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Trump trial hears closing arguments ahead of jury deliberations in "hush money" case

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Closing arguments delivered in Trump "hush money" trial 03:49

Jurors slogged through about eight hours of closing arguments in Donald Trump's criminal trial on Tuesday, with lawyers from both sides making their final cases before the jury begins deliberating whether Trump is guilty of 34 counts of falsifying of business records.

Trump's lead attorney Todd Blanche argued that Michael Cohen, the prosecution's key witness, was the "greatest liar of all time" and acted alone when he paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in 2016 for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. Blanche told jurors they could not find Trump guilty based on Cohen's testimony, and said there were plenty of other reasons to doubt prosecutors' narrative of the case.

Trump is accused of signing off on the scheme to falsify records to cover up the "hush money" payment. Prosecutors say the plan was designed to subvert election law and keep the payment secret. They allege Trump falsely portrayed reimbursements for the $130,000 payment as monthly checks for Cohen's ongoing legal services, paid over the course of the first year of his presidency. Trump has pleaded not guilty, and his defense argued the checks and associated records were accurate.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass presented the closing arguments for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. He defended Cohen's credibility and said his testimony lines up with a voluminous record of text messages, emails and call records shown at trial. He urged the jury to hold Trump accountable.

"The name of the game was concealment, and all roads lead inescapably to the man who benefited most, the defendant, a man named Donald J. Trump," Steinglass said.

Court will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, when Justice Juan Merchan will deliver crucial instructions to the jury explaining the various legal issues they must sort through when reaching a verdict. That process is expected to take about an hour, at which point Trump's fate will be in the jury's hands.

Here's how Tuesday unfolded at the Trump trial:


Trump's entourage features several family members

Trump's criminal trial is now in its seventh week, and for the first time, one of his daughters is in attendance. Tiffany Trump is sitting alongside her husband Michael Boulos and two of her adult brothers, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and Eric's wife Lara Trump.  

The courtroom gallery has occasionally included either of the brothers, though rarely both.

He has not had five members of his family in attendance at any of his recent trials, including two federal civil trials in which he was found liable for sexually abusing and defaming the writer E. Jean Carroll and his civil fraud trial, in which he and the sons were found liable for hundreds of millions in fraud.

After closing arguments, the jury will weigh whether to add to that list a first for any former president in U.S. history: criminal conviction.

By Graham Kates

Merchan to jury: "You and you alone are the judges of the facts"

Before Trump's lawyers began their closing arguments, Justice Juan Merchan called the jury in and told them how the day would unfold. He said the defense will go first, as required under New York law. Prosecutors will follow with their closing arguments.

Merchan said the lawyers' recollection of testimony may differ from the jury's memory. He reminded the jurors that they are the "finders of fact" when it comes to rendering a verdict.

"You and you alone are the judges of the facts on this case," Merchan said, adding that he will explain to the jurors how they should apply the law.

By Graham Kates

Trump attorney opens closing argument, saying prosecutors have not met burden of proof

Defense attorney Todd Blanche presents his closing argument in former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.
Defense attorney Todd Blanche presents his closing argument in former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Jane Rosenberg

Blanche, Trump's lead defense attorney, is presenting the defense's closing argument. He began by thanking the jurors for their service and said the district attorney's office had not met the burden of proof required to find Trump guilty.

Blanche said the case was about accounting, not Trump's alleged encounter with Stormy Daniels. He said the business records were accurate and Trump had "absolutely" no intent to defraud.

"This case is about documents, it's a paper case. This case is not about an encounter with Stormy Daniels 18 years ago, an encounter that President Trump has unequivocally and  repeatedly denied ever occurred," Blanche said. 

He also argued that Cohen, the prosecution's star witness, should not be trusted, and that jurors should "want and expect more."

"He took an oath. He swore to tell the truth and he told you a number of things on that witness stand that were lies. Pure and simple," Blanche said.

By Graham Kates

Blanche attacks Cohen's testimony, accusing him of lying

Blanche took aim at Cohen over his testimony about his status as Trump's personal attorney and the payments he received in 2017.

He showed the jury a portion of the trial transcript in which Cohen said he never had a retainer agreement with Trump. 

