Trump Attorneys End Arguments With Harsh Words on Criminal Evidence

May 28, 2024 by Tom Ramstack
Trump Attorneys End Arguments With Harsh Words on Criminal Evidence
Robert De Niro speaks to reporters in support of President Joe Biden across the street from former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York, Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK — Defense and prosecuting attorneys made their final arguments to a New York jury Tuesday in the criminal case against former President Donald Trump.

Trump’s attorney made an impassioned plea for a not guilty verdict based on defense witnesses who implied Trump did not know checks he signed were being used as hush money for two women who claim he had sex with him.

The payments were allegedly made during the turmoil in the closing days of Trump’s successful 2016 campaign for president.

“This was a very confusing time for the Trump Organization,” said lead defense attorney Todd Blanche.

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up money paid to the women in exchange for nondisclosure agreements from them.

His accusers were trying to extort money from a wealthy man by lying about his sexual affairs, Blanche said.

Trump signed checks that were passed on to the women through his attorney and a business associate. The former president incorrectly assumed they were payments for “legal expenses,” Blanche said.

His former attorney, Michael Cohen, was the prosecution’s star witness.

“Michael Cohen is a liar,” Blanche said.

Cohen testified that Trump not only knew the payments were intended as hush money but also participated in planning them. He quoted Trump telling him, “Just pay it.” 

The 34 counts against Trump represent one for each business ledger entry, invoice or check that can be traced to the former president.

Blanche said Cohen lied partly to get money but also for revenge against Trump after the then-president declined to support his attorney as he faced allegations by Congress of a cover-up.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 after admitting during a plea bargain that he lied to Congress about a real estate deal the Trump Organization tried to arrange in Moscow. He also admitted lying under oath to other federal charges that included tax fraud and campaign finance violations.

Trump signed checks in $35,000 monthly increments that added up to $420,000 paid to Cohen. 

Cohen said he then passed on $130,000 of the money to former adult film actress Stormy Daniels but kept the rest of the money for himself with Trump’s consent. Daniels said she had brief sexual relations with Trump in 2006.

A separate payment of $150,000 was paid to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had a 10-month affair with Trump.

“He’s literally the greatest liar of all time,” Blanche said about Cohen.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass argued that even without Cohen’s testimony, other witnesses and business records prove Trump’s complicity in the crime. One of the witnesses he mentioned was David Pecker, the former National Enquirer publisher who helped to arrange the payment to McDougal.

Pecker admitted during the trial that during an August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower, Pecker offered to use the National Enquirer to purchase the publication rights to stories about Trump’s sexual encounters but to never publish them. The “catch and kill” scheme was intended to silence public disclosures that might embarrass Trump while he ran for president, Pecker said.

Pecker also said he also offered to facilitate the $150,000 hush money payment to McDougal.

“Pecker has no reason to lie here,” Steinglass said about Pecker. “He still considers Donald Trump a friend and mentor, and still his testimony is utterly devastating.”

Other witnesses, such as Daniels and a banker who helped Cohen set up an account for payment of the hush money, also pointed to Trump’s participation in a cover-up, Steinglass said.

“It’s difficult to conceive of a case with more corroboration than this one,” he said.

He called Trump’s role in the cover-up a “subversion of democracy.”

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