Attorneys Present Dueling Closing Remarks to Jury in Trump Trial

Closing arguments in former President Donald Trump's historic criminal trial began Tuesday morning in Manhattan. Prosecutors and defense attorneys had one final opportunity to convince the jury of their respective cases before deliberations begin.

Former President Donald Trump’s trial in New York is nearing an end. On May 28, the prosecution and defense will sum up their cases, allowing jurors to deliberate on their verdict.

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Judge to Give Instructions Wednesday

Justice Merchan said court will start at 10 a.m. tomorrow and end at 4:30 p.m. as usual.

The judge will give the jury instructions before they start deliberating. He estimated the instructions will take an hour.

Steinglass Wraps Up 5-Hour Summation

Mr. Steinglass ended the prosecution’s summation by arguing that President Trump’s intent to defraud “could not be any clearer,” and that the alleged scheme was “cloaked in lies.”

“The name of the game was concealment and all roads lead inescapably to the man who benefited the most: the defendant, former President Donald Trump,” Mr. Steinglass said.

He added, “Donald Trump can’t shoot someone on Fifth Avenue at rush hour and get away with it,” prompting an objection.

Prosecutors Recap Timeline as Court Sets 8 p.m. Cutoff

Mr. Steinglass briskly recapped the timeline of events in the case, starting with the August 2015 meeting prosecutors claim was the beginning of a conspiracy.

Mr. Steinglass covered the several calls Mr. Cohen made to Mr. Trump in October 2016, parallel to the Access Hollywood tape release and the Stormy Daniels deal.

Mr. Steinglass said there was “just no way, no way!” Mr. Cohen would not have kept his boss updated on the deal with these calls.

“Just think of the timing of these phone calls, this is absolutely critical,” Mr. Steinglass said. He said the calls Mr. Cohen made late October was clearly Mr. Cohen “seeking the final go-ahead” from Mr. Trump before closing the deal.

Prosecutors Accuse Trump of Witness Intimidation

After the break, Mr. Steinglass showed jurors social media posts from President Trump’s account, including ones where he blasted Mr. Cohen.

Mr. Steinglass claimed this sent a message to potential witnesses: “Cooperate and you will face the wrath of Donald Trump.”

He said the lawsuits President Trump has filed against Ms. Clifford and Mr. Cohen were additional examples of defamation. Ms. Clifford owes President Trump $600,000 in legal fees and President Trump had filed a claim after failure to pay for over a year, and he had filed a countersuit against Mr. Cohen.

Mr. Steinglass claimed that President Trump “wanted everyone to see the cost of taking him on.”

Mr. Steinglass pointed out that Ms. Clifford faced a barrage of threats and harassment after going public with her story, prompting Mr. Blanche to object.

Mr. Steinglass responded that he wasn’t saying President Trump was behind the threats. The judge told him to move his argument along.

Steinglass Says It Would Be ‘Crazy’ to Think Trump Not Involved in Cohen Payment

Mr. Steinglass argued that President Trump was detail oriented and frugal and that it would have been “crazy” to think that Mr. Weisselberg and Mr. Cohen devised the payment plan on their own, and that President Trump had no questions about the $35,000 checks he signed to pay Mr. Cohen throughout 2017.

“He just signs it. Every month. And he never once picks up that phone. He never once makes further inquiry,” Mr. Steinglass said.

“Don’t buy this bogus narrative that the defense is selling—that the defendant was too busy to know what he was signing,” Mr. Steinglass said. “The defendant’s entire business philosophy was and is to be involved in everything, down to negotiating the price of the light bulbs.”

Mr. Steinglass went through each of Mr. Cohen’s checks, and joked that Mr. Cohen had made “way more money than any government job would ever pay … and don’t I know that,” drawing some laughs from jurors.

At around 6:30, Mr. Steinglass asked if he should pause for the day. After conferring with jurors, the judge said they would stay late to finish closing arguments. The court is taking one last break and will have a hard stop at 8 p.m.

