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Trump trial updates: Marathon closings pit Cohen against alleged Trump election conspiracy

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(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City, where he is facing felony charges related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It marks the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Here’s how the news is developing:

May 28, 8:08 PM
Court recessed until deliberations begin tomorrow

With closing arguments concluded, Judge Merchan dismissed the jury and instructed them to return tomorrow for deliberations.

He said the jury will deliberate between 10 a.m. ET and 4:30 p.m. ET tomorrow.

The judge ended by advising the parties to instruct their guests that they will be locked in the courtroom once the jury charge starts.

“No one will be allowed in or out of the courtroom,” Merchan said.

Trump had a stomp in his step as he exited the courtroom, fiercely gripping his blazer and yanking down loud enough that it made a snapping noise.

He did not address the media, but glared at a reporter and muttered something under his breath as he exited.

May 28, 8:02 PM
‘Find the defendant guilty,” state asks, ending summation

“There’s no special standard for this defendant,” prosecutor Josh Steinglass said as he finished his closing. “Donald Trump can’t shoot someone during rush hour on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.”

The judge sustained the defense’s objection to that statement.

“In the interest of justice and in the name of the People of New York, I ask you to find the defendant guilty,” Steinglass said, concluding his marathon closing.

May 28, 7:57 PM
State says jurors don’t need to agree on ‘unlawful means’

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass highlighted that the jury does not need to agree about which unlawful means Trump advanced through falsifying business records.

“Any single one of the unlawful means is enough for you to conclude that the Trump Tower conspiracy violated New York state election law,” Steinglass said. “You don’t have to agree on which unlawful means were involved.”

Steinglass said Trump and his associates “devised this elaborate scheme requiring involvement of at least 10 other people.”

“That’s a whole lot of time, thought and energy to conceal the truth. The defendant used his own business records as the vehicle to disguise the reimbursement because he didn’t want anyone finding out about the conspiracy to corrupt the election,” he said.

“I apologize for trading brevity for thoroughness but we only get one shot at this, and without jurors like you … the system doesn’t work,” Steingless told the jurors, nearing the end of his summation.

May 28, 7:52 PM
State says Daniels payment constituted a campaign contribution

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass argued that Michael Cohen’s payment to Stormy Daniels constituted a campaign contribution that grossly exceeded the legal maximum.

“As the judge will explain, paying a candidate’s expenses counts as a contribution to that candidate,” Steinglass said.

He said there is “no rational argument” that the payment to Daniels “would’ve been made if not for the election.” He pushed back against the defense’s claim that the payment was made in service of “protecting Trump’s marriage or family from embarrassment.”

“The defendant wanted to squash the story for the same reason he wanted to squash the McDougal story, and the Sajudin story — to avoid the harm these stories might cause to his election prospects,” Steinglass said.

May 28, 7:48 PM
Trump committed election fraud by ‘any means necessary,’ state says

Describing his own closing as “summation that never ends,” prosecutor Josh Steinglass told the jury that in order to convict, they will have to find the defendant “has to have had the intent to defraud,” but didn’t need to actually make the records himself.

“Point is, Trump doesn’t have to do each of these acts himself — he can act in concert with others,” Steinglass said. “He set in motion a chain of events that led to the creation of the false business records.”

The defense objected to that statement.

“I’ll explain the law,” Judge Merchan said.

Steinglass said the underlying crime they are alleging as part of the falsifying records charge is that Trump violated New York state election law.

Trump committed “election fraud, by any means necessary — lawful and unlawful,” Steinglass said, telling jurors there is a “mountain of evidence” to prove it.

Judge Merchan sustained another objection from the defense regarding Steinglass’ effort to explain the law of the case.

May 28, 7:38 PM
State displays Trump tweet calling payment ‘reimbursement’

Addressing the question regarding whether Trump was reimbursing Michael Cohen or paying Cohen for legal work, prosecutor Josh Steinglass said of Trump, “It’s just inconceivable that he would be so involved in buying these women’s silence and then stick his head in the sand when it comes to Cohen’s reimbursement.”

Steinglass showed the jury a 2018 tweet in which Trump called the payments a reimbursement.

“Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA,” the tweet said.

May 28, 7:26 PM
Prosecutor stresses Cohen kept Trump in the loop

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass argued that Michael Cohen kept Trump in the loop because he sought Trump’s credit.

“If Cohen accomplished something for Mr. Trump, he wanted Mr. Trump to know immediately,” Steinglass said.

Steinglass highlighted testimony from former Trump aide Hope Hicks to highlight Cohen’s credit-seeking nature.

“I didn’t know Michael to be an especially charitable person, um, or selfless person. He’s the kind of person who seeks credit,” Hicks testified.

“Why would the defendant be kept in the dark about the Daniels’ NDA?” Steinglass asked the jury, referring to the nondisclosure agreement. “It defies common sense.”

May 28, 7:23 PM
‘Michael Cohen is not some rogue actor,’ state says

More than four hours into his summation, Prosecutor Josh Steinglass returned to the timelines of the Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels payoffs.

Steinglass argued that Cohen attempted to delay the Stormy Daniels payment until after the 2016 election at the direction of Trump.

“You think Cohen would have the audacity to take that chance without the defendant saying so?” Steinglass said. “Cohen did that — that strategy of delay — because that’s what the defendant told him to.”

“There is just no way — no way — that Cohen wouldn’t have told Mr. Trump about Daniels during that phone call. Why wouldn’t he have?” Steingless said.

“Is this timing just all a coincidence, every single one of these things? Mr. Trump was being kept abreast of every development.”

“Michael Cohen is not some rogue actor here,” Steinglass said. “He is acting at the direction of the defendant.”

May 28, 7:14 PM
Judge tells state to wrap it by the top of the hour

After the parties returned to the courtroom following the final break, Judge Merchan told prosecutor Josh Steinglass he needs to wrap up his summation by 8 p.m.

“You’ve been going for four hours now, and the jury has been clear they need to go by 8 o’clock,” the judge said.

“Thanks for sticking with me,” Steinglass told the jury before diving back into his closing argument.

May 28, 6:58 PM
Trump’s tweets were a message not to cooperate, state says

After Michael Cohen implicated Trump in the hush money scheme in August 2018, Trump was “furious,” prosecutor Josh Steinglass told the jury.

“His fixer had done the unthinkable, and Trump immediately went on the attack — an attack that continues to this day,” he said.

Steinglass showed a tweet Trump posted the following day: “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!”

“This is the day after he pled guilty,” Steinglass said.

Steinglass argued that Trump’s tweets after Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 were warning messages to other potential witnesses who could cooperate against him.

“These tweets were not only designed to punish Cohen,” Steinglass said. “Cooperate or you will face the wrath of Donald Trump,” was the message they conveyed.

Steinglass described a “vexatious and punitive lawsuit” Trump filed against Michael Cohen and a defamation suit against Stormy Daniels as evidence of his punitive means against people who epoks out against him.

