Advertisement

Trump hush-money trial: Closing arguments wrap in Manhattan

Former President Donald Trump gestures as he leaves the courtroom at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Tuesday. Defense lawyers and prosecutors delivered their closing arguments in the felony trial of the former president, who is charged with making hush-money payments to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016. Pool Photo by Julia Nikhinson/UPI
1 of 9 | Former President Donald Trump gestures as he leaves the courtroom at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Tuesday. Defense lawyers and prosecutors delivered their closing arguments in the felony trial of the former president, who is charged with making hush-money payments to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016. Pool Photo by Julia Nikhinson/UPI | License Photo

May 28 (UPI) -- Former President Donald Trump was in court in Manhattan on Tuesday as closing arguments wrapped in his hush-money trial. Both the defense and the prosecution presented their final cases to the jury, which is expected to begin deliberations on Wednesday.

Attorney Joshua Steinglass delivered the prosecution's closing argument, which took 4 hours and 41 minutes to present, after which Judge Juan Merchan thanked the jurors for their patience.

Advertisement

Merchan said instructions to the jury will start at 10 a.m. EDT on Wednesday and are expected to take about an hour, after which the jury will begin deliberations.

Steinglass also thanked the jury for their time, saying "I apologize for trading brevity for thoroughness." While the prosecution's closing arguments last nearly 5 hours, Trump's defense team's closing arguments earlier in the day lasted just under three hours.

Advertisement

As Steinglass wrapped up his closing argument Tuesday, he urged the jury to find Trump guilty.

"You have to put aside the distractions, the press, the politics, the noise. Focus on the evidence and the logical inference that can be drawn from that evidence," Steinglass told the jury.

"Use your common sense and follow the judge's legal instructions," he added. "The law is the law and it applies to everyone equally. There is no special standard for this defendant."

Trump faces 34 felony charges related to falsifying business documents in an alleged attempt to cover up hush-money payments made in 2016 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Steinglass spent much of his closing argument focused on solidifying the testimony of star witnesses Michael Cohen and Daniels. He also emphasized the role the alleged "catch and kill" scheme may have had in the 2016 election.

The stories purchased by Trump for the purpose of stopping them from being published were "unlawful campaign contributions," according to the attorney.

"It turned out to be one of the most valuable contributions anyone ever made to the Trump campaign," Steinglass said. "This scheme cooked up by these men at this time could very well be what got President Trump elected."

Advertisement

Defense attorney Todd Blanche rebuked allegations that the hush-money payments and catch-and-kill scheme were part of an attempt to influence the election. He said payments to Cohen to be given to Daniels were disclosed on a 1099 form. He pushed back on the notion that Trump felt National Enquirer stories would influence the results of the 2016 election.

"The idea that even sophisticated people like President Trump and David Pecker believed that positive stories in the National Enquirer could influence the 2016 election is preposterous," Blanche said.

Blanche went piece by piece through the testimony of Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen, telling the jury that his testimony contained no evidence. His argument, which lasted through most of the morning, sought to attack the credibility of Cohen.

Trump's defense circled back to its cross examination of Cohen about a phone call he made to Trump on bodyguard Keith Schiller's phone. Cohen said the call was about authorizing the payment to Daniels. Blanche said the call was about Cohen receiving harassing calls.

"His words cannot be trusted and I'm going to end this summation the same way I told you a few minutes ago that you know you cannot rely on him," Blanche said of Cohen. "Cohen lies to family, when it matters, when it doesn't."

Advertisement

The prosecution redirected the focus from Cohen's credibility to Trump's alleged actions. He acknowledged Cohen's testimony about being angry at Trump by saying Cohen was angry because he was the only party held accountable for the scheme. His role in this trial was to give context to the alleged scheme to falsify documents.

Steinglass recounted the phone calls between people alleged to be involved with the scheme, including Cohen, publisher David Pecker and former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.

Call logs showed that Pecker and Weisselberg had six phone calls to each other over the course of three years leading up to Oct. 28, 2016 -- the date that Trump and Daniels struck the hush-money deal. Three of those phone calls took place within the three days leading up to the deal.

"This is damning," Steinglass said.

Blanche also downplayed the importance of Trump's alleged affair with Daniels, arguing that the case is about business documents, not affairs. He characterized it as beginning with "extortion" by Daniels, who was attempting to capitalize on the Access Hollywood tape.

"President Trump is innocent," Blanche told the jury. "He did not commit any crimes, and the district attorney has not met their burden of proof -- period. The evidence is all in."

Advertisement

Steinglass called the extortion allegation "so bogus." He shared a text message exchange between Daniels' publicist and an editor at the National Enquirer following the release of the Access Hollywood tape to demonstrate that Daniels was seeking to go public without discussing with Cohen or Trump.

Trump's defense team leaned on witnesses from the Trump organization as well as Cohen's former attorney Robert Costello. They sought to combat Cohen's testimony with Costello's account of events in an attempt to discredit Trump's former attorney.

Cohen and Daniels testified for the prosecution. Cohen shared details about arranging payments for Daniels and negotiating a deal to keep her quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

Daniels recounted meeting Trump in a hotel suite after a golf tournament and engaging in an affair with him. She also recalled going public with the story of the affair.

Trump has denied the affair and pleaded not guilty to all charges.

On his way into the courtroom, Trump was joined by his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and his daughter, Tiffany.

Latest Headlines