The trial’s outcome was forecast in some ways before the jury even got the case on Wednesday.
Toward the end of the trial, the jury sent an ominous message to the government. One morning, before the jury entered the courtroom, Judge Brian M. Cogan told the assembled parties that “a few of the jurors” had reported to his staff that they “feel the government is staring at them and they’re getting a little uncomfortable.”
And before the jury entered on Tuesday morning, Judge Cogan said that many of the government’s theories were “right on the line of impermissible inference.” It was a stark statement, suggesting his doubts about the case’s strength..
Foreign governments seeking favored status with U.S. presidential administrations is nothing new. Wealthier nations, including the Emirates, have tried to exert influence on American politics and culture through large donations to universities and think tanks, and by hiring armies of lobbyists to steer legislation in Washington.
But during the Trump administration, some Persian Gulf nations intensified their efforts to gain access to the president, his top aides and others in their orbit, many of whom had little foreign policy experience and were viewed as particularly susceptible to influence.
“This is not a game,” Sam Nitze, a prosecutor, said in his rebuttal summation Tuesday, noting the weighty international issues that emerged in the trial — the war in Yemen, the blockade of Qatar, the Republican Party’s platform. “This case is about a betrayal of the interests of the United States.”
As the Justice Department ramped up its prosecution of foreign-influence cases, it has encountered mixed success.
In 2019, Bijan Rafiekian — the former business partner of Mr. Trump’s onetime national security adviser, Michael Flynn — was convicted of acting as an undisclosed agent of Turkey, and on lobbying-related charges. This year, Mr. Rafiekian was granted a new trial.