"That was a lie, and you cannot just minimize a lie and say it was a mistake. A lie is a lie, and this was a significant lie," Blanche argued. He claimed that Trump and Cohen had a "verbal" retainer agreement, and that the monthly $35,000 checks were paying Cohen for his legal services.

"For the first time in President Trump's life, he decided to pay me back triple. Doubled up the 130, he gave me 50k for some online poll that he decided he wasn't going to pay for over a year, by the way I stole a little bit on that," Blanche said, paraphrasing Cohen's testimony about the total amount of money he received over the course of 2017.

"The story that Mr. Cohen told you on that witness stand is not true," Blanche said. "There's a reason why in life, usually, the simplest answer is the right one."

Blanche argued that it "makes more sense" that the $35,000 payments were for Cohen's legal services. 

By Graham Kates

Blanche says Cohen's explanation for $420,000 total is "absurd"

Trump's attorney also took aim at the prosecution's explanation for why Cohen received $420,000, when he only paid Daniels $130,000. 

On the stand, Cohen said the figure represented the $130,000 payment, plus $50,000 that Cohen owed a technology company that did work for Trump. That money was doubled to account for taxes, Cohen testified. He said the remaining $60,000 was meant to supplement his year-end bonus, which had been cut.

Blanche said the idea that Trump would pay Cohen $420,000 when he only owed him $130,000 was "absurd." He showed the jury the handwritten notes from Weisselberg on a bank statement that showed how the $420,000 was reached.

 "The document the people offered to prove it is full of lies," Blanche said.

By Graham Kates

Blanche questions why prosecution didn't call Trump's sons as witnesses

With Trump's sons Eric and Don Jr. seated next to each other in the courtroom looking on, Blanche displayed an email from Allen Weisselberg to Jeff McConney, a former Trump Organization executive, about a check for Cohen: "Ok to pay as per agreement with Don and Eric." 

This is the first time his sons have attended the trial together, and only Don Jr.'s second time in the courtroom. Tiffany and Lara Trump also sat with them, the largest family contingent yet to show support for Trump at this trial.

"Guess who else you did not hear from in this trial? Don and Eric," said Blanche, questioning why the reimbursements to Cohen would need sign-off from the Trump sons, who were running the Trump Organization when their father moved to Washington. "Is there some allegation that they're a part of this scheme, that they're a part of this conspiracy? Not a tiny bit of evidence does that. That is reasonable doubt."

"The burden is always on the government," he continued. "They called Cohen. They did not call Don and Eric."

Blanche showed two checks on the screen, signed by Eric and Don Jr., and stated that Trump had nothing to do with either. 

The two sons watched Blanche, in their foreground, with the jury in their background view.

By Katrina Kaufman

Blanche turns to alleged "catch and kill" scheme and 2015 Trump Tower meeting

Trump's attorney turned to a 2015 meeting between Cohen, Trump and David Pecker, the CEO of the National Enquirer's parent company, American Media Inc. Pecker testified that he agreed to be Trump's "eyes and ears" during the campaign, on the lookout for negative stories.

Blanche pointed out that purchasing the rights to negative stories and declining to publish — "catch and kill" — was something the Enquirer had done "for decades," referencing Pecker's testimony that the outlet had done the same with stories about Tiger Woods, Mark Wahlberg, Arnold Schwartzenegger and others.

Blanche also said that there was "no in-depth discussion" about the alleged scheme at that 2015 meeting at Trump Tower, and that there was "no criminal conspiracy." 

"Remember also that a lot of the stories were just recycled and had already been published by other organizations," Blanche said, referencing stories the Enquirer published about Trump's rivals for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. "The idea that the National Enquirer could corruptly influence an election … should hopefully make you shake your head."

By Shawna Mizelle

Biden campaign holds press conference outside courthouse

The Biden campaign held a press conference outside of the courthouse Tuesday morning as closing arguments were underway.

Speakers included actor Robert De Niro and Harry Dunn, the former U.S. Capitol Police officer who testified to the House Select Committee about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

De Niro called Trump a "loser" and said he will be a "tyrant" and a "dictator" if reelected. 

