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As Trump Trial Nears Its End, the Law May Give Prosecutors an Edge

Over the course of his monthlong criminal trial, the evidence against Donald J. Trump has piled up.

A recording of his voice directing a fixer to pay in cash. Phone calls, text messages, emails and a photograph that illustrate the case against him. And a parade of 18 witnesses who together told a compelling story: that Mr. Trump orchestrated a conspiracy to suppress sex scandals during the 2016 election, and after winning, sought to bury a porn star’s story for good.

But the 19th and final witness of their case — the only one to directly link Mr. Trump to the 34 business records he is charged with falsifying — is Michael D. Cohen. And for prosecutors, he was always high-reward, high-risk. Though Mr. Cohen got off to a strong start, Mr. Trump’s lawyer eventually hammered his credibility, highlighting his criminal record and painting him as a serial liar bent on taking down the former president.

It was the most significant momentum swing of the first criminal trial of an American president — andwith Mr. Cohen’s star turn on the stand poised to conclude on Monday, the prosecution’s case would seem to hang in the balance.

But as the trial enters its final stage and the focus shifts from the lawyers at the lectern to the 12 silent New Yorkers who will determine Mr. Trump’s fate, the case remains the prosecution’s to lose. Between the reams of circumstantial evidence and some very favorable laws underpinning the charges, the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, has retained inherent advantages.

And so, whatever the jurors think of Mr. Cohen — truth-teller, fabulist or something in between — the prosecution did not need them to believe his every word.

Marc F. Scholl, who served in the district attorney’s office for nearly four decades and worked on dozens of cases that included the false records charge, said prosecutors have checked all the legal boxes.

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