Prosecutors Highlights Trump ‘Reimbursement’ Tweet

Mr. Steinglass pointed to a social media post President Trump made in 2018 that called payments to Mr. Cohen a reimbursement: “Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA.”

Mr. Steinglass argued that though the payment did not come out of a campaign fund, “the payment has everything to do with the campaign.”

“And yet they still try to argue that the payments to Cohen in 2017 were for legal services rendered—because to say anything else is to admit that the business records were false, and they can’t do that,” he argued.

Mr. Steinglass then argued that Mr. Cohen was not paid for legal work he did do in 2018, undermining the defense’s arguments that he was paid $420,000 in 2017 for legal work.

“Does anyone believe that?” he asked jurors.

Prosecution Argues Trump Wouldn’t Pay $420,000 for Little Legal Work

Mr. Steinglass argued that Mr. Cohen “spent more time being cross-examined at this trial than he did doing legal work for Donald Trump in 2017.”

“Do you think there’s any chance Donald Trump would pay $42,000 an hour for legal work by Michael Cohen?” Mr. Steinglass asked the jury.

Mr. Cohen had testified that when he worked at Trump Organization, he was making $525,000 annually after his bonus.

Prosecutor Says Weisselberg Notes a ‘Smoking Gun’

After the break, Mr. Steinglass continued prosecution summations, arguing that the alleged crime occurred after the election .

“Even after Mr. Trump got elected, he still had to make sure that no one found out about the conspiracy,” Mr. Steinglass said.

Mr. Steinglass argued that the handwritten figures by Mr. Weisselberg and Mr. McConney are the “smoking guns” of the case.

Mr. Weisselberg had purportedly been the one to come up with the idea to “gross up” the $130,000 payment to Mr. Cohen to $420,000. Mr. McConney took notes about this on a copy of Mr. Cohen’s bank statement, during a meeting he had with Mr. Weisselberg.

Mr. Steinglass argued this was clear evidence that this was not payment for legal work.

Prosecution: Cohen, Clifford Communications Show ‘Mountain’ of Evidence

Mr. Steinglass argued that the detailed phone records, text messages, and other communications were evidence of a “mountain” of corroboration for the allegations in the case.

He said that Mr. Trump may not have signed the contract with Ms. Clifford himself, but that was “kind of the whole point,” and showed intention to conceal.

Mr. Steinglass argued the timing of the deal showed that “the defendant’s primary concern was not his family but the election.”

The court took a break.

Steinglass Says It Would Be ‘Crazy’ to Think Trump Not Involved in Cohen Payment

Mr. Steinglass argued that President Trump was detail oriented and frugal and that it would have been “crazy” to think that Mr. Weisselberg and Mr. Cohen devised the payment plan on their own, and that President Trump had no questions about the $35,000 checks he signed to pay Mr. Cohen throughout 2017.

“He just signs it. Every month. And he never once picks up that phone. He never once makes further inquiry,” Mr. Steinglass said.

“Don’t buy this bogus narrative that the defense is selling—that the defendant was too busy to know what he was signing,” Mr. Steinglass said. “The defendant’s entire business philosophy was and is to be involved in everything, down to negotiating the price of the light bulbs.”

Mr. Steinglass went through each of Mr. Cohen’s checks, and joked that Mr. Cohen had made “way more money than any government job would ever pay … and don’t I know that,” drawing some laughs from jurors.

Prosecutors Highlights Trump ‘Reimbursement’ Tweet

Mr. Steinglass pointed to a social media post President Trump made in 2018 that called payments to Mr. Cohen a reimbursement: “Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA.”

Mr. Steinglass argued that though the payment did not come out of a campaign fund, “the payment has everything to do with the campaign.”

“And yet they still try to argue that the payments to Cohen in 2017 were for legal services rendered—because to say anything else is to admit that the business records were false, and they can’t do that,” he argued.