"This is the time to stop him by voting him out once and for all. We don't want to wake up after the election saying, 'What, again? Oh my God. What the hell have we done?'" he said.

The presser marks a bold move for President Biden and his campaign, who have generally shied away from highlighting Trump's felony trial. 

Mr. Biden did, however, take a jab at Trump as the pair publicly challenged each other to presidential debates two weeks ago. "I hear you're free on Wednesdays," Mr. Biden said, alluding to the day of the week when the trial usually takes a break. 

By Shawna Mizelle

Blanche says Cohen made "hush money" payment without Trump's knowledge

Blanche said Cohen made the $130,000 payment to Daniels himself, without Trump's knowledge, because he wanted to take credit for protecting his boss.

"He made a decision to pay that $130,000 to Ms. Daniels. He didn't tell President Trump about it. He wanted to do it because he knew that he could get credit from President Trump at some later time," Blanche said. "Whether they won the election or lost the election, he would be able to get that credit."

Blanche reiterated that the jury can't trust Cohen's account of his conversations with Trump.

The comments came shortly after Trump's attorney also said two examples of the National Enquirer buying stories were not actually instances of "catch and kill." 

The first example was about false accusations that Trump had fathered a child with a housekeeper at Trump Tower. Pecker testified that the Enquirer declined to publish the story because it was untrue. The second was the story of Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who also said she had sex with Trump. McDougal agreed to sign over the rights to her story for $150,000 from AMI, and the agreement included a commitment for McDougal to appear on magazine covers and write columns.

"What is clear from what you heard about Ms. MacDougal — this was not a catch and kill either," Blanche said. "She did not want her story published. She wanted a career. She wasn't interested in selling her story."

By Graham Kates

Blanche says Daniels and team were trying to "extort" Trump

Trump's attorney has repeatedly alluded to the fact that Daniels' claim of a sexual encounter with Trump dates back 18 years.

Blanche pointed out that the story was briefly published by, and then removed from, a gossip site in 2011. He said Daniels and her team only began the harried efforts to sell her story because they perceived Trump to be in a vulnerable position as the 2016 election approached.

"There were a group of people who wanted to take advantage of the election and ultimately extort President Trump," Blanche said.

As Blanche made this argument just a few feet away, Trump spun his chair to the right, leaning back and clasping his hands to watch. Trump nodded and smiled slightly as Blanche called the Daniels negotiation "extortion."

By Graham Kates

Blanche says "Access Hollywood" tape wasn't a "doomsday event" for Trump's campaign

Blanche laid out for jurors his narrative of the weeks before the 2016 election, when Cohen and Daniels' attorney were negotiating the $130,000 payment. He said that the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape on Oct. 7, 2016, provided the catalyst for Daniels to try to sell her story. On the recording from 2005, Trump can be heard saying he could "grab [women] by the p****" and "make them do anything."

The tape became a major flashpoint in the presidential campaign, but Blanche said Trump did not react in the way that prosecutors had said, trying to bolster his argument that Cohen acted without Trump's knowledge.

"The 'Access Hollywood' tape is being set up in this trial to be something that it is not. It is one of many stressful issues that came up during the 2016 campaign. It was not a doomsday event," Blanche said, noting that Trump addressed it in a video message and at the next presidential debate. "He never thought it was going to cause him to lose a campaign, and indeed it didn't."

Cohen, however, "had a different view," according to Blanche: "Michael Cohen told you that he realized it was catastrophic and he wanted to do something about it, and that's what he did with respect to Ms. Daniels."

By Graham Kates

Blanche calls Cohen "the MVP of liars"

Trump's attorney continued hammering home his point that Cohen's testimony is unreliable and the jury should reject it. He pointed to comments Cohen made on the stand about his interactions with attorney Robert Costello and a phone call in 2016, when Cohen said he informed Trump about the Daniels payment. Blanche challenged Cohen's version of events in both instances, claiming he was "caught red-handed" about the phone call.

"I don't know how many lies are enough lies to just reject Mr. Cohen's testimony," Blanche said. 

"Is there the same absolute proof of lies for every single thing that man told you? No, there is not," he acknowledged. "For that we have what's called an oath. We have an oath that every witness takes when they testify in front of you, the jury. And the oath matters. The oath matters to most. He lied."

