Trump hush-money trial: Jury hears closing arguments

Jurors could begin deliberations as early as Wednesday

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The jury heard closing arguments in the criminal trial of former US president Donald Trump on Tuesday, as defence lawyers tried to paint their client as a victim of blackmail and prosecutors sought to bring attention to the crux of their case: election interference.

After listening to more than four weeks of testimony, jurors sat through hours of closing arguments as both sides made their final statements.

They could begin deliberations as early as Wednesday.

Defence lawyer Todd Blanche took aim at the testimony of the prosecution's witnesses, who included Michael Cohen, Mr Trump's former legal representative and fixer.

Mr Blanche accused Mr Cohen of being “literally the MVP of liars”.

“The evidence should leave you wanting more. You should want and expect more than the testimony of Michael Cohen,” Mr Blanche said.

He portrayed the witness as someone with a personal vendetta against his former boss.

Mr Blanche repeatedly reminded jurors of Mr Cohen's past falsehoods, including his 2018 guilty plea for lying to Congress. Mr Cohen spent time in prison after pleading guilty to a number of charges.

The defence also attacked the testimony of another key witness, adult film star Stormy Daniels, saying she had been trying to extort Mr Trump by threatening to go public with her story of an affair as he sought to squash a string of unflattering stories during his 2016 election campaign.

“She was trying to use the 2016 election as leverage to try and get paid,” Mr Blanche told the jury.

Daniels was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about the alleged affair with Mr Trump.

Mr Blanche told the jury Daniels was called as a witness “to try to inflame your emotions”.

The prosecutors “did it to try to embarrass President Trump”, he added, and Daniels was only paid for her story to keep it from embarrassing the Trump family.

But the prosecutor used his closing argument to bring jurors back to what District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office alleges is the crux of the case: a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election by keeping Daniels's story from surfacing.

The case “at its core, is about a conspiracy and a cover-up”, Joshua Steinglass said.

Mr Steinglass denied the defence's contention that the former president was trying to protect his reputation and family from embarrassing stories about his personal life.

It is “no coincidence” that Daniels's alleged affair with Mr Trump happened in 2006 but she was not paid for her silence until right before the 2016 election, Mr Steinglass said, according to AP.

As to Mr Cohen's honesty, Mr Steinglass acknowledged that he was a challenging witness – but prosecutors did not choose him, Mr Trump did, Mr Steinglass said.

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

“It’s not about whether you like 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.”

In concluding his arguments, Mr Steinglass urged jurors "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," he said, according to CNN.

Updated: May 29, 2024, 12:03 AM