Mr. Steinglass then argued that Mr. Cohen was not paid for legal work he did do in 2018, undermining the defense’s arguments that he was paid $420,000 in 2017 for legal work.

“Does anyone believe that?” he asked jurors.

Prosecution Argues Trump Wouldn’t Pay $420,000 for Little Legal Work

Mr. Steinglass argued that Mr. Cohen “spent more time being cross-examined at this trial than he did doing legal work for Donald Trump in 2017.”

“Do you think there’s any chance Donald Trump would pay $42,000 an hour for legal work by Michael Cohen?” Mr. Steinglass asked the jury.

Mr. Cohen had testified that when he worked at Trump Organization, he was making $525,000 annually after his bonus.

Prosecutor Says Weisselberg Notes a ‘Smoking Gun’

After the break, Mr. Steinglass continued prosecution summations, arguing that the alleged crime occurred after the election .

“Even after Mr. Trump got elected, he still had to make sure that no one found out about the conspiracy,” Mr. Steinglass said.

Mr. Steinglass argued that the handwritten figures by Mr. Weisselberg and Mr. McConney are the “smoking guns” of the case.

Mr. Weisselberg had purportedly been the one to come up with the idea to “gross up” the $130,000 payment to Mr. Cohen to $420,000. Mr. McConney took notes about this on a copy of Mr. Cohen’s bank statement, during a meeting he had with Mr. Weisselberg.

Mr. Steinglass argued this was clear evidence that this was not payment for legal work.

Prosecution: Cohen, Clifford Communications Show ‘Mountain’ of Evidence

Mr. Steinglass argued that the detailed phone records, text messages, and other communications were evidence of a “mountain” of corroboration for the allegations in the case.

He said that Mr. Trump may not have signed the contract with Ms. Clifford himself, but that was “kind of the whole point,” and showed intention to conceal.

Mr. Steinglass argued the timing of the deal showed that “the defendant’s primary concern was not his family but the election.”

The court took a break.

Prosecutors: Access Hollywood Tape a ‘Category 5’ Hurricane

Defense attorneys had argued the tape release was far from a disaster, but prosecutors argued evidence showed this was not the case.

Trump Campaign communications director Hope Hicks had said on the witness stand that a Category 4 hurricane was set to touch land when the Access Hollywood tape was released, and no one remembers the hurricane.

Prosecutors said the tape was a “Category 5″ hurricane on the eve of the election.

Secret Cohen Record Crucial Evidence, Say Prosecutors

After a break, Mr. Steinglass focused on the secret record Mr. Cohen made of a conversation he had with Mr. Trump.

He argued the defense had gone to “laughable lengths” to try to discredit the recording, arguing that Mr. Trump was talking about materials Mr. Pecker had retained about Mr. Trump over the years.

He said the recording “shows the defendant’s cavalier willingness to hide this payoff.”

“This shows the defendant suggesting paying in cash,” Mr. Steinglass said. “He’s trying to do it in a way that leaves no paper trail, that’s the whole point.”

He argued this crucial piece of evidence showed the intent required to prove the case and that’s why the defense tried so hard to discredit it.

“This tape unequivocally shows a presidential candidate actively engaging in a scheme to influence the election by reimbursing AMI for the McDougal story,” Mr. Steinglass said.

Prosecution Argues Trump ‘Looming’ Behind Other’s Actions

Mr. Steinglass said that the joking texts exchanged between Keith Davidson, attorney to Ms. Clifford and Karen McDougal, and AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard showed they knew they were doing this at the behest of the defendant.

Mr. Davidson had written: “Throw in an ambassaforship for me. I’m thinking Isle of Mann.”

Mr. Howard wrote back: “I’m going to Make Australia Great Again.”

“It’s a palpable recognition of what they’re doing. They’re helping Trump get elected,” Mr. Steinglass said. “Trump is looming behind everything that they’re doing.”