After a series of sustained objections regarding Trump’s tweets and their alleged impact on Cohen’s safety, Judge Merchan smiled and told the jury, “This might be a good time to take our last recess of the day.”

May 28, 6:49 PM
Michael Cohen lied for Trump, prosecutors say

Steinglass attacked defense attorneys for attempting to undermine Cohen’s testimony using his past statements defending Trump.

“Cohen continued to deny wrongdoing. For several months, he continued to lie for the defendant,” Steinglass said about Cohen’s statements in 2018. “Using them now to undermine Cohen — to undermine his credibility — takes chutzpah.”

Steinglass called it “disingenuous” for the defense to use Cohen’s lies against him, when the lies in this case were allegedly “told at the defendant’s direction.”

May 28, 6:40 PM
Prosecutor slights Robert Costello’s testimony

“You guys good to keep going?” prosecutor Josh Steinglass asked the jury after a brief sidebar. They nodded and some smiled.

“All right!” he exclaimed, and launched back into his closing, turning to Trump’s alleged efforts to get Cohen not to “flip.”

“Whatever else you think about Michael Cohen, it’s clear that he was the defendant’s fixer. And like all fixers, Cohen knew where the bodies were buried, and it was essential to keep him loyal,” Steinglass said.

Steinglass touched on Cohen’s communications with his onetime legal adviser Robert Costello — the only substantive defense witness — to emphasize that Cohen did not trust Costello and lied to him.

Costello testified that Cohen told him that Trump was not involved in the Daniels’ hush money payment before he almost got kicked off the witness stand for irking the judge.

“Cohen never really trusted Costello and can you really blame him?” Steinglass asked. “You saw Costello testify.”

“He displayed nothing but disdain for this court and proper decorum and his demeanor on the stand is something you can take into account … when assessing his credibility,” Steinglass said.

May 28, 6:28 PM
Hope Hicks’ testimony was ‘nail’ in Trump’s coffin, says prosecutor

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass again showed the jury the summary chart the DA’s office prepared, which outlines each of the allegedly falsified business records.

Steinglass suggested the jury could bring the chart into deliberations if they request it.

He harped on the testimony of former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who testified that Trump preferred the Stormy Daniels story come out after the election.

“I think Mr. Trump’s opinion was it was better to be dealing with it now, and that it would have been bad to have that story come out before the election,” Hicks testified before breaking down on the witness stand.

“She basically burst into tears … because she realized how much this testimony puts the nail into the defendant’s coffin,” Steinglass told the jury.

Steinglass pressed his argument that the Stormy Daniels payments were in service of the election, rather than Trump’s marriage. Any desire to protect his wife was “far less significant to him” than how a negative story about him might affect the 2016 election,” Steinglass said.

“The payment was for Trump’s campaign,” Steinglass stressed.

“It was a campaign contribution, and Cohen knows that better than anyone else — because he went to prison for it,” he said.

May 28, 6:20 PM
Prosecutor again stresses Trump’s frugality

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass read back some of the quotes from Trump’s books to highlight Trump’s frugality and micromanaging.

Steinglass mocked the defense argument that Trump didn’t have control over the words in the books he wrote.

Steinglass compared it to a Yogi Berra quote: “I really didn’t say everything I said,” which drew laughs from the jury.

“He doesn’t like spending money, and he’s proud of it,” Steinglass said of Trump, reminding jurors that David Pecker testified to this as well. He’s a “micromanager” who “insists on being involved in the details” of his business, Steinglass said.

Steinglass quoted from Trump’s book, Think Like A Billionaire, which urged readers to “pay attention to the small numbers in your finances” and called frugality the “most important money management skill a person can use.”

“That has been his philosophy from the beginning,” Steinglass said. “The cardinal sin for Mr. Trump is overpaying for anything.”

Steinglass read one quote where Trump emphasized to always check invoices, including from decorators.

“If Donald Trump is checking the invoices from his decorator, you can bet he is checking his invoices from Michael Cohen,” Steinglass said.

May 28, 6:13 PM
Trump knew what payments were for, prosecutor says

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass laid out the DA’s case for why Trump should be found guilty of falsifying records, even if he didn’t pen them himself and just directed it to be done.

“Tarasoff may be doing the typing, but the defendant is causing the false business records,” Steinglass said, referring to Trump Organization accountant Deborah Tarasoff.

Steinglass said Trump “doesn’t want to leave a paper trail” and instead would “have his lackeys do it.”

“If Trump didn’t know about the scheme, why was he just signing the checks ‘for services rendered’ for $35,000 each month?” Steinglass asked.

“Does he call Cohen and say, ‘Why’d I pay you $35000 for nothing?’ No. He just signs it. Every month. He never once picks up the phone, he never once makes further inquiry,” said Steinglass.

“Despite his frugality and attention to detail, the defendant didn’t ask any questions. Because he already knew the answers,” he said.

May 28, 6:07 PM
Prosecutors cite ‘mountain of evidence’ against Trump

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass’ tone reached a crescendo as he ticked through a “mountain of evidence” he said that jurors would have to ignore to acquit Donald Trump.

“You’d have to disregard the fact” that Cohen wasn’t paid in 2018, Steinglass said, and that Donald Trump repeatedly acknowledges in court papers, political filings and his own Twitter account that he knew the payments to Cohen were reimbursements.

“That means by definition he knew that the payment records … were false,” Steinglass said.

Jurors would also have to accept that “the amount he was paid just happens to magically” match what he paid for Stormy Daniels’ story.

“Does anyone believe that?” Steinglass asked.

Trump, at the defense table, glanced at the monitor displaying the invoices that Steinglass was referencing. He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head before returning to a slouched position.

May 28, 6:01 PM
Prosecutor stresses why payments weren’t legal fees

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass emphasized why the jury should not believe the 2017 payments to Michael Cohen were legal fees.

“The testimony was that he did less than 10 hours of legal work [in 2017] … Cohen spent more time being cross-examined for this trial than he did doing legal work for Trump in 2017,” Steinglass said.

“The fact is, Cohen did pretty well here. He got a cool title — Personal Attorney to the President — that he used to his advantage to get consulting gigs,” he said.

“He was making more money than any government job would ever pay — and boy, do I know that,” Steinglass joked, receiving a few chuckles from the jury.

“The defense must maintain that these were legal fees, because to say anything else is to admit that the business records are false — and they can’t do that,” Steinglass said.

May 28, 5:53 PM
What the Secret Service would do if Trump is convicted

As ABC News reported previously, the U.S. Secret Service spent considerable time working with New York City court and jail officials to determine what would happen if the judge, as threatened during trial, ordered former President Trump to be incarcerated for contempt — a situation that did not come to pass.

According to an official briefed on the matter, U.S. Secret Service planners have not started the process of determining arrangements for Trump to be imprisoned at a New York state penitentiary in the event he is convicted. Because Trump is charged with nonviolent crimes, has no criminal record, and was allowed to remain free before trial, it is believed that there is no way that a conviction would lead to immediate incarceration.