Blanche said Cohen was "literally like the MVP of liars," pointing to his conviction for lying to Congress and his admission to lying under oath in a separate case.

By Graham Kates

Blanche concludes by laying out reasons for reasonable doubt

Blanche ended his argument by summarizing his reasons why jurors could reasonably doubt prosecutors' narrative of the case, and thus find Trump not guilty:

  • Cohen created the invoices related to the reimbursements. They're accurate, and there's no evidence that Trump knew about them.
  • There's no evidence that Trump saw the vouchers associated with the payments.
  • "There is absolutely no evidence of any intent to defraud," pointing to Trump's tweets and a submission to a government ethics office.
  • "No intent to unlawfully influence the 2016 election," specifically in violation of a federal campaign finance law, and no evidence of an "illegal agreement" to influence the election.
  • AMI would have published one of the "catch and kill" stories if it were true.
  • Karen McDougal did not want her story published, and Stormy Daniels' story had already been made public in a gossip blog in 2011.
  • Alleged "manipulation of evidence," casting doubt upon a recording of Trump and Cohen and the evidence gathered from Cohen's devices.
  • "Michael Cohen, he's the human embodiment of reasonable doubt, literally."

The last point was Blanche's key point throughout his closing argument, and he used the opportunity to hammer it home.

"Michael Cohen is the GLOAT — he's literally the greatest liar of all time. He has lied to every single branch of Congress, both houses, the House and the Senate," Blanche said. "He has lied to federal, state judges, family, bankers, people he works with. His words cannot be trusted, and I'm going to end this summation the same way that I told you a few minutes ago, that you know you cannot rely on him."

Blanche ended by reminding jurors that the case "isn't a referendum on your views" of Trump.

"This is not a referendum on the ballot box, who you voted for in 2016 or 2020, who you plan to vote for in 2024. That's not what this is about. The verdict you are going to reach has to do with the evidence you heard here in this courtroom and nothing else," he said. "If you do that, if you focus just on the evidence you heard in this courtroom, this is a very, very quick and easy 'not guilty' verdict."

By Graham Kates

Judge chides Blanche for "outrageous" comment about Trump going to prison

Toward the end of his closing statement, Blanche said: "You cannot send somebody to prison, you cannot convict somebody based upon the words of Michael Cohen." Prosecutors objected, and the objection was sustained.

Once the jury was excused for a lunch break, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked Merchan, the judge, to issue an instruction to the jury about sentencing, calling the comment a "blatant and wholly inappropriate effort to gain sympathy" for Trump.

Merchan agreed, saying the comment was "outrageous" and "highly inappropriate." He said he would issue a curative instruction to the jury.

When the court returned from lunch, Merchan instructed the jury to disregard Blanche's remark.

"A prison sentence is not required in this case, in the event of a guilty verdict," said Merchan.

By Olivia Rinaldi

Prosecution begins closing argument

Joshua Steinglass from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office got the ball rolling for the prosecution. He told the jury that prosecutors needed to prove three "basic things": that business records were falsified, that the scheme was meant to cover up a conspiracy to influence the election and that Trump knew about it.

He urged the jury to "focus on the facts" and draw logical inferences from the emails, texts and other documents presented during the trial.

By Graham Kates

Steinglass cites "utterly damning testimony" from Trump allies

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass presents his closing argument in former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.
Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass presents his closing argument in former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Jane Rosenberg

Saying they had "no reason to lie here" and still see Trump "as a friend and a mentor," Steinglass said the testimony of Trump's friends and former employees was "utterly damning."

He said Pecker's testimony confirmed a conspiracy to unlawfully influence the 2016 election. 

"You don't need Michael Cohen to prove that one bit," Steinglass said, adding soon after that Pecker "also eliminates the whole notion that this was just politics as usual."

Steinglass then said others who admire Trump offered "critical pieces of the puzzle that help identify the defendant's guilt."

Steinglass cited the testimonies of former White House aide Hope Hicks and Deborah Tarasoff, an accounts payable supervisor at the Trump Organization. 