Steinglass Says Claims Alleged Conspiracy ‘Got President Trump Elected’

Mr. Steinglass argued that the National Enquirer played a pivotal role in President Trump’s first campaign, crediting the tabloid’s role as “one of the most valuable contributions that anyone ever made to the Trump campaign.”

“This scheme, cooked up by these three men, could very well be what got President Trump elected,” he said.

Mr. Steinglass addressed two deals Mr. Pecker testified on, which weren’t connected to the charges. Defense attorneys cast these in the context of Mr. Pecker’s “checkbook journalism” practice where they only ever published half the stories they published, but Mr. Steinglass argued these showed that these alleged co-conspirators had a consistent motive to be “in service to the defendant’s campaign.”

Steinglass Accuses Trump of ‘Subversion of Democracy’

Mr. Steinglass argued that the alleged scheme was a “subversion of democracy” meant to “manipulate and defraud the voters, to pull the wool over their eyes in a coordinated fashion.”

Steinglass Says Defense Focus on Cohen a ‘Deflection’

Mr. Steinglass argued that the defense’s emphasis on the character and credibility of Mr. Cohen was only a “deflection.”

He told jurors that beyond Mr. Cohen there was “a mountain of evidence, of corroborating testimony, that tends to connect the defendant to his crime.”

This included Mr. Cohen’s secret recording, and President Trump’s tweets about Mr. Cohen, he argued.

“It’s not about whether you like Michael Cohen. It’s not about whether you want to go into business with Michael Cohen. It’s whether he has useful, reliable information to give you about what went down in this case, and the truth is that he was in the best position to know,” Mr. Steinglass said.

“This case is not about Michael Cohen. It’s about Donald Trump.”

Steinglass Acts Out Call Between Cohen and Trump

Mr. Steinglass acted out a call that took place on Oct. 24, 2016, which prosecutors allege was when Mr. Cohen updated Mr. Trump about the Stormy Daniels deal before closing it with his approval.

The 96-second call was preceded by texts between Mr. Cohen and Mr. Schiller, whose phone received the call meant for Mr. Trump, in which Mr. Cohen wanted a prank caller investigated.

Mr. Steinglass argued it was possible for Mr. Cohen to have spoken to Mr. Schiller and still updated Mr. Trump on that short call, acting out a hypothetical scenario that lasted 49 seconds.

He argued the defense had seized on this phone call as “the big lie,” but he had refuted it.

He then made fun of his own acting skills, drawing a smile from a juror.

Steinglass: ‘Not Asking You to Feel Bad for Michael Cohen’

Mr. Steinglass told jurors that Mr. Cohen had little choice but to capitalize off his history with President Trump after he was convicted and disbarred, but that he was “not asking you to feel bad for Michael Cohen.”

“He made his bed. But you can hardly blame him for making money from the one thing he has left, which is his knowledge of the inner workings of the Trump Organizatinon,” Mr. Steinglass argued.

He said they didn’t “choose” Mr. Cohen to be their key witness.

“The defendant chose Michael Cohen to be his fixer because he was willing to lie and cheat on the defendant’s behalf,” Mr. Steinglass said.

Steinglass: Stormy Daniels ‘Cringeworthy’ Testimony ‘Kind of the Point’

Mr. Steinglass said Ms. Clifford’s testimony was “cringeworthy” and “messy.”

“It makes people uncomfortable to hear. It probably makes some of you uncomfortable to hear. But that’s kind of the point,” Mr. Steinglass said. “In the simplest terms, Stormy Daniels is the motive.”

He argued that the details Ms. Clifford shared about the hotel suit “kind of ring true,” but whether or not a sexual encounter actually occurred, her story showed there was an “incentive to buy her silence.”