If Trump is convicted, the Secret Service will spend the time prior to sentencing — which could be months — working with New York state prison officials to determine how imprisonment would work. An official told ABC News that potential questions could include, would USSS agents be armed inside prisons where firearms are prohibited? What prison would Trump be assigned to? Where would protection agents be stationed in relation to Trump? Those details, among many others, would have to be hammered out, the official said.

The Secret Service specifically avoided planning on a possible prison sentence during the trial so Trump and his loyalists could not accuse them of taking sides against the former president, the official said.

May 28, 5:53 PM
Prosecutor stresses 2017 White House meeting

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass emphasized a Feb. 8, 2017, White House meeting between Michael Cohen and Trump, where Cohen said Trump confirmed the plan to repay him for the Daniels hush money payment.

While defense lawyers have tried to distance Trump from the first few checks to Cohen — which were signed by representatives of Trump’s trust rather than Trump himself — Steinglass argued that Trump reassured Cohen about the first two payments during their meeting.

“There is evidence that Trump knew, and it’s right here,” Steinglass said.

May 28, 5:50 PM
Prosecutor laughs at defense theory

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass returned to the defense’s argument that Trump “grossing up” the Cohen reimbursement — effectively doubling the payment to account for the taxes Cohen would have to pay — suggests the payment is suspicious for the famously frugal Trump.

“But it was worth it — it was worth it to hide the truth about what this money was really for — a reimbursement for the Daniels payoff,” Steinglass said.

Steinglass was basically giggling to the jury as he tried to poke holes in the defense theory about the payments were legitimate expenses for legal work.

“These documents are so damning that you almost have to laugh at how Mr. Blanche explained it to you,” Steinglass said.

Calling the documents “smoking guns,” Steinglass said “they completely blow out of the water the defense claim,”

“I’m almost speechless that they’re still trying to make this argument that the it was for services rendered,” Steinglass said of the payment.

May 28, 5:45 PM
Prosecutor outlines how Trump approved 2017 payment plan

The parties returned from break, during which Trump commented on the prosecutions’ arguments on his social media platform, writing, “BORING!” and “FILIBUSTER!”

Back in court, prosecutor Josh Steinglass walked the jury through the evidence and testimony about the meeting when Trump approved Michael Cohen’s repayment plan in 2017 — the arrangement that prompted the falsification of business records.

Steinglass began with the the bank statement that had been entered into evidence.

“Right on the bank statement, Weisselberg and Cohen calculated all the money owed to Cohen,” Steinglass said, referring to then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.

Cohen testified about meeting with Trump and Weisselberg in the days ahead of Trump’s inauguration when the payment plan was approved.

“Weisselberg discussed the reimbursement plan with Trump and Cohen,” Steinglass said. “Mr. Trump approved the payment plan.”

May 28, 4:57 PM
State recounts Trump’s angry response to 2016 WSJ story

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass continued to lean on the testimony of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, arguing it offered unequivocal evidence that Trump was in on the catch-and-kill plan involving Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Pecker testified that Trump was furious at Pecker after the Wall Street Journal published a story in November 2016 about AMI’s payment to McDougal.

“This is the story that he is simultaneously telling the press he knows nothing about,” Steinglass said. “Pecker established unequivocally that Trump was in on the McDougal deal.”

Trump was “angry because story came out that threatened his standing with female voters,” Steinglass said.

“Of course we will never know if this effort to hoodwink the American voter made the difference in the 2016 election, but that’s not something we have to prove,” Steinglass said. What matters, Steinglass said, is that the scheme was “cloaked in false business records to hide the conspiracy.”

Judge Merchan said the jury would take its next break, then the closing would continue.

“I was watching the jurors,” said the judge. “They looked pretty alert to me — I don’t think we’re losing anyone.”

May 28, 4:49 PM
State stresses hush payment was made right before election

While defense lawyers have talked plenty about an Oct. 24, 2016, phone call between Michael Cohen and Keith Schiller whose purpose they question, prosecutors have emphasized the importance of two other calls directly between Trump and Cohen on Oct. 26, 2016.

The day Cohen wired money from Essential Consultants LLC — the bank account for the Stormy Daniels hush money payment — Cohen spoke to Trump twice over the phone around 8 a.m. Prosecutors argued that Cohen got the go-ahead from Trump to make the payment on that call before he crossed the street from Trump Tower to wire money from First Republic Bank.

One call was three minutes long, and the other was about 90 seconds.

“This is damning, right?” prosecutor Josh Steinglass said. “Half an hour before that, he is getting the final go-ahead from Trump.”

Steinglass said the “objective of the nondisclosure agreement with Stormy Daniels was to keep her quiet.

“It’s no coincidence that the sex happened in 2006 but the payoff didn’t happen until October 2016, two weeks before the election. That’s because the defendant’s primary concern was not his family, but the election,” Steinglass said.

Trump, sitting at the defense table, shook his head in response.

May 28, 4:38 PM
Prosecutor says Cohen falsified bank records

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass told jurors that Michael Cohen falsified bank records when he opened bank accounts for the shell companies related to Stormy Daniels’ hush money payment.

In his bank paperwork for both Essential Consultants LLC and Resolution Consultants LLC, Cohen provided a description of the businesses as consulting companies, though he only created the companies as a conduit for hush money payments.

“That was one big lie,” Steinglass said, telling jurors that Cohen used that description to prevent First Republic Bank from stalling the accounts.

Steinglass suggested that Trump was aware that the shell companies required falsifying bank records.

“He is a savvy businessman — he has opened his share of bank accounts,” Steinglass said.

Steinglass said he would go through the other crimes that Trump furthered by falsifying business records in 2017 later in his summation.

May 28, 4:23 PM
State says women’s allegations ’caused pandemonium’ in campaign

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass told jurors that allegations from women in October 2016 posed a significant risk to Trump’s campaign.

“This race could not have been closer,” Steinglass said, arguing that Trump knew the allegations were “capable of costing him the whole election, and he knew it.”

Steinglass replayed a video of an October 2016 Trump rally in Greensboro, North Carolina to demonstrate Trump’s concern.

“It caused pandemonium in the Trump campaign,” Steinglass said about the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Trump, at the defense table, looked at the evidence before shifting back in his chair. After shaking his head in disagreement, he whispered back and forth with his attorney Emil Bove.

Steinglass argued that Trump was particularly concerned about the Daniels allegations because they could undermine his response to the “Access Hollywood” tape.

“Stormy Daniels was a walking, talking reminder that the defendant was not only words,” Steinglass said. “She would have totally undermined his strategy for spinning the Access Hollywood tape.”

May 28, 4:18 PM
Prosecutor reviews impact of ‘Access Hollywood’ tape

More than an a hour and a half into his summation, prosecutor Josh Steinglass finally turned his attention to the Stormy Daniels hush money payment.