By Graham Kates

Prosecutor defends Cohen from attacks that he lied about crucial phone call

Steinglass has spent much of the first half hour of his summation focused on the defense's attacks on Cohen's credibility. He acknowledged that Cohen had issues as a witness, but argued that should be a reflection on Trump, not the prosecution.

"We didn't choose Michael Cohen. We didn't pick him up at the witness store. The defendant chose Mr. Cohen, to be his fixer," Steinglass said.

In the years after Cohen fell out of Trump's grace, he became "understandably angry that he's the only one who has paid the price," for his role in the Daniels deal, Steinglass said.

"Cohen wants to see the defendant found guilty badly. Guess what? We agree with him," Steinglass said.

Steinglass noted that Cohen has lost business opportunities after his conviction, saying that's one of the reasons Cohen has turned to making money by criticizing Trump.

"I'm not asking you to forgive Michael Cohen, he made his bed. But you can't blame him for making money on the one thing he can, which is knowledge," Steinglass said. 

A major turning point in the defense's case was when it attacked Cohen's testimony that he spoke with Trump during a phone call to Trump's bodyguard, Keith Schiller, on Oct. 24, 2016.

The defense demonstrated that Cohen likely discussed with Schiller prank calls he had been receiving, and argued he was lying about having updated Trump about the Daniels payment in the same phone call.

"To them, that is the 'big lie,'" Steinglass said, a possible reference to a phrase that's used to describe Trump's false insistence that he won the 2020 election. "But that's not the only interpretation."

Steinglass then acted out a hypothetical call, showing that Cohen could have talked to Schiller about the prankster, asked to speak to Trump and updated him on the Daniels deal in under 50 seconds.

By Graham Kates

Steinglass defends Stormy Daniels' story

Daniels' testimony, in which she described having sex with Trump, was "uncomfortable," Steinglass said, and that was the point.

"That's the display the defendant didn't want the American voter to see. Stormy Daniels is the motive," Steinglass said. "He would not pay the $130,000, twice for taxes, if he had just taken a photo with someone on a golf course."

Trump has said he didn't have sex with Daniels, and maintained they merely met and conversed at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006.

"The defense has gone to great lengths to discredit Stormy Daniels. They've shamed her. Tried to say her story has changed over the years, which it hasn't," Steinglass said.

He pointed to Daniels' ability to recount minute details from the encounter — such as the contents of Trump's bathroom hygiene bag — as proof her story was legitimate. 

"Those are the kind of details that, I submit to you, they kind of ring true," Steinglass said.

By Graham Kates

"One of the most valuable contributions that anyone made to the campaign"

Steinglass revisited a 2015 Trump Tower meeting between Trump, Pecker and Cohen, in which the trio allegedly hatched the scheme to "catch and kill" stories about Trump.

The arrangement "turned out to be one of the most valuable contributions that anyone made to the campaign," Steinglass said.

The defense argued more than once that candidates frequently try to "influence" elections, merely by campaigning. Steinglass characterized their argument as, "It's called democracy."

"In reality, this Trump Tower meeting was the exact opposite. It was the subversion of democracy," Steinglass said. "The entire purpose of this meeting was to deny access of the truth to the American public. To defraud voters in a coordinated fashion."

"This may very well be what got Trump elected," Steinglass added, calling it "overt election fraud."

"It was an illegal corporate campaign contribution made by AMI to the campaign, and it was done in collusion with the campaign," Steinglass said.

By Graham Kates

Steinglass says Pecker's testimony showed Trump "actively participated" in "catch and kill" scheme

During the defense's closing argument, Blanche said Pecker, the former CEO of the National Enquirer's parent company, came across as a truthful witness who "does not lie."

Steinglass leaned into that portrayal during his closing. He pivoted to Pecker's testimony about the alleged "catch and kill" scheme, illustrating the importance of other evidence beyond what Cohen and Daniels said on the stand.

He repeatedly called up portions of the trial transcript in which Pecker said incriminating things about Trump.

For instance, he mentioned a description of a phone call Pecker had with Trump in 2016. Pecker said his secretary interrupted a meeting with major AMI investors to tell him Trump was on the phone.

Pecker said that during that call, "the defendant said he found out about the [McDougal] story from Cohen," according to Steinglass.

"This call proves that not only did the defendant know about it but that he actively participated," Steinglass said. 