Prosecution Says Cohen Has Already ‘Paid the Price’ for Conspiracy

Mr. Steinglass acknowledged Mr. Cohen’s record of lying under oath and said the jury has to take his dishonesty into account, because “how could you not?”

He argued that Mr. Cohen is the only member of the alleged conspiracy who has “paid the price for his role.”

Mr. Steinglass claimed that Mr. Cohen did President Trump’s bidding for years before he was thrown under the bus and that his anger and desire to see President Trump punished was understandable.

“Anyone in Cohen’s shoes would want the defendant to be held accountable,” Mr. Steinglass said.

Prosecutors Begin Closing Statement

Mr. Steinglass began closing arguments, saying the case “at its core, is about a conspiracy and cover-up.”

He argued that prosecutors have presented “powerful evidence of the defendant’s guilt” during the six-week trial.

Mr. Steinglass sought to refute claims the defense made about Ms. Clifford’s testimony. He argued that Ms. Clifford had believed that going public with her story was the best way to protect herself and her family, and it was not attempt to “extort” President Trump.

He also argued that extortion would not negate election fraud.

“You don’t get to commit election fraud or falsify business records because you believe you’ve been victimized,” he said.

Judge Tells Jurors to Disregard ‘Prison’ Comment

After warning Mr. Blanche, Justice Merchan told jurors they must disregard the comment by the defense about sending President Trump to “prison” on the word of Michael Cohen.

The judge told the jury it “was improper and you must disregard it.”

He added that jurors do not consider sentences, and that decision is solely the judge’s.

‘You Are Gangsters!’: Trump Posts Video of De Niro Arguing With Trump Supporters

The Biden Campaign had invited actor Robert De Niro to host a press conference near the courthouse as the defense gave its closing arguments.

After the conference, the actor appeared to get into an argument with a Trump supporter, the two yelling obscenities at each other.

“You are gangsters!” Mr. De Niro yelled. Another man yelled insults in return, including “your movies suck!”

Nearly a dozen cameras followed the exiting actor and protestors, captured on a video that President Trump shared on his own social media page.

Earlier, Mr. De Niro had claimed at the press conference that President Trump was a “tyrant” who would “destroy” the city, country, and world.

Trumps Come Out in Support

Outside the courthouse, Donald Trump Jr. told reporters the case was “political persecution” underscored by the fact that the Biden campaign announced a press conference at the courthouse to coincide with closing arguments.

“This is a sham. This is insane. It needs to stop,” he said.

Eric Trump said he was “sorry to the jury that’s in there” because “this has been the greatest colossal waste of time.”

He said his father is the “toughest man I’ve ever seen” and “he endures this nonsense every single day.”

His wife Lara Trump, RNC co-chair, also argued the case was political, criticizing the district attorney for not prosecuting violent crime in the city.

Judge Warns Defense Over ‘Outrageous’ Comment

Mr. Steinglass asked the judge to intervene over Mr. Blanche’s “ridiculous” request to jurors not to send President Trump to prison based on the words of Mr. Cohen. Justice Merchan agreed.

“I think that saying is outrageous,” Justice Merchan told Mr. Blanche. “Someone who’s been a prosecutor as long as you have and a defense attorney as long as you have, you know that making a comment like that is highly inappropriate. It’s simply not allowed. Period.”

The prosecutors have not disclosed whether they are seeking jail time should President Trump be convicted.

Verdict Not a Vote, Blanche Says

Mr. Blanche finished closing arguments by telling jurors that their verdict is not about their views of President Trump.

“This is not a referendum on the ballot box—who you voted for in 2016 or 2020, who you plan on voting for in 2024. That is not what this is about,” he said. “The verdict you have to reach has to do with the evidence you heard in this courtroom.”

The court took a break for lunch.

Blanche Raises Key Points of Reasonable Doubt

Mr. Blanche is summing up his closing argument by listing key points he believes should give jurors reasonable doubt.

