Closing Arguments Set To Begin In Donald Trump Hush Money Trial

The Donald Trump hush money trial is nearing its end, as attorneys deliver closing arguments today before the case goes to the jury.

With enormous stakes for the former and possibly future president, jurors will decide if the machinations around a payment in 2016 by Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, to porn star Stormy Daniels add up to a criminal conspiracy in violation of campaign finance and tax laws.

The Manhattan District Attorney charges that Trump approved an illegal scheme in the last lap of the 2016 presidential campaign to bury Daniels’ claim of a long-ago extramarital sexual encounter with him. Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 for her silence that October, using a home equity loan that he routed to Daniels’ lawyer through a shell company created expressly for the transaction. Prosecutors say the crime was Trump authorizing a fake paper trail to disguise his repayment to Cohen as routine legal work.

The trial’s last chapter follows almost five weeks of witness testimony that ranged from mundane cataloging of financial documents to uncomfortable details of an alleged sexual encounter in 2006 between Trump and Daniels that set in motion the events leading to this case.

Jurors saw Daniels spar with a Trump defense lawyer, Susan Necheles, over the adult entertainer’s truthfulness, career choices and motives for claiming that Trump cheated with her on his wife, Melania Trump. They watched as defense lawyer Todd Blanche called Cohen a liar for testimony about contacting Trump to report that a deal with Daniels was imminent.

They also saw Trump’s former White House communications director, Hope Hicks, weep on the stand, and — before they were sent out of the courtroom by Judge Juan Merchan — saw a Trump ally, Robert Costello, grumble “ridiculous” when the judge sustained a prosecutor’s objection to part of his testimony.

They heard from almost two dozen witnesses in all, including two called as part of the defense team’s comparatively brief rebuttal case. They did not hear from Trump, who exercised his right as a criminal defendant to not take the stand.

In between, jurors saw reams of texts, emails, and phone logs marshaled by both sides. They’ll have to decide whether the documents and the testimony prove an illegal conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election using fraudulent accounting, or show nothing more than messy, behind-the-scenes maneuvering in a national political campaign.

Jurors got a week off to resume normal life while following Merchan’s instructions to steer clear of trial coverage and commentary. The judicial blackout for jurors against exposure to the unprecedented case includes social media, where Trump was busy during the break proclaiming his innocence and painting the judge and the prosecutors as his tormentors. Among Trump’s complaints on his Truth Social platform was Merchan giving the jurors a seven days off and not sequestering them. He also complained that it was the prosecution that was getting the last word in the case, even though that is standard procedure in a trial.

Trump denies having sex with Daniels. He and his lawyers both say Cohen was in fact paid for ongoing work, and the non-disclosure agreement that Daniels signed was a legal means of protecting his campaign and his family from the embarrassment.

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