Steinglass resumed his summation by discussing the impact of the “Access Hollywood” tape, which prosecutors argued was the impetus for the Daniels hush money payment.

“It all began with this email from this Washington Post reporter named David Fahrenthold,” Steinglass said, displaying the exhibit. Fahrenthold had reached out to then-Trump aide Hope Hicks with a transcript of the “Access Hollywood” remarks to ask for the campaign’s comment.

Steinglass recapped some of Hicks’ testimony, saying her “initial instinct was to deny the video’s legitimacy.” But once the campaign saw the video, “that strategy quickly shifted from ‘deny, deny, deny’ to ‘spin."”

Steinglass then played a video of Trump’s reaction to the “Access Hollywood” tape in which he expressed his regret.

On Oct. 8, Steinglass says, there was a “flurry of activity” as Trump’s campaign sought to spin the Access Hollywood tape. Michael Cohen asked then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker about a RadarOnline article “about Trump being a playboy” and asked him to remove it, which he did.

“This is not catch-and-kill exactly, but they are purging the internet at the direction of the campaign,” Steinglass said.

May 28, 4:09 PM
Judge says ‘we’ll see’ if summations conclude today

After the parties returned from break, Judge Merchan said the next break would be around 5 p.m. ET.

“And then we’ll see how everybody’s doing.” he said, regarding the question of whether they’ll be able to finish closing arguments by the end of the day.
 

May 28, 3:46 PM
Prosecutor mocks effort to cast doubt on Trump-Cohen recording

“The defense has gone to laughable lengths” to make “feeble” arguments to undermine the recording of Donald Trump and Michael Cohen discussing a reimbursement to A.M.I. for the Karen McDougal payment, prosecutor Josh Steinglass said.

Steinglass mocked defense attorney Todd Blanche’s effort to cast doubt on the recording because Cohen picked up another call.

“Here’s a newsflash: people use their phones,” Steinglass said.

Steinglass accused Blanche of using this argument to “muddy the waters” of this case.

“The fact is, no number of misleading questions, wild speculation … can distract you from one simple fact: the metadata for this file proves it was not tampered with in any way.”

“This recording is nothing short of jaw dropping,” Steinglass said before replaying the recording.

“This tape unequivocally shows a presidential candidate actively engaging in scheme to influence the election by reimbursing AMI for killing the McDougal story, and that’s why they are desperate to discredit it,” Steinglass said.

Court was then recessed for the mid-afternoon break, with the prosecution’s closing argument expected to take at least another two hours.

May 28, 3:41 PM
Prosecutor says AMI agreement was to ‘serve the campaign’

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass rehashed the phone call that then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker said he had with Trump about the Karen McDougal payment.

During the phone call, Pecker testified that Trump expressed skepticism about the hush money payment.

“Mr. Trump said to me … ‘I don’t buy stories.’ And he said, ‘Anything you do anything like this, it always gets out,"” Pecker testified.

“He thought that these stories always get out and I guess he was right about that,” Steinglass told jurors.

“Their motivation was to serve the campaign — that’s what makes this a catch-and-kill” the prosecutor said.

Michael Cohen was Trump’s “liaison” to Pecker, “conveying Mr. Trump’s instructions every step of the way,” Steinglass said.

“Critical here is Pecker’s acknowledgement that he never intended to publish the story under any circumstances … Pecker was willing to sacrifice AMI’s bottom line in service of the campaign,” said Steinglass, emphasizing that that AMI’s $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal was not standard operating procedure for the National Enquirer.

Steinglass told jurors that Pecker thought the story, if true, was “National Enquirer gold” — yet he would not have run the story to help Trump.

“Pecker was willing to sacrifice AMI’s bottom line in service of Donald Trump’s campaign,” Steinglass said. “This deal was the very antithesis of a normal press function.”

May 28, 3:27 PM
State says McDougal payment was ‘unlawful’ campaign contribution

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass, turning to the $150,000 payment that AMI made to Playboy model Karen McDougal, described the payment as a “unlawful corporation campaign contribution.”

“This transactions amounted to an unlawful corporation campaign contribution by AMI to the Trump campaign,” Steinglass said.

“There is not a lot of room for debate here,” Steinglass said. “[Dylan] Howard is acting in cahoots with the candidate to kill the story,” he said of the National Enquirer editor.

Steinglass emphasized a phone call that then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified he had with Trump about the McDougal payment.

“With all of the evidence and documents in this case, it’s easy to lose sight of the significance of this phone call,” Steinglass said. “Trump is deputizing Cohen right in front of Pecker.”

“Any go-ahead from Cohen is a go-ahead from Trump,” Steinglass said.

Steinglass emphasized that the testimony about the phone call is significant because it demonstrates the conspiracy separate from the testimony of Michael Cohen.

“This is powerful evidence of the defendant’s involvement wholly apart from Cohen,” Steinglass said.

May 28, 3:14 PM
Prosecutor begins taking jury through timeline of case

The first hour of prosecutor Josh Steinglass’ summation sounded impromptu, as if he was extemporaneously delivering a direct response to the defense’s closing.

As his closing entered its second hour, Steinglass unveiled a slideshow and timeline to make his argument — slowing down the pace of his delivery and bringing the jury back to the first witness in the case, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

Steinglass walked the jury through the $30,000 payment American Media Inc. made to doorman Dino Sajudin for the rights to his false story about Trump having a child out of wedlock. He outlined timeline of the catch and kill, emphasizing the steps taken to ensure Sajudin did not become a problem for the campaign.

According to Steinglass, Cohen added a $1 million breach of contract penalty “just to put the fear of God into Sajudin.”

“Mr. Sajudin had been completely neutralized as a threat to the campaign,” Steinglass said about the payment.

May 28, 3:01 PM
Trump engaged in a ‘subversion of democracy,’ state says

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass argued that Trump’s catch-and-kill arrangement with the National Enquirer was a “subversion of democracy.”

Steinglass pushed back against defense attorney Todd Blanche’s argument in his closing that Trump’s agreement with Enquirer parent AMI was democracy at work. During his opening statement, Blanche said, “I have a spoiler alert. There is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy.”

“In reality, this agreement at Trump Tower was the exact opposite. It was the subversion of democracy,” Steinglass said, arguing that it was an attempt “to pull the wool over [voter’s] eyes in a coordinated fashion” and that it was meant to “manipulate and defraud the voters.”

Referenceing the Trump Tower meeting in 2015, Steinglass said, “This scheme cooked up by these men at this time, could very well be what got President Trump elected.”

“It turned out to be one of the most valuable contributions anyone ever made to Trump,” he argued.

May 28, 2:52 PM
State has presented a ‘mountain of evidence,’ prosecutor says

“It’s difficult to conceive a case with more corroboration than this one,” prosecutor Josh Steinglass told jurors. “You don’t have to think too much about this one.”