Mr. Cohen created the invoices that formed the basis of the charges and there was no proof shown that President Trump knew anything about how they were processed, and there was no evidence presented that showed an intent to defraud, or a conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election, Mr. Blanche argued.

“The bottom line is, there is no falsification of business records,” he said.

Blanche Calls Cohen ‘MVP of Liars’

Mr. Blanche raised his voice as he reiterated the claim that Mr. Cohen lied to the jurors.

He said Mr. Cohen’s claim that he spoke to then-candidate Trump about the Stormy Daniels deal “was a lie,” as the defense showed the call to bodyguard Keith Schiller was preceded by texts concerning a prank caller Mr. Cohen wanted dealt with, and the call only lasted 90 seconds.

“It was a lie,” Mr. Blanche said. “That was a lie and he got caught red-handed.”

He called Mr. Cohen the “MVP of liars.”

“He lied to Congress. He lied to prosecutors. He lied to his family and business associates,” he said.

Mr. Blanche also reminded jurors that Mr. Cohen admitted to an obsession with Donald Trump, and presented quotes and clips of Mr. Cohen praising the indictment against his former boss.

Mr. Blanche argued that the prosecutors built their case around testimony by “a witness that outright hates the defendant, wants him in jail, is actively making money off that hatred.”

He added that Mr. Cohen lied when he claimed to be working to protect his boss or family with his dealings, and claimed Mr. Cohen was “lying simply to protect Michael Cohen and nobody else.”

Blanche Says Access Hollywood Tape Not ‘Doomsday’ Event Prosecutors Described

Mr. Blanche sought to counter the prosecution’s narrative that the Access Hollywood tape created such a crisis that heightened the need to “catch and kill” the Stormy Daniels story,

“It was not a Doomsday event,” Mr. Blanche argued, pointing to aides’ testimonies that the tape had created frustration for a couple of days before the news cycle moved on.

“Nobody wants their family to be subjected to that type of thing,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re running for office, if you’re running ‘The Apprentice’ … Nobody wants their family exposed to that type of story.”

Mr. Blanche asked jurors to doubt there was a conspiracy, pointing to the loosely connected evidence.

Blanche Focuses on Stormy Daniels Denial Statements

Mr. Blanche argued that Stephanie Clifford (Stormy Daniels) signed two statements in 2018 denying she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, after earlier arguing that the story had been out since 2011 and couldn’t have influenced the election.

He questioned why prosecutors called Ms. Clifford as a witness when there was no question that she signed the non-disclosure agreement contract. He claimed it was to “inflame” the jury’s emotions.

“They did it to try to embarrass President Trump,” Mr. Blanche argued.

Both Sides Will Give Closing Statements Today

After a short break, Justice Merchan said jurors have agreed to stay a bit later and hear both sides today.

Mr. Blanche says he has about 30 to 40 minutes left of his statement.

Defense Casts Doubt on Cohen Recording

Mr. Blanche referred to a secret recording Mr. Cohen made of Mr. Trump, in which a transcript shows Mr. Trump saying “one-fifty.” Mr. Cohen alleges this was referring to a payment for a story, but Mr. Blanche disputes this was what was said.

He argued that it was “ridiculous” that the recording was cut short because Mr. Cohen picked up a phone call from a bank, showing that the call in actuality went to voicemail as per phone records, and that a woman’s voice was heard on the recording, likely assistant Rhona Graff. Ms. Graff had testified but was not asked about this recording, Mr. Blanche pointed out.

Blanche Highlights AMI’s Regular Practice of Purchasing Stories

Mr. Blanche reminded jurors that American Media Inc. (AMI) publisher David Pecker had testified that he believed the two Trump stories he bought would have been blockbusters and would have published them if true.

“This isn’t a catch-and-kill. This is an opportunity,” Mr. Blanche said. “It was worth too much to catch and kill, full stop.”

He added that Mr. Pecker testified that they only ever published about half the stories they purchased.