Later, Steinglass noted that Pecker said he was told by Trump that Cohen would handle negotiations related to the McDougal matter, saying Trump "deputiz[ed] Mr. Cohen right in front of Mr. Pecker."

By Shawna Mizelle

A flurry of phone calls leading to a "damning" one

Steinglass led jurors through a lengthy flurry of communications between many of the key players in the case leading up to the Oct. 28, 2016, deal between Daniels and Trump.

Cohen to Pecker, Pecker to Davidson, Pecker to Cohen — many of them calling each other multiple times.

And then two that were "rare," according to Steinglass: phone calls between Cohen and Weisselberg.

Steinglass said their phone records show just six phone calls in the three years before the deal, two of which were in the final three days.

And then, on Oct. 26, a call with Trump, half an hour before Cohen began the paperwork for a transfer of funds to his newly created limited liability corporation that would soon send money to Daniels.

"I mean, this is damning," Steinglass said.

By Graham Kates

Judge aims to finish closing arguments tonight as jurors say they can stay late

At the start of the day, Merchan said that the jury might need to stay late if closing arguments weren't finished by 4:30 p.m., when the court has typically adjourned for the day. He said he would ask the jurors if they had a scheduling conflict.

Just before 5 p.m., Merchan said the jurors were looking alert and had made arrangements to stay until 7 or 8 p.m. 

"I think right now we're going to try to finish it out tonight," he said.

By Graham Kates

Two handwritten notes are the case's "smoking guns," prosecution says

Steinglass pointed jurors to two key pieces of evidence: handwritten notes describing how Cohen would be paid after the Daniels deal. 

In the first set of notes, Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, scrawled math on Cohen's bank statement showing the Daniels payment and breaking down how Cohen would be paid moving forward.

Handwritten notes from Allen Weisselberg showing the math behind payments to Michael Cohen, as shown at former President Donald Trump's trial in New York on Monday, May 13, 2024.
Handwritten notes from Allen Weisselberg showing the math behind payments to Michael Cohen, as shown at former President Donald Trump's trial in New York on Monday, May 13, 2024. Manhattan District Attorney's Office

Jeffrey McConney, the Trump Organization's longtime former controller, testified that Weisselberg gave him that statement with his notes, and also discussed the arrangement with him just before Trump's inauguration.

McConney testified that Weisselberg threw a notepad toward him and told him to take notes.

"Allen said we had to get some money to Michael, reimburse Michael," McConney said.

On a second set, McConney recorded Weisselberg's math on a Trump-branded notepad, mirroring what Weisselberg had written on the statement: $420,000, paid out over 12 monthly installments of $35,000.

"Just pause for a moment to consider what this testimony means. [McConney] was a controller and a company employee for 34 years. He doesn't have an ax to grind," Steinglass said. "He knew this was a reimbursement because that is what he was told it was."

Steinglass then struck at a core defense theme, that Michael Cohen is the only actual witness to any alleged crimes.

"Mr. Blanche pretended that this was all coming from Michael, but this document, these two documents, these are Trump Organization documents. It came from them," Steinglass said.

"In other words, they are the smoking guns," Steinglass said.

By Graham Kates

Steinglass recounts the small amount of legal work Cohen did for Trump in 2017

Cohen testified that he did about 10 hours of legal work for Trump in 2017, despite carrying the title "personal attorney to the president."

Steinglass elicited laughter when he compared Cohen's work for Trump that year to his time on the stand this month.

"Cohen spent more time being cross-examined in this trial than he spent doing legal work for Donald Trump in 2017," Steinglass said.

He said the paltry amount of work done for Trump is an indication that Cohen wasn't being paid for ongoing legal representation that year, but was instead being reimbursed, as the government claims.

"After everything Trump has said and done, do you think there's any chance, any chance, that Trump would have paid $42,000 an hour for legal work from Mr. Cohen?" Steinglass asked.

By Graham Kates

Trump's own words about his frugality used against him

Trump did not testify during this trial, so prosecutors for the second time highlighted the many times in Trump's books that he extolled the virtues of frugality and micromanaging, attempting to demonstrate that Trump knew why Cohen was getting $35,000 a month for a year.

