Trump hush money trial: Prosecution, defense look to score final points

Legal Insight 2024/05/28 12:17   Bookmark and Share
Donald Trump’s landmark hush money trial turns on the testimony of a prosecution witness who told lies on the stand and cannot be trusted, a defense lawyer said Tuesday during closing arguments as he pressed jurors for an acquittal in the first criminal case against a former American president.

The arguments, expected to last the entire day, give attorneys one last chance to address the Manhattan jury and to score final points with the panel before it starts deliberating Trump’s fate.

“President Trump is innocent. He did not commit any crimes, and the district attorney has not met their burden of proof, period,” said defense attorney Todd Blanche, who said the evidence in the case should “leave you wanting.”

In an hourslong address to the jury, Blanche attacked the foundational premises of the case, which charges Trump with conspiring to conceal hush money payments prosecutors say were made on his behalf during the 2016 presidential election to stifle a porn actor’s claim that she had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier.

Blanche countered the prosecution’s portrayal of Trump as a detail-oriented manager who paid dutiful attention to the checks he was signing and rejected the idea that the alleged hush money scheme amounted to illegal interference in the election.

“Every campaign in this country is a conspiracy to promote a candidate, a group of people who are working together to help somebody win,” Blanche said.

After more than four weeks of testimony, the summations tee up a momentous and historically unprecedented task for the jury as it decides whether to convict the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in connection with the payments.

Because prosecutors have the burden of proof, they will deliver their arguments last.

Prosecutors will tell jurors that they have heard enough testimony to convict Trump of all charges while defense attorneys aim to create doubts about the strength of the evidence by targeting the credibility of Michael Cohen. Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer pleaded guilty to federal charges for his role in the hush money payments and served as the star prosecution witness in the trial.

“You cannot convict President Trump of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt on the word of Michael Cohen,” Blanche said, adding that Cohen “told you a number of things that were lies, pure and simple.”

After closing arguments, the judge will instruct the jury on the law governing the case and the factors the panel can take into account during deliberations. Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, charges punishable by up to four years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing. It’s unclear whether prosecutors would seek imprisonment in the event of a conviction, or if the judge would impose that punishment if asked.

The case centers on a $130,000 payment Cohen made to porn actor Stormy Daniels in the final days of the 2016 election to prevent her from going public with her story of a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump 10 years earlier in a Lake Tahoe hotel suite. Trump has denied Daniels’ account, and his attorney, during hours of questioning in the trial, accused her of making it up.
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