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Michael Cohen is questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger in Manhattan state court on May 13, 2024, in this courtroom sketch.

REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

Can the jury trust Trump’s former fixer?

Disgraced attorney Michael Cohen testified for over four hours on Monday about his role in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to control negative stories about him during the 2016 election, including paying off former adult actresses Trump allegedly slept with.
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Jess Frampton

Are bots trying to undermine Donald Trump?

In an exclusive investigation into online disinformation surrounding the reaction to Donald Trump’s hush-money trial, GZERO asks whether bots are being employed to shape debates about the former president’s guilt or innocence. We investigated, with the help of Cyabra, a firm that specializes in tracking bots, to look for disinformation surrounding the online reactions to Trump’s trial. Is Trump’s trial the target of a massive online propaganda campaign – and, if so, which side is to blame?

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Adult film actress Stormy Daniels testified on Tuesday against former President Donald Trump, detailing her sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 and her $130,000 hush money payment from Trump's ex-attorney Michael Cohen before the 2016 election. In the process, she shared explicit details and said she had not wanted to have sex with Trump. This led the defense team to call for a mistrial. Their claim? That the embarrassing aspects were “extraordinarily prejudicial.”

Judge Juan Merchan denied the motion – but also agreed that some of the details from Daniels were “better left unsaid.”

The trouble is, plenty is being said, inside the courtroom and in the court of public opinion – aka social media. With so many people learning about the most important trials of the century online, GZERO partnered with Cyabra to investigate how bots are influencing the dialogue surrounding the Trump trials. For a man once accused of winning the White House off the steam of Russian meddling, the results may surprise you.

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Stormy Daniels is questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger before Justice Juan Merchan during former President Donald Trump's criminal trial.

REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

Stormy embarrassments about the wrong things

Of all the salaciously sloppy moments in Donald Trump’s hush-money trial unfolding just a short walk from GZERO HQ — and there are a lot – one stands out.

No, it’s not the anecdote about Stormy Daniels allegedly spanking Trump with a magazine — a detail that unintentionally evoked nostalgia for the fading benefits of print media. Try spanking a candidate with a digital edition!

No, it’s something far more modest. As the adult entertainer poured out presidential peccadillos about his penchant for satin pajamas, Trump’s lawyer declared that it all was so embarrassing that the jury was now prejudiced against his client. He demanded a mistrial.

State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan had to rule on the nature of embarrassment. What level is so harmful that it erodes the system, in this case, forcing a mistrial? In a sense, this is the core question of our confessional culture: Are there conventions of decorum that preserve human dignity and, if so, how do we adhere to them?

Merchan didn’t ponder this too long. He denied the mistrial but admitted that much of Daniels’ testimony was “better left unsaid.”

It was a cultural comment on the age of oversharing and a flimsy protest against the strategy that Steve Bannon once called “flooding the zone with shit,” but it warrants some attention. Would it help our political culture if some things were left unsaid, or are we actually leaving the most embarrassingly important things unsaid?

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump walks amid his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments, at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 7, 2024, in New York City, U.S. Trump has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records, which prosecutors say was an effort to hide a potential sex scandal, both before and after the 2016 presidential election. Trump is the first former U.S. president to face trial on criminal charges.

Win McNamee/Pool via REUTERS

Trump flirts with detention

American cable news has been riveted for weeks by the courtroom spectacle of former president and current presidential candidate Donald Trump. That was even before Stormy Daniels, the famous porn star at the center of the so-called “hush-money” trial, took the stand on Tuesday to offer provocative details about an encounter with Trump that he insists never happened.

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Alex Kliment

What the Trump trial circus is missing

On the first day of the first criminal trial of a former US president, I couldn’t resist. The courthouse is 15 minutes from my desk here in New York, so I jumped on the 6 Train and headed out to the scrum of protesters, counterprotesters, journalists, police, and other gawkers in Lafayette Park outside the courthouse.

There was lots – lots – of yelling. Just as I arrived, a guy in a “Gays for Trump, You got a problem with that, Bitch!” T-shirt was at the center of a smartphone scrum screaming at a woman holding a “Trump is the Definition of Depravity” sign that she was a “pedophile.”

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower, after his indictment by a Manhattan grand jury following a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, in New York City, U.S April 3, 2023.

REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

What We’re Watching: Trump’s day in court, Turkey stuffing Sweden, Egypt buddying up

Trump’s arraignment

Donald Trump has a busy day ahead of him Tuesday. He returned to the Big Apple Monday night and, after getting some shut-eye in Trump Tower, the former president will head to the Manhattan courthouse on Tuesday for his indictment. After his court appearance and a quick photo-op, he’ll jet back to Mar-a-Lago before an evening news conference.

Sound like an orchestrated plan? That’s because Trump’s team wants to capitalize on the publicity blitz around his arrest to bolster his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. There’s reason to believe this is working: Since the news of his indictment dropped, his campaign claims to have raised $7 million, and his polling numbers have soared above other Republican candidates.

On March 30, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought the results of his investigation before a Manhattan grand jury, which voted to indict the former president. Trump is expected to plead not guilty on Tuesday.

While the charges against him have not been revealed, they likely involve Trump's reimbursement to his former attorney and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, who paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence ahead of the 2016 election. The Trump Organization then filed Cohen’s $420,000 reimbursement and bonus as a “legal expense.”

Falsifying business records is only a misdemeanor in New York, but if it is done with the intent to commit or cover up another crime – namely, violating campaign finance laws – then Trump could be looking at a Class E felony and a minimum of one year in prison.

Trump will be the first former US president to be indicted on criminal charges. But whether his indictment will push the GOP to jump ship in favor of another candidate, or what it means for the campaign if they don’t, remains unclear.

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Trump's indictment is problematic
Trump indicted | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Trump's indictment is problematic

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and at least a few comments from me on the Trump indictment. You didn't hear anything from me about this a couple weeks ago. Of course, former President Trump had announced that he was going to get arrested a week ago Tuesday and when I heard that, I thought that that one thing that guaranteed was that he was not going to be arrested a week ago Tuesday, so he didn't really need to talk about it. But then after that passed and nothing happened, he said, "I'm not going to get arrested. They don't have a case. They've thrown away. These guys are idiots." And then I started to get worried. I'm thinking, well, if he's saying it's not going to happen, that means may well. And of course that is where we now are, that for the first time in American history though, this happens all over the world in many other countries, but the US had been exceptional in this regard.

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