"The cardinal sin for Mr. Trump is overpaying for anything," Steinglass said, not long after showing a page in "Trump: Think Like a Billionaire" when Trump and his ghost writer wrote, "Call it penny pinching if you want to; I call it financial smarts."

In another book, Trump warned, "Do not trust anyone," and, "Get the best people and don't trust them." Steinglass pointed to another excerpt where Trump wrote that he always signs his checks "so I know where my money's going."

"If he's checking the invoices from his decorator, you can bet he's checking the invoices of Michael Cohen," Steinglass said.

By Graham Kates

Steinglass highlights the role of business records in the case and a "pressure campaign" against Cohen

Echoing a statement Bragg made after Trump was arraigned in this case on April 4, 2023, Steinglass told jurors that New York "is the business capital of the world," and "you have an obligation to keep proper records."

"In New York state, bottom line, you cannot lie in your business records," Steinglass said. "That is what this case is at its core: cheating."

He then pivoted to the effort to keep Cohen in line after the FBI raided his home and office in 2018.

"Like all fixers, Cohen knew where the bodies were buried and it was essential to keep him loyal," Steinglass said, before recounting evidence related to his communications with attorney Robert Costello.

The surprise defense witness had promised to be a "back channel" for Cohen to the White House, but Cohen testified that he believed Costello was a piece of a larger "pressure campaign" to keep him from "flipping."

By Graham Kates

Trump was "involved every step of the way," prosecution says

Steinglass, his voice hoarse as he reached the conclusion of what he called the "summation that never ends," pulled up a slide entitled, "Mr. Trump involved every step of the way." 

It led to a timeline showing many of the instances when testimony or exhibits showed Trump knew of the "catch and kill" and reimbursement schemes. 

The timeline stretched back to the August 2015 Trump Tower meeting between Pecker, Cohen and Trump and purported to show Trump's "direct involvement" in at least 20 key moments.

"It's just inconceivable that he would be so involved in buying these women's silence and then suddenly stick his head in the sand when it comes to Cohen's reimbursement," Steinglass said.

Steinglass focused on a series of calls between various key players on Oct. 8, 2016, discussing the Daniels allegations, leading to a call between Cohen and Trump.

"There is just no way — no way — that Cohen wouldn't have told Trump about that during that call," Steinglass said, his voice rising.

He pointed to a Oct. 26, 2016, phone call between Cohen and Trump, just before Cohen began the process of facilitating the wire transfer, saying that Trump again signed off on moving forward.

"Everything required Mr. Trump's sign-off. On top of that, I wanted my money back," Cohen testified.

Steinglass noted that Pecker testified that Trump personally thanked him for his help with the campaign after the election. Later, Steinglass noted, Trump expressed anger at Pecker for letting Karen McDougal out of her non-disclosure agreement.

He then highlighted the "smoking gun" notes tied to Trump's then right-hand man, Allen Weisselberg, and said Trump personally signed many of the checks to Cohen.

"Busy or not, Mr. Trump was not paying these prices for basically no work," Steinglass said, referring to Cohen's testimony that he did very little legal work for Trump in 2017.

"The false business records benefited one person, and one person only, and that's the defendant," Steinglass said.

By Graham Kates

Steinglass wraps prosecution's closing argument, urging jury to convict Trump

More than five hours into presenting the prosecution's closing argument, Steinglass began wrapping up. He said there was "no rational argument that Cohen's payment to Daniels would've been made if not for the election."

"The name of the game was concealment and all roads lead inescapably to the man who benefited most, the defendant, a man named Donald J. Trump," Steinglass said.

He thanked the jurors for their patience in "a frustrating case that has gone on for a while." He said he apologized for "trading brevity for thoroughness, but we only get one shot at this."

"He got his day in court. Donald Trump can't shoot someone in rush hour on Fifth Avenue and get away with it," Steinglass said, referring to Trump's famous remark that he could do nothing that would turn off his supporters. The defense team immediately voiced an objection, which Merchan sustained.

"Very soon it will be time to deliberate and to come back in here and say guilty, guilty to 34 counts," Steinglass concluded. "I ask you to find the defendant guilty."

By Graham Kates
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