Trump defense slams key witness as hush money trial wraps

Trump defense slams key witness as hush money trial wraps
Trump defense slams key witness as hush money trial wraps

Donald Trump’s defense lawyers told the jury they could not trust the evidence of his former lawyer Michael Cohen. The prosecution argued the case’s substance “could very well be what got President Trump elected.”

Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York entered its final stages as closing arguments began on Tuesday.

The core of the case revolves around Trump’s team allegedly falsely labeling a large payment to an adult film actress that was designed to buy her silence on their purported affair in 2006, although Trump claims he was being blackmailed but paid anyway.

What the defense argued

The prosecution’s star witness Michael Cohen — formerly Trump’s own legal fixer — was the focus of the defense lawyer’s statements as he spoke to the 12 jurors. 

“You cannot convict President Trump on any crime beyond a reasonable doubt on the words of Michael Cohen,” lawyer Todd Blanche said.

Blanche noted how Cohen had pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, among other charges, in 2018 and spent just over 13 months in jail. The charges he faced back then pertained to lies he said he made to try to shield Trump. But he turned into a key witness for prosecutors and other officials pursuing the former president after his conviction, offering to cooperate with them.

Blanche also urged the jury to leave their other opinions of the Manhattan real estate mogul and former president at the door.

“This isn’t a referendum on your views of President Trump,” Blanche told jurors, or of their voting plans later this year. “If you focus just on that evicence you heard in this courtroom, this is a very, very quick and easy not guilty verdict.” 

Donald Trump denies the charges in the first of his criminal trials

What the prosecutors argued

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, meanwhile, portrayed the alleged cover-up of Trump’s alleged past relations with Daniels as a crucial component of his last-minute campaigning in 2016. 

“This scheme, cooked up by these men at this time, could very well be what got President Trump elected,” Steinglass argued. 

He uged the jury to “tune out the noise and ignore the sideshows.” 

“If you’ve done that, you’ll see that the people have presented powerful evidence of the defendant’s guilt,” he said.

Steinglass portrayed the “conspiracy” as an attempt to avoid Daniels’ “messy” and “uncomfortable” story reaching voters’ ears in the run-up to the vote.

What is Trump accused of?

Trump, who is seeking a second term in the White House in this November’s election, is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. 

Most notably these include Cohen allegedly attempting to conceal the purpose of a $130,000 payment made to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels.

Daniels said the money was given to keep her quiet about a sexual encounter she had with the Republican in 2006. Trump contends that it was a payment to silence her “false and extortionist accusations.” 

Cohen made the $130,000 payment out of his own pocket but the accusations are focused on how Trump’s real estate company falsely logged the reimbursements to Cohen in its financial records and whether Trump had full knowledge of the scheme.

The prosecution argues as the pay-off was made to keep the public from learning about the alleged sexual encounter ahead of the election, alleging that covering up the payments’ purpose amounted to illegal campaign financing. 

The defense argues that any errors describing the payments were made without Trump’s knowledge, claiming that he was often preoccuopied by more important issues as president.

Verdict near in first case of several

The jury will retire for deliberations after the prosecution’s closing presentation with a verdict considered possible or even likely this week.

The charges can carry a prison sentence of up to four years, but it would be Trump’s first felony conviction and the maximum sentence is not considered likely. 

Even if the event of a conviction, US laws do not prevent a convicted felon from running for the presidency.

Trump’s team, and Biden’s, appear outside court

Trump, who attended the proceedings, told reporters before entering the court that it was a “very dangerous day for America,” calling the proceedings “a rigged court case that should never have been brought.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign staffers and his children held their own news conference outside the courtroom, only for Joe Biden’s campaign more unusually to send a delegation to the site as well. 

Hollywood actor Robert de Niro and two police officers involved in defending Congress amid the January 6, 2021 attack spoke to reporters near the court. De Niro called Trump a “clown” and a “tyrant,” and warned of his reelection bid: “If he gets in, I can tell you right now, he will never leave.” 

Nevertheless, Biden’s campaign communication director Michael Tyler told reporters their presence was not designed to draw attention to the trial, instead claiming it was a reaction to that attention. 

“We’re not here today because of what’s going on over there. We’re here today because you are all here,” he said.

It’s one of several criminal cases the former president faces, though this may also prove to be the only one that concludes before November 5’s election.

Source: Dw

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