Steinglass argued that jurors have seen a “mountain of evidence.”

“This case is not about Michael Cohen. This case is about Donald Trump and whether he should be held accountable for making false entries in his own business records, whether he and his staff did that to cover up for his own election violations,” Steinglass said, describing Cohen as a tour guide through the evidence.

“The question is not whether you like Cohen or whether you want to go into business with Cohen. It’s whether he has useful, reliable information,” Steinglass said. “He was in the best position to know.”

Steinglass called the defense’s focus on Cohen “deflection — like the defendant’s own tweets”

May 28, 2:46 PM
State says Trump employed Cohen because he was willing to lie

“The defense goes on and on about Michael Cohen is immoral or a liar or a thief,” prosecutor Josh Steinglass said of the state’s star witness.

“We didn’t choose Michael Cohen to be a witness. We didn’t pick him up at witness store. The defendant chose him as a fixer because he was willing to lie and cheat,” he said, drawing a few laughs from the jury.

Steinglass then displayed a passage from one of Trump’s books to exemplify why he hired someone like Michael Cohen in the first place.

“As a matter of fact, I value loyalty above everything else — more than brains, more than drive, and more than energy,” the passage read.

May 28, 2:41 PM
Prosecutor role-plays alleged call between Cohen, Trump

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass addressed the defense allegation that Michael Cohen lied on the witness stand about an Oct. 24, 2016, phone call with Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller while Schiller was with Trump.

“Of course the defense says, ‘Ah-ha! That’s per-jur-y,’” Steinglass said, exaggerating the syllables to mimick how defense attorney Todd Blanche had said it during his closing.

“To them, that’s the big lie. But that’s not the only interpretation,” said Steinglass.

Steinglass then role-played the alleged conversation between Schiller and Cohen to suggest that Cohen could have talked to both Schiller and Trump during the 90-second call, as Cohen had testified.

“Forty-nine seconds,” Steinglass said after completing the role-play.

May 28, 2:32 PM
Cohen is ‘understandably angry,’ prosecutor says

“Michael Cohen is understandably angry that to date he’s the only one who paid the price,” prosecutor Josh Steinglass said about the state’s star witness.

“Cohen did the defendant’s bidding for years,” Steinglass said. “Anyone in Cohen’s shoes would want the defendant to be held accountable.

Regarding Cohen stealing $30,000 from the Trump Organization by submitting an inflated reimbursement request for IT expenses, Steinglass said Cohen “is the one who brought it to everyone’s attention. He raised it. He volunteered it.”

As to why he wasn’t arrested, Steinglass said, “he paid his price.”

“He’s been convicted of multiple felonies, … he can’t get a mortgage … not to mention the steady stream of online attacks,” Steinglass said.

And, Steinglass added, Cohen’s theft is not a defense to falsifying business records.

May 28, 2:25 PM
State says Trump didn’t want public to hear Daniels’ story

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass conceded that Stormy Daniels gave, at times, “cringe-worthy” testimony — but told they jury the details she provided bolster her credibility.

“To be sure, there were parts of her testimony that were cringe-worthy,” Steinglass said. “Some of the details of what the suite looked like, the contents of his toiletry bag” he said “ring true.”

He accused the defense of working hard to discredit Daniels because that’s the story Trump didn’t want the American public to see.

“Stormy Daniels is the motive,” Steinglass said. “And you can bet the defendant would not pay $130,000 … just because he took a photograph with someone on the golf course.”

May 28, 2:21 PM
Prosecutor calls Pecker’s testimony ‘devastating’

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass took aim at the defense assertion that Stormy Daniels was out to extort Donald Trump.

“Maybe you think it’s a sordid practice,” he said. “In the end it doesn’t really matter because you don’t get to commit election fraud or falsify business records because you believe you have been victimized.”

Steinglass told the jurors that many of the witnesses they heard from are Trump friends or fans.

“Pecker has no reason to lie here,” he said, speaking of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. “He still considers Donald Trump a friend and mentor, and still his testimony is utterly devastating.”

“These people like the defendant,” Steinglass said. “If anything, they have incentive to skew the testimony” in a way that will help him.

May 28, 2:16 PM
Prosecutor says they’ve presented ‘powerful evidence’

Assistant district attorney Josh Steinglass began his closing argument by quoting the People’s opening.

“This case, at its core, is about a conspiracy and a coverup, a conspiracy to corrupt the 2016 election and a coverup to hide that conspiracy,” Steinglass said.

“We asked you to remember to tune out the noise and to ignore the sideshows. And if you’ve done that … you will see the People have presented powerful evidence of the defendants guilt,” he said.

Steinglass pushed back on the defense’s suggestion that prosecutors manipulated evidence.

“There is nothing sinister here — no manipulation,” Steinglass said.

Steinglass argued that it was defense lawyers manipulated who the evidence in a phone summary chart showing calls between Michael Cohen and his onetime legal adviser Bob Costello, saying that defense lawyers were provided Cohen’s full phone extraction if they believed evidence was manipulated.

May 28, 2:08 PM
Judge consults with prosecutors on curative instruction

Following the lunch break, the parties returned to the courtroom ahead of their closing argument.

Judge Merchan began the afternoon session by asking prosecutors about the curative instruction following defense attorney Todd Blanche’s mention of prison at the end of his closing argument.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger told Merchan that Blanche’s mention of prison time was “highly improper” and a direct violation of a pretrial order about arguments related to potential punishments.

“Mr. Blanche was certainly on notice that this was an improper argument,” Hoffinger said.

Blanche did not opposed to the curative instruction about his earlier arguments. Merchan will deliver it to the jury as drafted by prosecutors.

May 28, 12:58 PM
Before break, judge slams defense for ‘prison’ remark

Before Judge Merchan recessed court for the lunch break, prosecutors took issue with defense attorney Todd Blanche saying “You cannot send someone to prison based upon the words of Michael Cohen.”

Prosecutors called Blanche’s reference to prison “ridiculous” and an effort to gain sympathy for their client.

“I think that saying that was outrageous, Mr. Blanche,” Merchan told Blanche. “It is simply not allowed, period.”

The judge said he would give the jury curative instructions.

“Its hard for me to imagine how that was accidental in any way,” Merchan said.

The parties then left the courtroom for the break. Blanche left the courtroom smiling as another member of the legal team gave him a big pat on the back.

May 28, 12:50 PM
Defense concludes by calling Cohen GLOAT for ‘greatest liar’

Finishing up his 10 reasons why he says Trump should be acquitted, defense attorney Todd Blanche listed:

– “There is no evidence of any illegal effort to influence the 2016 election,” Blanche said.

– “AMI would have run Mr. Sajudin’s story no matter what,” Blanche said. “That’s not catch and kill.”

– “McDougal did not want her story published,” Blanche said. “That’s not catch and kill.”

– Daniel’s story was “already public,” Blanche said.

