Trump’s Proposed Expert Witness Claims Judge ‘Restricted’ Him to Thwart Testimony

Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Brad Smith said on social media that the defense withdrew him after the judge imposed too many restrictions.
Trump’s Proposed Expert Witness Claims Judge ‘Restricted’ Him to Thwart Testimony
Judge Juan M. Merchan (L) in his chambers in New York, on March 14, 2024. Former President Donald Trump (R) at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, on March 25, 2024. (Seth Wenig/AP; Spencer Platt/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

An election law expert said that he believes the judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s New York criminal trial has a “bias” because of an order that limits how expert witnesses can testify in the case.

Brad Smith, who chaired the Federal Election Commission and was appointed to the FEC by former President Bill Clinton, wrote on social media on May 20 that he didn’t testify because of a move made by the Trump team.

But he suggested that the judge essentially blocked him from offering his viewpoint.

“Judge Merchan has so restricted my testimony that defense has decided not to call me,” Smith wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Now, it’s elementary that the judge instructs the jury on the law, so I understand his reluctance.”
“But the Federal Election Campaign Act is very complex. Even Antonin Scalia—a pretty smart guy, even if you hate him—once said ’this [campaign finance] law is so intricate that I can’t figure it out,” he also wrote on X, claiming that the judge is biased for not allowing him to testify.

While the “judge wouldn’t let me testify on [the] meaning of [the] law, he allowed Michael Cohen to go on at length about whether and how his activity violated FECA. So effectively, the jury got its instructions on FECA from Michael Cohen,” he added, referring to the Federal Election Campaign Act.

As for President Trump, he claimed that Judge Juan Merchan ruled that Mr. Smith “can’t testify” and isn’t “being allowed to testify” in the case. His remarks came a day before the defense and prosecutors rested their cases, turning over deliberations to the jury.

“The expert witness that we have, the best there is in election law, Brad Smith, he’s considered the Rolls Royce, or we’ll bring it back to an American car, Cadillac, but the best there is,” the former president said on his way out of court.

The former president’s legal team had previously said they would likely call on Mr. Smith to testify. Prosecutors allege that President Trump falsified business records regarding a payment plan during the 2016 campaign that they said was an attempt to meddle with that year’s presidential election, which the former president has denied.

The former president made a similar claim in his post-trial comments, claiming that Judge Merchan blocked Mr. Smith’s testimony “because he’s going to say we did nothing wrong.”

Judge Merchan ruled on May 20 that Mr. Smith was permitted to testify but placed limits on what he could talk about as an expert witness.

If called, Mr. Smith could give general background about the FEC such as its purpose, the laws it enforces, and provide definitions for terms such as “campaign contribution,” the judge said, adding that he issued a pretrial ruling on expert testimony.

On May 20, the judge rejected the Trump team’s renewed efforts to have Mr. Smith define three terms in federal election law on the basis that doing so would breach rules preventing expert witnesses from interpreting the law. Nor could Mr. Smith opine on whether the former president’s alleged actions violated those laws.

He reasoned that allowing Mr. Smith to testify on certain election law-related matters would lead to a potential battle between experts in the trial.

The judge said that if Mr. Smith did testify, the prosecution would then be permitted to call an expert of its own, which “would only serve to confuse and not assist the jury.”

Trump lawyer Emil Bove told Judge Merchan that prosecutors have focused their case on felony convictions that make campaign finance law more of a centerpiece of their case.

“We’re still in a very strange situation because of the way the government has structured these business-record charges,” Mr. Bove said.

After both the defense and prosecutors rested, the judge dismissed the jury and told them to return on Tuesday, May 28, for closing arguments for President Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors.

The former president didn’t testify in the case, which is not unusual.

His son Donald Trump Jr. said at a news conference in Manhattan on May 21, “There’d be absolutely no reason, no justification to do that whatsoever.

“Everyone sees it for the sham that it is.”

The Associated Press and Michael Washburn contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
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