“That’s meaningful,” he said.

In the case of Karen McDougal, her attorney testified she had not wanted her story published but was seeking to restart her career, Mr. Blanche added.

“This was not a catch-and-kill,” he said.

All Campaigns Influence Elections, Defense Says

“The government wants you to believe that President Trump did these things with his records to conceal efforts to promote his successful candidacy in 2016,” Mr. Blanche said.

“Even that, even if you find that is true, that is not enough,” he added. “It doesn’t matter if there’s a conspiracy to win an 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.”

Biden, Trump Campaigns Hold Press Conferences Near Courthouse

The Biden Campaign invited actor Robert DeNiro and two law enforcement officers who responded to the Capitol breach event on Jan. 6, 2021, to hold a press conference near the courthouse while closing statements are ongoing.

The Trump Campaign responded that allies of President Trump would be holding a press conference right after, “proving once and for all that the Biden Trial is a politically motivated witch hunt.”

Blanche Asks Jurors to Question Cohen Agreeing to Work for Free

Mr. Blanche reminded jurors of Mr. Cohen’s actions, and even his own testimony, of how angry he was when he discovered his holiday bonus was lower than expected right before President Trump took office. He asked jurors if that sounded like someone who expected to and was happy to work for free the following year.

“What the government did for the past five weeks, at the end of the day, is ask you to believe the man who testified two weeks ago: Michael Cohen,” Mr. Blanche said. “Michael Cohen asked you to ignore the documents, ignore what the email says about sending a retainer agreement sought by Mr. Weisselberg, asked you to believe that he worked for free.”

“Or is that a lie?” he asked.

He added that it was “absurd” that President Trump would pay Mr. Cohen $420,000 for a $130,000 payment reimbursement if he was the financially frugal businessman he was known for being.

‘Reasonable Doubt’ to Trump’s Knowledge and Involvement, Blanche Argues

Mr. Blanche argued it was a stretch to believe that President Trump scrutinized each check he signed for Trump Organization while he was in office. These were checks he would have relied on trustees to have approved.

Former assistant Madeleine Westerhout had testified that she saw him on the phone while signing checks, or even meeting with people, he reminded the jury.

Mr. Blanche said it was unreasonable to think that because President Trump was aware of the details of one invoice he was aware of all of them.

“That is a stretch and that is reasonable doubt, ladies and gentlemen,” he said.

Why ‘Legal Expenses’?

Mr. Blanche showed emails sent by Mr. McConney saying the payments should be categorized as legal expenses.

“Post to legal expenses. Put ‘retainer for the months of January and February 2017’ in the description,” one email read.

Mr. McConney had testified he never talked to President Trump about these payments, and in fact rarely interacted with him directly during his tenure.

He had said he relied on information on the invoice to categorize the payment.

Defense Says Prosecutors Didn’t Call People Who Authorized Cohen Payment

“Guess who else you didn’t hear from at this trial? Don or Eric,” said Mr. Blanche.

Mr. Weisselberg had purportedly come up with the $420,000 figure, according to Mr. Cohen. He sent an email to Mr. McConney writing that Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, co-trustees now that President Trump had taken office, had approved the payment so that Mr. McConney could move forward.

Prosecutors did not call Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., or Mr. Weisselberg to testify, which Mr. Blanche flagged as suspicious if the claim was a cover-up.

Trump Too Busy as President to Micromanage, Defense Says

Mr. Blanche said that President Trump was busy multitasking while he was in office, and told jurors they should be “suspicious” of prosecutors pulling a few lines from Trump business advice books written by ghostwriters decades ago as evidence he was a micromanager who knew every penny his company was spending.

“That’s a red flag,” he said.

Mr. Blanche argued that Trump Organization was also navigating a “confusing time” when President Trump transitioned into office and handed over control of the organization to a trust.