– Blanche argued that key evidence was “manipulated” during the trial. He alleged that the district attorney’s office made mistakes when analyzing Cohen’s phone. “How can you trust that the September 6 recording is actually reliable? The answer is you can’t,” Blanche said.

– “Michael Cohen. He is the human embodiment of reasonable doubt,” Blanche said.

In a play on words, Blanche asked the jurors if the knew of the term GOAT — the greatest of all time. Some of them nodded.
He then said Cohen was the GLOAT, the “greatest liar of all time.”

“You cannot send someone to prison based upon the words of Michael Cohen,” Blanche said, concluding his closing statement.

May 28, 12:44 PM
Defense lists their reasons why Trump should be acquitted

Defense attorney Todd Blanche listed 10 reasons why he says the jury should have reasonable doubt about the prosecution case’s. Among them:

– “You should have real reasonable doubt is that Cohen created those invoices,” Blanche said. “They are accurate and President Trump did not have any intent to defraud.”

– “There is no proof that President Trump ever, ever saw anything that Ms. Tarasoff or Mr. McConney did,” Blanche said referring to the Trump Organization employees who processed the invoices, adding that Trump was busy running the country when he signed the associated checks.

– “There is absolutely no evidence of an intent to defraud,” Blanche said, highlighting the forms that disclosed the Cohen payment to authorities.

– Blanche argued that Trump has “absolutely no intent to unlawfully influence the 2016 election.”

May 28, 12:33 PM
Michael Cohen is ‘MVP of liars,’ defense says

Defense attorney Todd Blanche continued to argue that the jury cannot trust Cohen’s testimony as a whole based on the misstatements they highlighted.

“We happened to catch him in a lie,” Blanche said. “We put them into evidence, and now you know it happened.”

Blanche argued that the lie highlighted that Cohen didn’t care about his oath to tell the truth.

“For that we have an oath, we have an oath that every witness takes when they testify before you the jury. It matters — the oath matters to most. He lied,” Blanche said, as the jury watched attentively.

Blanche told the jury that Michael Cohen lied to his banker, his family, his wife, every single reporter he speaks to, prosecutors, and federal judges.

“He lied to you, make no mistake about it,” said Blanche.

“He’s literally like an MVP of liars,” Blanche said of Cohen.

May 28, 12:20 PM
Daniels testified to ’embarrass’ Trump, defense says

Defense attorney Todd Blanche suggested t the jury why Stormy Daniels was called as a witness, given there was no dispute about a nondisclosure agreement being signed and that she knew nothing about the records in question.

“I’ll tell you why — they did it to try to inflame your emotions. They did it to try to embarrass President Trump” Blanche said.

It drew a loud objection from prosecutors that was overruled.

Trump has disputed the sexual encounter ever happened.

May 28, 12:16 PM
Defense argues Trump was concerned about family

Defense attorney Todd Blanche says argued that Trump’s concern about the “Access Hollywood” tape was primarily related to his family, not his campaign.

“Nobody wants their family exposed to that type of story,” Blanche said. “He was concerned about his family, he was concerned about his wife.”

Prosecutors have alleged that the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape motivated Trump to buy Daniels’ story to help his political ambitions, but defense attorneys say Trump’s main concern in October 2016 — regarding both the “Access Hollywood” tape and Stormy Daniels allegations — was his family.

“It was not a doomsday event,” Blanche said of the “Access Hollywood” tape. “He never thought it was going to cause him to lose the campaign, and indeed it didn’t.”

But Blanche argued that Michael Cohen overreacted to the “Access Hollywood” story, and that Cohen created a problem for him to fix.

May 28, 12:11 PM
Defense says Daniels took advantage of ‘Access Hollywood’ tape

Advancing his argument that Trump was extorted by Stormy Daniels, defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors that Stormy Daniels and her agent Gina Rodrgiuez saw a “time to strike” after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.

“Ms. Daniels and Ms. Rodriguez seized an opportunity,” Blanche said. “They came back to Mr. Howard again and said … now it is the time to strike.”

Turning a prosecution argument on its head, Blanche argued that rather than being the catalyst for the Daniels hush payment and the eventual falsifying of business records, the “Access Hollywood” was Daniels and Rodriguez seizing an “opportunity.”

Shouting emphatically, Blanche ticked through the three alleged catch and kills in an attempt to shred prosecutors’ theory that they constituted a conspiracy to influence the election.

The doorman story was “not true,” he said. Susan McDougal didn’t want her story out. Daniels came forward after the “Access Hollywood tape” and David Pecker said, “Nah, I want nothing to do with it,’ Blanche said.

“That’s the conspiracy?!” Blanche yelled. “That’s the three catch and kills!?”

May 28, 12:01 PM
Defense seeks to discredit Stormy Daniels testimony

Resuming his closing argument following the break, defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors that Stormy Daniels lied on the witness stand about her motivation to go public with her story.

Daniels told jurors that she was worried about her safety, citing a 2011 encounter in Las Vegas where someone threatened her safety for going public about her allegations — but Blanche said she lied about the encounter to create an excuse for why she didn’t come forward earlier.

“This started off an extortion … and it ended very well for Ms. Daniels, financially speaking,” Blanche said.

Blanche also pointed out that Daniels has “repeatedly denied having sex with Trump.”

“The government wants you to believe those statements were coerced — that Ms. Daniels was either forced to sign them, or didn’t have a say … but she decided to go public after these statements supposedly because she was trying to protect herself from what she said was a threat someone made to her in a gym parking lot in 2011,” Blanche said. “But there are recordings where you know that’s just not true.”

May 28, 11:55 AM
Defense summation resumes after break

Judge Merchan returned to bench and Trump returned to the courtroom following the mid-morning break.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche told the judge he has about half an hour left before he finishes his summation.

The defense’s closing will be followed by prosecutors’ closing arguments.

Merchan said he spoke to the jurors and they are willing to work late tonight.

May 28, 11:45 AM
Robert De Niro criticizes Trump outside courthouse

The judge recessed court briefly for the mid-morning break.

Trump, exiting the courtroom, patted his daughter Tiffany as he passed her and she gave him a big smile.

Meanwhile, outside the courthouse this morning, actor Robert De Niro and two former Capitol police officers slammed Trump at a campaign news conference for President Joe Biden.

De Niro, a lower Manhattan resident, was accompanied by former Capitol police officers Michael Fanone and Harry Dunn, both of whom were working at the U.S. Capitol on Jan, 6, 2021.

May 28, 11:33 AM
Defense calls Stormy Daniels payment extortion

Defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors that while both Trump and Stormy Daniels denied the affair, the allegations came back in 2016 so Daniels and others could extort Trump.

“There were a group of people that wanted to take advantage of a situation and ultimately wanted to extort money from President Trump,” Blanche said.

Blanche argued that Daniels’ claim of a sexual tryst with Trump was known in 2011, so the hush payment could not have been meant to influence an election five years later.

“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,” Blanche said.

