Trump hush money trial: Closing arguments end; jury to receive instructions on Wednesday

Jurors heard closing arguments Tuesday in former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York.

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Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with payments made to keep adult film star Stormy Daniels quiet about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump a decade before the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s then-attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about the alleged tryst days before voters went to the polls in 2016.

Jury to receive instructions Wednesday

Update 8:11 p.m. EDT May 28: The prosecution took nearly five hours to deliver its closing arguments, and jurors will be given instructions by Judge Juan Merchan on Wednesday, CNN reported.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said Trump’s intent to defraud “could not be any clearer,” according to The Associated Press.

“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,” Steinglass said. “Donald Trump can’t shoot someone on Fifth Avenue at rush hour and get away with it.”

That remark prompted an objection from the defense, which was sustained, the AP reported.

Steinglass urged jurors to focus on the evidence.

“You have to put aside the distractions, the press, the politics, the noise,” Steinglass said as he wrapped up his 4-hour, 41-minute speech to the jury. “Focus on the evidence and the logical inference that can be drawn from that evidence.”

“Use your common sense and follow the judge’s legal instructions.”

Merchan said his instructions to the jury on Wednesday will take approximately an hour. Proceedings will resume at 10 a.m. EDT.

— Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

‘The district attorney has not met their burden of proof,’ Trump’s attorney says in closing

Update 12:50 p.m. EDT May 28: Todd Blanche, Trump’s attorney, told jurors that is client is not guilty of falsifying business records and questioned the credibility of prosecution witnesses in his closing argument, according to multiple reports.

“President Trump is innocent. He did not commit any crimes, and the district attorney has not met their burden of proof — period. The evidence is all in,” he said, according to CNN. Later, he added, “The evidence should leave you wanting more.”

Blanche told jurors that prosecutors failed to call two former Trump Organization employees who could have provided evidence in the case: Allen Weisselberg and Keith Schiller, The Washington Post reported. Weisselberg was involved in the alleged conspiracy and is serving time for perjury, according to the newspaper. Schiller was Trump’s security guard and Cohen’s contact with Trump when he was on the campaign trail, the Post reported.

Blanche also zeroed in on testimony given by Cohen, saying, “You cannot convict President Trump of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt on the words of Michael Cohen,” according to The New York Times. He claimed several times that Cohen lied on the stand, calling him “literally the greatest liar of all time,” CNN reported.

Payments to Cohen were labeled as legal expenses not to dupe authorities or hide a campaign expense, but because that was how all invoices from lawyers or law firms were booked by the Trump Organization, Blanche said, according to the Post.

“There is no other way to categorize an invoice from a lawyer,” he said.

The attorney also rejected prosecution arguments that the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape before the 2016 election caused panic in Trump’s campaign and prompted him to bury negative stories about him, CNN reported.

“The public was aware of them, so again the idea that when Ms. Daniels surfaced in 2016 that it caused some sort of panic amongst everybody is not true, it’s just not true,” he said, according to the news network.

Trump has repeatedly denied having had a sexual encounter with Daniels.

Original report: Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, was first to begin delivering the closing statement for the defense on Tuesday, The New York Times reported. He said that his argument will take about two and a half hours.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass will then give his closing argument, which he estimated will take between four and four and a half hours, according to the newspaper.

Jurors first heard opening statements in the Trump trial on April 22. They heard from witnesses including Daniels, Cohen and former American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker.

Prosecutors said Trump, Cohen and Pecker conspired to “catch and kill” negative stories about Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election. They said the goal was to influence voters in Trump’s favor, and that Cohen paid Daniels hush money at Trump’s direction as part of the scheme.

Authorities said a reimbursement payment made by Trump to Cohen was illegal because it was wrongly listed in business records as being for legal fees.

Trump’s attorney argued that he did nothing wrong and that the case against the former president should never have been brought, saying that witnesses had reasons to lie about the payments.

Last year, Trump pleaded not guilty to all 34 counts against him.

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