Blanche: ‘Cohen Lied to You’

Mr. Blanche argued that testimony showed Mr. Cohen did do legal work for the Trumps in 2017, even retaining the title of personal attorney to President Trump.

The $420,000 payment to Mr. Cohen over the course of a year were legal payments properly invoiced and paid for, he argued, countering prosecutors’ claim that they were falsely categorized.

The alleged falsity of those payments forms the entire foundation of the case.

Mr. Cohen had claimed on the witness stand, under questioning by prosecutors, that he was not paid for legal services at all in 2017, and those invoices and checks were false because they were reimbursements.

“Cohen lied to you,” Mr. Blanche said, repeating for emphasis, “Cohen lied to you.”

Mr. Blanche pointed out that Mr. Cohen discussed his role as personal attorney to the president in media appearances, and used the title in his email signature.

“This was not a secret. Michael Cohen was President Trump’s personal attorney. Period,” he said.

Blanche: Legal Payments Properly Categorized

Mr. Blanche said prosecutors have “criminalized” vouchers that were properly categorized as “legal expenses” from a drop-down menu.

“That’s absurd,” he said.

He pointed to an email from former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg authorizing payment with co-trustees Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., saying such an email would not be in existence if there was a coverup.

Blanche Says Cohen’s Testimony Consisted of ‘Lies, Pure and Simple’

Mr. Blanche told jurors they could expect a lot of arguments about Mr. Cohen in the defense’s closing statement.

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

He began a slide presentation showing the 34 documents for which President Trump was charged—invoices, checks, and vouchers for payments to Mr. Cohen.

The invoices were not sent directly to President Trump, Mr. Blanche argued, and were entirely prepared by third parties.

Former Trump Organization comptroller Jeffrey McConney had determined the process for paying Mr. Cohen, categorizing Mr. Cohen’s invoices as legal expenses, and bookkeeper Deborah Tarasoff had processed the payments.

Jury Should ‘Expect More’ Testimony, Evidence: Defense

Mr. Blanche told jurors that they should “want and expect more” than testimony from ex-lawyer Michael Cohen’s sole account of events and a bookkeeper’s testimony on processing checks to prove out the prosecution’s case. He cast attorney Keith Davidson’s testimony as evidence he and his client were trying to extort President Trump.

“The consequences of the lack of proof that you all heard over the past five weeks is simple: It is a not guilty verdict, period,” he said.

Defense Begins Summation

Mr. Blanche thanked the jury and began his closing statements, telling jurors the evidence in the case “should leave you wanting.”

“President Trump is innocent. He did not commit any crimes and the district attorney has not met their burden of proof. Period.”

Prosecutors Estimate 4.5 Hours for Summation

Prosecuting attorney Joshua Steinglass estimated needing four and a half hours for the prosecution’s closing statement.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche estimated two and a half hours.

Prosecutors hold the burden of proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt while the defense has no burden of proof and holds the presumption of innocence.

‘See Who’s in the Courtroom’: Trump

“Make no mistake about it, I’m here because of crooked Joe Biden,” President Trump said when he arrived to the courthouse.

“This country is being destroyed not slowly, but rapidly,” he added, citing the border, economy, and what he described as the weaponization of the justice system.

“See who’s in the courtroom, just see,” he said, seemingly referring to one of the lead prosecutors, who was formerly part of the Biden administration Department of Justice.

He then read from commentary covering the case, as he has done recently, that opined that the case had no evidence.

“This is a dark day in America,” he said. “We have a court case that should’ve never been brought.”

Trump Motorcade Arrives to Supporter’s Chants

A group of supporters chanted “We love you Trump” and waved banners as the former president’s motorcade pulled up to the courthouse.

Several members of the Trump family are expected to be in attendance today, including Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Tiffany Trump.

Massive Line Hours Before Trial

A line began to form outside the courthouse for closing statements of President Trump’s trial long before the sun was up, and those lining up by around 5 a.m. could not make it into courtrooms.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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