Blanche hesitantly used the word extortion in his opening statement to describe the Daniels payment — calling it “almost an attempt … to extort” — but the defense appears to have leaned into the argument in their closing.

Blanche also suggested that Trump may not have known about the Daniels payment at the time, telling jurors they only have Michael Cohen to rely on for that evidence.

“There’s no way that you can find that President Trump knew about this payment at the time it was made without believing Michael Cohen. Period,” Blanche said. “And you cannot believe his words.”

May 28, 11:27 AM
Defense says Cohen lied about Trump wanting to repay in cash

Continuing with his attack on Michael Cohen’s recording of the 2016 meeting with Trump, defense attorney Todd Blanche cast doubt on Cohen’s contention that Trump was going to repay AMI for the Karen McDougal payment in cash — meaning bills.

“Cash just means no financing,” Blanche said. “It doesn’t mean you are going into the closing with a duffel bag full of green.”

According to Blanche, Cohen tried to mislead the jury by suggesting Trump wanted to pay in cash.

“That was Mr. Cohen lying to you, painting a picture that fits his narrative, not the truth,” Blanche said.

“There’s no scenario under which there has been any testimony at this trial that Mr. Trump was going to walk around with a duffel bag full of $150,000 in cash.”

Addressing why the recording cut off, Blanche said when Trump says “check” it was the beginning of a new sentence — not about writing a check — before it cuts off.

“It’s clearly talking about a beginning of a sentence that we will never know,” Blanche said.

May 28, 11:19 AM
Defense casts doubt on Cohen’s recording of Trump

“So you have a lawyer recording his client,” defense attorney Todd Blanche said of Michael Cohen’s 2016 recording of a meeting with Trump.

“There is a lot of dispute about that recording. A lot,” Blanche said. “The government has not shown you that that evidence is reliable.”

Blanche again played the recording for the jury.

Blanche said Trump never said the words “150” about McDougal in the call, disputing what the transcript prosecutors made says.

“Listen to the recording, see if you hear 150,” Blanche said. “There is a lot of doubt that it discussed Karen McDougal.”

“What did you just hear? ‘Transfer of all the stuff’,” Blanche said, saying that was actually about a box of stuff related to Trump that was at the National Enquirer offices.

Trump, at the defense table, appears fully engaged, with one arm propped on the back of his chair, looking directly at Blanche’s back.

May 28, 11:10 AM
Defense argues that McDougal payment wasn’t catch and kill

Moving on to the arrangement with Playboy model Karen McDougal, defense attorney Todd Blanche argued there was no catch and kill at all.

“What is clear from what you heard … this was not a catch and kill either,” Blanche said. “Karen McDougal did not want her story published,” Blanche said, saying she wanted to kickstart her career. “How is that a catch and kill? It’s not.”

“To be clear, it was not Mrs. McDougal’s intention to publish her story,” Blanche said, seeking to undercut prosecutors’ theory this was an ongoing conspiracy to influence the election.

“There was never any risk that her allegations would influence the election because she didn’t want her allegations published,” Blanche said.

May 28, 11:03 AM
‘Nothing usual about catching and killing,’ defense says

Defense attorney Todd Blanche says turned his attention to the three alleged catch-and-kill schemes cited by prosecutors, telling the jury that such arrangements were a normal industry practice and not illegal.

“There is nothing unusual … about catching and killing,” Blanche said.

He started with Dino Sajudin, the Trump Organization doorman who made unfounded claims about a love-child Trump supposedly fathered. Blanche called it “literally a made-up story.”

Blanche used National Enquirer publisher David Pecker’s initial desire to publish the story to undercut the idea of a conspiracy.

“The government wants you to believe that in Aaugust 2015 there was a super conspiratorial criminal meeting, where Mr. Pecker is going to criminally help Trump, and the first opportunity, he says, Oh no, I’m publishing this,” Blanche said.

“What kind of a conspiracy is that?!” Blanche asked.

May 28, 10:52 AM
Defense says National Enquirer followed ‘standard procedure’

Defense attorney Todd Blanche highlighted that American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, normally helped campaigns with suppressing negative information.

“This is the same thing AMI had been doing for decades,” Blanche said. “They had been doing it for President Trump since the 90s.”

“Nothing criminal about it — it’s done all the time,” Blanche said.

Blanche added that AMI worked with Rahm Emanuel and Arnold Schwarzenegger during their campaigns and that published David Pecker thought his arrangement with Trump was “good business.”

“There is zero criminal intent in that 2015 meeting,” Cohen said about the Trump Tower meeting where prosecutors argued that the conspiracy originated.

Blanche calls the idea that “sophisticated people” like Trump and Pecker “believed positive stories in the National Enquirer could influence the 2016 election is preposterous.”

Blanche highlighted the limited circulation of the National Enquirer — about 350,000 at the time of the alleged scheme — prevented the publication from having a meaningful impact on voters.

May 28, 10:44 AM
Defense says there was no ‘tight conspiracy’

Defense attorney Todd Blanche sought to undermine a key moment in the state’s story of the case — the White House meeting in February 2017, in which Cohen said he and Trump discussed the plan to repay him.

Blanche showed jurors an email in which Cohen asked a Trump Organization employee to remind him what the agreed-upon monthly sum would be, which was sent less than a week after the meeting.

Blanche said the email demonstrated that there was no discussion of an agreement — no “tight conspiracy.”

“Six days later Cohen doesn’t even know how much he’s supposed to be paid,’ Blanche said.

He also argued against the idea that the parties conspired to win the election.

“It doesn’t matter if there was a conspiracy to try and win an election,” Blanche said. “By the way, even that — even if you find that’s true — that’s still not enough. It doesn’t matter if there was a conspiracy to try to win an election. Every campaign in this country is a conspiracy to promote a candidate.”

May 28, 10:40 AM
‘Where’s the intent to defraud?’ defense asks

Defense attorney Todd Blanche shifted his argument to the prosecution’s burden to prove criminal intent, “Like a conscious objective. A purpose to defraud. There is no evidence of that ladies and gentlemen,” Blanche said. “Where’s the intent to defraud on the part of President Trump?”

“President Trump is not guilty. But I expect you’re going to hear from Judge Merchan that there’s something else that has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt … the government has to prove to you that President Trump caused these entries … with an intent to defraud.”

“There is no evidence of that,” Blanche said. “Were’s the intent to defraud on the part of President Trump?”

Displaying Michael Cohen’s 1099 form, Blanche said, “If there was some deep-rooted intent to defraud, why do you think it was reported to the IRS as what it was? (Payments) to Michael Cohen, as Trump’s personal attorney?”

“The Trump Organization disclosed these payments to the IRS,” Blanche said.

May 28, 10:34 AM
State showed no evidence of tax crime, defense says

Defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors not to believe that Trump participated in a tax crime by “grossing up” Cohen’s reimbursement to account for taxes.

