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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Trump’s criminal trial comes to close as prosecutors recap ‘damning’ evidence

Trump’s lawyer tried to discredit the state’s witnesses, calling Michael Cohen the “GLOAT” — the "greatest liar of all time."

MANHATTAN (CN) — The end of Donald Trump’s divisive New York hush-money trial has been more fizzle than flash as Tuesday marked the last day of trial before the former president’s criminal case is handed over to the jury.

Through a whopping seven hours of summations, prosecutors ran the jury through what they called the “damning” evidence they've presented over the past five weeks. The defense, meanwhile, tried to discredit some of the district attorney’s biggest witnesses.

Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche was the first to address the jury on Tuesday morning. Speaking behind a lectern that, for the occasion, was angled to directly face the jury box rather than the judge, Blanche tried to dismantle prosecutors’ claims that Trump falsified business records to conceal a hush-money scheme related to his 2016 presidential run.

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

Blanche spent much of his two-and-a-half-hour argument critiquing the testimony of Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer-turned-foe who told the court that Trump instructed him to illegally cover up bad press in 2016 to help him get to the White House.

“You should want and expect more than the testimony from Michael Cohen,” Blanche said.

Calling Cohen a liar, Blanche told the jury it would be impossible to convict Trump of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt based on Cohen’s words alone. 

Cohen claims he paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 at Trump’s direction in 2016 to keep her from telling her story about having sex with Trump ten years earlier. He testified that Trump eventually repaid him for the arrangement via monthly checks illegally disguised as legal fees.

Blanche lambasted those claims on Tuesday. He argued that Trump merely was “paying his personal attorney in 2017 $35,000 a month pursuant to an agreement that he made,” not repaying him for the hush money.

The defense lawyer painted Cohen as greedy and said it would be “absurd” to believe that Cohen wasn’t expecting the monthly payments for his work. Cohen held that he was working for free, without a retainer agreement. 

Blanche also leaned into Trump’s reputation for being stingy. He argued that, if Cohen’s $35,000 monthly checks truly were repayments as Cohen had claimed, then Trump was overpaying — something he never does as a self-proclaimed penny-pincher.

Throughout Blanche’s argument, his strategy remained consistent: convince the jury that Cohen is the glue holding the case together for prosecutors, and that he simply cannot be trusted based on his past fibs. He raised his voice at times, appearing angry at prosecutors for the substance of Cohen’s testimony.

“They are perfectly happy to have a witness come in here and commit perjury, to lie to you,” Blanche boomed, prompting a sustained objection from the district attorney’s table. 

Blanche used sports analogies to spice things up, calling Cohen “the MVP of liars” and the “GLOAT,” or “greatest liar of all time.” 

At one point, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan chided Blanche for going too far. Blanche urged the jury not to send Trump to prison based on Cohen’s testimony — a statement which enraged Merchan. 

“You know that making a comment like that is highly inappropriate,” the judge said. “It’s simply not allowed, period.”

Merchan said it was “outrageous” for a lawyer of Blanche’s caliber to comment to a jury about his defendant’s potential sentencing, since the jurors won’t determine whether Trump goes to jail — only if he committed crimes.

Later, Merchan advised the jury that Blanche’s comment was improper. He told them to disregard it.


Cohen wasn’t the only witness under fire from Blanche on Tuesday. Blanche also attacked Daniels, who he says lied about having sex with Trump to extort him.

Prosecutors claim Trump ordered the payment to Daniels because he thought the story would be damaging to his presidential campaign. But Blanche said there was no evidence of that, and that it was actually Daniels who saw the story as damning, giving her leverage.

“Daniels wanted money, plain and simple,” Blanche said. “She was trying to use the 2016 election as leverage to get paid.”

"That’s just not reality,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass pushed back later. Steinglass delivered his roughly five-hour closing after Blanche wrapped up at the lunch break.

Steinglass tried to buck the defense’s argument that Daniels’ story was a shallow extortion effort.

“Extortion is not a defense to falsifying business records,” he said. 

Steinglass acknowledged that Daniels’ story was “messy” and “uncomfortable to hear" but said that was exactly why Trump wanted to keep the American voters from hearing it — especially while he was already battling some salacious press at the time.

The prosecutor didn’t mince words when describing the importance of the supposed scheme, arguing that it “could very well be what got President Trump elected” in 2016.

“This was overt election fraud,” Steinglass said, stressing that Trump specifically ordered the Daniels payment to help his presidential campaign. It's “no coincidence that the sex happened in 2006” but that the payoff wasn’t until his presidential run 10 years later, he said.

“That’s because the defendant’s primary concern was not his family, but the election,” Steinglass said.

On Cohen, Steinglass said it was clear the ex-lawyer harbors some resentment towards Trump. And while Cohen has admitted to lying under oath in the past, Steinglass noted that he did so while still loyal to Trump in an effort to protect him.

It was ironic, Steinglass said, that the defense was so eager to paint Cohen as a slimy liar. He argued Trump hired Cohen for the “same qualities that his attorneys now urge you to reject his testimony because of.”

“We didn’t choose Michael Cohen as our witness,” Steinglass said. “We didn’t pick him up at the witness store. The defendant chose Mr. Cohen to be his fixer, because he was willing to lie and cheat on Mr. Trump's behalf.”

Steinglass also responded to the defense’s persistent attacks on Cohen’s current status as an anti-Trump media figure. Cohen admittedly now makes a handsome living criticizing his former boss.

“I’m not asking you to feel bad for Michael Cohen. He made his bed,” Steinglass said. “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 phenomenon.”

Either way, Steinglass argued Cohen wasn’t the all-important witness that the defense painted him to be. Instead, he said it was the documents — documents so damning that “you almost have to laugh," he said — that made the case.

“You don’t need Michael Cohen to connect these dots,” Steinglass said. “But as the ultimate insider, he can help you do just that.”

Despite the lengthy summations, Trump appeared more alert Tuesday than he has on shorter days in the trial.

He aired some grievances on Truth Social, posting “BORING!” and “FILIBUSTER!” during one of several afternoon breaks. Jurors appeared alert throughout the day, their eyes vigilantly bouncing between counsel and the evidence screens even as the clock approached 8 p.m.

The judge will officially hand the case over to the jury Wednesday morning, leaving Trump’s fate in the hands of 12 Manhattanites. Facing 34 counts of falsifying business records, Trump is the only president in U.S. history to stand trial on criminal charges.

Read daily transcripts of the Trump hush-money criminal trial here. Note there is a delay of several days before new transcripts are posted.

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Categories / Criminal, National, Politics, Trials

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