As Trial Looms, Trump Plays to a Jury of Millions


The former president has also taken aim at some of Mr. Bragg’s key witnesses, hurling threats and social media screeds in their direction. Mr. Cohen, in particular, has felt the brunt of the attacks from Mr. Trump, who has sued him, called him a “rat” and referred to him as “death.” Their confrontation in the courtroom, where Mr. Cohen will be the star witness, is expected to be the climactic moment of the trial.

But if Mr. Trump were to take the stand, Mr. Cohen would be quickly overshadowed. The former president is likely to delay a final decision until he knows whether the judge will restrict prosecutors’ efforts to cross-examine him, and until he can assess the performance of his former fixer.

The jurors will be assessing Mr. Cohen, too. If even one does not believe his testimony, the trial could end with a hung jury, a clear victory for the former president. Todd Blanche, the lawyer leading the case, has told Mr. Trump in recent weeks that he can win the trial, people with knowledge of the discussion said.

The case could be won or lost during jury selection, in the next two weeks. The expectation is that many potential jurors will be Manhattan Democrats with animus for Mr. Trump. The former president’s lawyers are hoping to spot sympathizers and will focus on younger Black men and white working-class men.

But Mr. Trump may struggle even with sympathetic jurors if he chooses to testify. At the civil fraud trial, the judge — who decided that case instead of a jury — was not impressed.

He “rarely responded to the questions asked, and he frequently interjected long, irrelevant speeches,” the judge wrote in his decision, adding, “His refusal to answer the questions directly, or in some cases, at all, severely compromised his credibility.”

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