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Evidence from Trump hush money trial 'overwhelming': prosecutor's closing argument

by SuperiorInvest

Former President Donald Trump speaks with his attorney Todd Blanche before the start of proceedings at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, U.S., on May 28, 2024.

Julia Nikhinson | Via Reuters

The evidence in the criminal hush money case against former President Donald Trump is “literally overwhelming,” a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.

“Focus on the evidence and the logical inferences that can be drawn from that evidence,” Manhattan Deputy District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said at the end of his closing argument at the trial.

“In the interest of justice and on behalf of the people of the state of New York, I ask that you find the defendant guilty,” Steinglass said. “Thank you.”

Steinglass spent more than five hours methodically reminding jurors of the testimony they had heard and the evidence they had been shown.

All of this, the prosecutor argued, painted a picture of Trump directing and benefiting from a scheme to protect his presidential campaign from negative information about him that became public during the 2016 election.

“Everything Mr. Trump and his henchmen did in this case was wrapped in lies,” Steinglass said.

“The name of the game was concealment, and all roads lead to the man who benefited the most: Donald Trump.”

Judge Juan Merchán told jurors to return to court at 10 a.m. Wednesday for about an hour of instructions on the law in the case.

Unlike most days of Trump's five-week trial, the former president did not stop to speak to reporters Tuesday night.

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to a 2016 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels by his then-attorney and fixer Michael Cohen.

The 12-member jury will begin deliberations later Wednesday.

Trump is the first former US president to be tried in a criminal case.

If convicted, the maximum legal sentence he could receive is four years in prison for each felony.

Trump, who is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, faces three other pending criminal cases and three civil judgments that hold him liable for more than $500 million in damages to the state of New York and writer E. Jean Carroll.

Final argument of the prosecution

Steinglass argued earlier Tuesday that the value of a “corrupt deal” between the National Enquirer's publisher, Trump and Cohen to suppress negative stories about Trump cannot be overstated, and may have been one of the most valuable political contributions of the history.

Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump speaks to the media, as his attorney Todd Blanche listens, as his criminal trial continues on charges of falsifying business records to hide money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, at the Manhattan state court. in New York City, USA on May 28, 2024.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

“This plan, devised by these men… could very well be what got President Trump elected,” Steinglass said in Manhattan Supreme Court.

David Pecker, former editor of the National Enquirer, testified at trial about his agreement with Trump and Cohen to alert them to potentially damaging stories about the then-Republican presidential candidate, and his publication of negative stories about Trump's political opponents, including 2016. The Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Pecker testified about how his company paid $150,000 to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, to buy her silence before the 2016 election about her alleged sexual relationship with Trump.

Pecker's company also paid Trump World Tower doorman Dino Sajudin $30,000 for his claim that Trump fathered a child out of wedlock with a housekeeper, a story the National Enquirer never published.

“This was really a game of catch and kill,” Steinglass said.

“Please note that Mr. Pecker has no reason to lie, is not biased toward the defendant, and believes that Mr. Trump remains a friend and mentor,” Steinglass said, distinguishing the editor and Cohen, a former Trump pitbull who Now he is his sworn enemy.

The prosecutor also pointed to the time when Cohen paid Daniels $130,000, per what Cohen said was Trump's order, shortly before the 2016 election to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual tryst that occurred a decade earlier.

In this courtroom sketch, defense attorney Todd Blanche presents his closing arguments as Judge Juan Merchan presides during the criminal trial of former US President Donald Trump accused of falsifying business records to hide money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan State Court in New York City on May 28, 2024.

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

“It's not a coincidence that the sex occurred in 2006, but the payoff occurred less than two weeks before the 2016 election,” Steinglass said.

And that, the prosecutor argued, is because Trump's main concern about Daniels going public with her claim is its possible effect on that year's election, not any effect on her family, as defense attorneys have said.

Earlier Tuesday, Judge Merchan criticized the former president's defense attorney, Todd Blanche, for arguing to jurors that “you can't send someone to prison based on Michael Cohen's words.”

Juries in criminal cases must consider whether a defendant committed a crime and not take into account the possible punishment for that crime, such as prison.

After the jurors left the courtroom at the end of Blanche's closing argument, Merchan lashed out at him.

“I think that statement was outrageous, Mr. Blanche,” Merchan said.

Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump sits with his attorney Todd Blanche as his criminal trial continues on charges of falsifying business records to hide money paid to hush porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in court Manhattan Statehouse in New York City in May. 28, 2024.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

“Someone who has been a prosecutor as long as you have and a defense attorney as long as you have,” the judge said.

“It's just not allowed. Period. It's hard for me to imagine how it was accidental in any way.”

When jurors returned to the courtroom after lunch, Merchan told them that Blanche's comment “is inappropriate and should be ignored.”

The judge also said that if the jury convicts Trump, Merchan would decide the sentence. The judge noted that a prison sentence is not mandatory upon conviction on the charges Trump faces.

Trump's defense

Blanche began her summation Tuesday by telling jurors that Trump “is innocent” of the charges.

Trump “committed no crime and the district attorney has not met his burden of proof, period,” Blanche said.

The records at issue in the case described as legal expenses are reimbursements that Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, gave Cohen for paying Daniels.

Prosecutors said the payment was designed to prevent the adult film actor from harming Trump's chances of winning the White House in 2016.

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Blanche argued that Cohen had believed that Daniels' efforts to sell her Trump story to the media “were an extortion attempt” against Trump.

“He wrote a book and has a podcast. And a documentary,” Blanche said of Daniels. “This started out as an extortion, there's no doubt about that, and it ended very well for Ms. Daniels, financially speaking.”

“The story that Mr. Cohen told you on the witness stand is not true,” Blanche said. “There is no evidence that President Trump knew about the payment before it was made.”

“As I told you in the opening speech, it doesn't matter if there was a conspiracy to win the election,” Blanche argued. “Every campaign is a conspiracy to promote a candidate.”

But Steinglass, in his own closing argument, said: “I am not suggesting [Daniels] “I wasn't looking to get paid, but that's different than… extortion.”

“In the end, it doesn't really matter” whether Trump was extorted or not, Steinglass said. “You can't commit voter fraud or falsify your business records because you believe you've been a victim.”

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