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Echoing Their Client, Trump’s Lawyers Pursue an Absolutist Defense

Donald J. Trump is a thrice-married man accused of covering up a sex scandal with a porn star after the world heard him brag about grabbing women by their genitals.

But when Mr. Trump’s lawyers introduced him to a jury at his Manhattan criminal trial this week, they dwelt on a different dimension: “He’s a husband. He’s a father. And he’s a person, just like you and just like me.”

That half-hour opening statement encapsulated the former president’s influence over his lawyers and their strategy. It reflected specific input from Mr. Trump, people with knowledge of the matter said, and it echoed his absolutist approach to his first criminal trial.

And while defendants often offer feedback to their lawyers, this particular hands-on client could hamstring them.

Others might concede personal failings so their lawyers can focus solely on holes in the prosecution’s evidence — on television, it’s often a version of “My client might not be a nice guy, but he’s no criminal.”

But that time-honored tactic is not available to a defendant who is also the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, a man who despises weakness and is allergic to anything but praise from the people around him. So Mr. Trump’s legal strategy mirrors his political talking points as his lawyers portray the case as an unjust assault on the former president’s character.

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