That's what the defense will say. Prosecutors will say, 'Yes, he lied and committed crimes, but he's come clean and he's backed up by the other evidence.'"

"And so the [defense's] strongest argument is it's all about Michael Cohen, really," Palmeri reacted. 

"It's all about Michael Cohen and they cannot tie Trump to the actual falsification of the records," Honig said.

"And what do you think the prosecutor's strongest argument is going to be?" Palmeri followed.

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"Prosecutor's strongest argument is going to be there's largely a paper trail here," Honig said. "He clearly knew about the hush money payments. They're going to say that of course, he knew they weren't reporting these as campaign violations and his intent was to silence Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet around the election. Therefore, it's a campaign finance violation."

When asked who Trump's strongest witness was, Honig asserted he may not have to call any.

"A lot of times, defendants just go with what's called a reasonable doubt defense," he sad. "They just say they haven't proved their case. The only evidence they have is Michael Cohen! You can't bank on Michael Cohen! Would you let him borrow your car or take care of your kids?"

He added, "All you have to do is punch holes and say they didn't meet their burden."

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