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Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Wednesday June 12, 2024
Wednesday June 12, 2024

Takeaways from closing arguments in Donald Trump’s hush money trail

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Jury begins deliberations as defence and prosecution present final cases in a high-stakes legal battle

Prosecutors told jurors on Tuesday they’ve seen a “mountain of evidence” proving that Donald Trump falsified business records to cover up a damaging story about an alleged affair during the 2016 election. Trump’s attorneys countered that the prosecution’s case hinges on the unreliable testimony of Michael Cohen, whom they labelled the “MVP of liars.”

The defence and prosecution offered the jury contrasting narratives about the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels in October 2016 and the reimbursement to Cohen in 2017. Which story the jury believes could ultimately determine Trump’s legal fate.

Defence attorney Todd Blanche began his two-hour closing argument by attacking Cohen’s credibility. Blanche accused Cohen of lying to the jury and called him the “Tom Brady of lying.” He focused on Cohen’s claim about a phone call with Trump on October 24, 2016. Blanche argued that Cohen was discussing a prank call with Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller, not the Daniels payment.

Blanche emphasized that the prosecution provided no evidence linking Trump to the payment outside of Cohen’s testimony. “There’s no way that you can find that President Trump knew about this payment at the time it was made without believing the words of Michael Cohen, period,” Blanche told the jury. He argued that Cohen’s testimony alone was insufficient to convict Trump.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass countered Blanche’s attack on Cohen, arguing that Cohen’s testimony was corroborated by documents and other witnesses, particularly former AMI chief David Pecker. Steinglass reminded jurors that Trump chose Cohen as his fixer because he was willing to lie and cheat on Trump’s behalf. Steinglass used role-playing to refute Blanche’s allegation about the October 24 call, suggesting that Cohen’s brief conversation with Trump included both the prank call and the Daniels payment.

Steinglass spent nearly five hours walking jurors through the trial’s evidence, starting from the 2015 Trump Tower meeting to Trump’s pressure on Cohen in 2018. He argued that the conspiracy to conceal damaging stories began in 2015, well before the Daniels payment. Steinglass emphasized the importance of concealment, stating, “All roads lead inescapably to the man that benefited the most, the defendant, former President Donald J. Trump.”

He highlighted the “Access Hollywood” tape’s impact on Trump’s campaign and argued that Trump’s urgency to silence Daniels was part of a broader strategy to manage the fallout. Steinglass pointed to handwritten notes from former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg as “smoking guns” that contradicted the defence’s claim that payments to Cohen were for legal services.

Throughout his presentation, Blanche raised the concept of reasonable doubt, presenting “10 reasons” why jurors should doubt the prosecution’s case. He argued that invoices and vouchers created to pay Cohen were accurate and that Trump had no intent to defraud. Blanche claimed there was no attempt to influence the 2016 election and no agreement to commit another crime, which is necessary for a felony conviction.

Blanche concluded his argument by reiterating that Cohen was the “human embodiment of reasonable doubt.” He stressed Cohen’s history of lying and argued that his testimony could not be trusted.

With closing arguments concluded the jury of seven men and five women will begin deliberations on Wednesday. Judge Juan Merchan will charge the jury in the morning, providing instructions on the law. The alternate jurors will be held separately from the main panel during deliberations.

Both sides’ attorneys and Trump must remain close to the courtroom in case the jury sends a note during deliberations. Reporters will stay in the main and overflow courtrooms, waiting for a verdict.

This Wednesday marks the first time during the six-week trial that the jury will work on a Wednesday, as the usual trial schedule left this day open for Merchan’s other cases.

Analysis:

The closing arguments in Donald Trump’s hush money trial encapsulated the key issues at stake: the credibility of Michael Cohen’s testimony and the evidence of Trump’s involvement. The defence’s strategy relied heavily on discrediting Cohen, portraying him as an unreliable witness whose words alone should not convict Trump. This approach underscores the importance of reasonable doubt in the American legal system, emphasizing that a conviction requires more than just the testimony of a single, questionable witness.

From a political perspective, this trial carries significant ramifications for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign. The outcome could either bolster his narrative of being persecuted or undermine his credibility if convicted. The prosecution’s portrayal of a systematic effort to cover up damaging information paints a picture of a candidate willing to go to great lengths to secure his election, which could sway public opinion.

Sociologically, the trial highlights the complexities of personal loyalty and betrayal. Cohen, once Trump’s close confidant, now serves as the key witness against him. This dynamic reflects broader themes of power, loyalty, and the consequences of betrayal, offering a rich vein of exploration for writers and analysts.

Economically, the trial touches on issues of financial misconduct and the manipulation of business records. The prosecution’s focus on falsified records and hidden payments raises questions about the ethical responsibilities of business leaders and the legal ramifications of financial deception. This aspect of the trial could influence future regulatory and legal standards for corporate governance.

From a gender perspective, the trial involves allegations of hush money payments related to extramarital affairs, bringing issues of gender, power, and sexual misconduct into the spotlight. The involvement of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal underscores the ways in which powerful men have historically used their influence to silence women. This trial could contribute to ongoing conversations about accountability and gender dynamics in both personal and public spheres.

Race and minority perspectives, while less directly relevant to the specifics of this trial, are implicitly involved in the broader context of Trump’s political and business dealings. The trial’s outcome could influence how marginalized communities view the justice system’s ability to hold powerful figures accountable, impacting trust in legal institutions.

In conclusion, the Trump hush money trial serves as a microcosm of larger societal issues, from political strategy and personal loyalty to financial ethics and gender dynamics. The jury’s deliberations and eventual verdict will not only determine Trump’s legal fate but also shape public discourse on these critical themes. The trial’s lessons and implications extend far beyond the courtroom, offering valuable insights into the intersections of power, accountability, and justice in contemporary society.

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