Prosecutors have suggested Trump acted to advance another crime — potentially the alleged tax crime — when he falsified business records.

“I expect the government is going to tell you there might have been some tax scheme,” Blanche said. “You saw no evidence of the tax treatment from anybody.”

Referring to the bank statement where then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and Michael Cohen took handwritten notes about the repayment arrangement, Cohen said the document was “full of lies.”

“So what proof do you have? What actual evidence do you have that this gross-up was anything to do with taxes? … There’s none,” he said.

May 28, 10:28 AM
Defense says Cohen never would have worked for free

Returning to the testimony of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, defense attorney Todd Blanche asked jurors, “How is the government going to ask you to convict President Trump based on the words of Michael Cohen?”

Blanche insisted to jurors that if the payments were all for repaying Cohen, that would mean Michael Cohen was working for free in 2017 — something he said he never would have done.

“You saw him on the stand for three days — do you believe that for a second?,” Blanche asked. “That after getting stiffed on his bonus in 2016 … do you think that Michael Cohen thought, ‘I’mgoing to work for free?"”

“Is that the man that testified, or was that a lie?” Blanche asked. “That is absurd!” he nearly shouted.

May 28, 10:21 AM
Defense says Trump was ‘too busy’ to be involved

Defense attorney Todd Blanche reminded the jury that Trump was president at the time Cohen’s invoices were being paid, suggesting that he was too busy to actually look at the checks he was signing.

“President Trump was very busy. He was running the country,” Blanche said.

Blanche noted the testimony of then-Trump aide Madeleine Westerhout who testified that Trump “sometimes” looked at what he was signing.

“You can’t convict President Trump because ‘sometimes,’ without being specific at all … President Trump looked at invoices … that is a stretch,” Blanch said. “And that is reasonable doubt.”

“The leap that the government wants you to take that he looks at the checks, looked at the invoices … is absurd,” Blanche said.

May 28, 10:15 AM
Defense challenges that repayment was for hush money

Defense attorney Todd Blanche tried to downplay prosecutors’ theory of the case and emphasized that Cohen was Trump’s attorney in 2017 and that the $35,000 paid each month over that year was Trump paying him for his services.

“Take a step back. Nobody disputes that Mr. Cohen was President Trump’s lawyer in 2017,” Blanche said. “So what makes more sense, that president was paying his personal attorney in 2017 the $35,000 per an agreement he made with his personal attorney?… Or the version that Mr Cohen said?”

Blanche then mimicked Cohen’s testimony, as Michael Cohen:

“No, I was not paid, I was going to work for free … I’ll just work for free and make a lot of money as a consultant,” Blanche said, mimicking Cohen.

“For the first time in President Trump’s life, he decided to pay me back triple,” Blanche continued, mimicking Cohen. “He doubled up the $130,000, he gave me $50,000 for some online poll — by the way, I stole from him a little bit on that — and I decided I wanted a bigger bonus. That’s what really happened, ladies and gentlemen.

“There’s a reason why in life usually the simplest answer is the right one — and that’s certainly the case here,” Blanche said.

May 28, 10:09 AM
Defense says Cohen lied about retainer agreement

Defense attorney Todd Blanche attacked Michael Cohen’s testimony that he did not work under a retainer agreement for Trump, as referenced in the invoices.

“There was a retainer agreement, and that’s how retainer agreements work,” Blanche said, referring to Cohen’s testimony. “Anything criminal about that?”

“That’s not evidence of some secret agreement that Mr. Cohen had with President Trump. He broadcasted this to the world,” Blanche continued. “This was not a secret. Michael Cohen was President Trump’s personal attorney — period.”

Pulling up a transcript in which Cohen testified there was never expected to be a retainer agreement, Blanche said, That was a lie,” stretching out each word.

“A lie is a lie, and this is a significant lie,” he said.

As Blanche argued about the practice of “verbal retainer agreements,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass objected twice. Judge Merchan overruled both.

May 28, 10:01 AM
Defense says invoices were for legal work

Defense attorney Todd Blanche tells jurors they will have to find two things to convict: “First, that the documents contained false entries, and second, that President Trump acted with an intent to defraud.”

Blanche argued that Michael Cohen did legal work for Trump in 2017, making his invoices for legal services — which he submitted for reimbursement of the Stormy Daniels payment — legitimate requests for payment.

“Cohen was rendering services to President Trump in 2017 as his personal attorney,” Blanche argued, highlighting parts of Cohen’s testimony about his role and work for Trump.

Cohen testified that he served as Trump’s personal attorney for free, but Blanche is attempting to suggest that the invoices at the center of the case were Cohen’s way of getting payment in 2017.

“Cohen lied to you. Cohen lied to you on direct examination,” Blanche said.

May 28, 9:55 AM
Defense attacks Michael Cohen’s credibility

“It’s a paper case,” defense attorney Todd Blanche says. “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. It’s not even about a settlement in 2016.” 

“The bookings were accurate. And there was absolutely no intent to defraud,” he said. “And beyond that, there was no conspiracy to influence the 2016 election.”

Starting a PowerPoint showing the evidence, Blanche quickly seeks to made the case a referendum on the credibility of Michael Cohen, telling jurors he lied on the witness stand.

“You cannot convict President Trump of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt on the words of Michael Cohen,” Blanche said.

“He told you a number of things on that witness stand that were lies, pure and simple,” Blanche continued.

“The words that Michael Cohen said to you on that stand — they matter. 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.

May 28, 9:47 AM
‘President Trump is innocent,’ defense lawyer says

“I’m going to start with something I can say i think with confidence … which is just to thank you. To thank you for your jury service,” defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors to begin his closing argument.

“Each of you will decide … whether President Trump is guilty or not guilty,” he said.

All eyes in this courtroom are on Blanche. Every member of Trump’s family is looking at him. The jurors are staring at him, many with pens in their hands ready to take notes.

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

May 28, 9:40 AM
Defense closings to take around 2.5 hours

Defense counsel Todd Blanche says he has a 2.5-hour closing, “maybe a little longer.”

Prosecutors say they estimate they have a 4 or 4.5-hour closing.

“Defense counsel must come up first, and the prosecutor must follow,” Judge Merchan said.

Merchan says he will ask the jury if they will work later than 4:30 p.m. to do all the closings in one day.

May 28, 9:34 AM
Proceedings underway

Judge Juan Merchan has taken his seat at the bench.

“Good morning, counsel. Good morning, Mr. Trump,” Merchan said in his normal greeting to start the proceedings.

May 28, 9:29 AM
Trump enters courtroom with several family members

Donald Trump has entered the courtroom alongside his lawyers.

Don Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, Lara Trump, and Tiffany Trump followed behind the former president and took seats in the gallery immediately behind the defense counsel table.

Today is the first time Tiffany Trump attended the trial, and it’s the largest showing of Trump family members on a single day of the trial.

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, also in court today, is seated behind his prosecution team.

May 28, 9:20 AM
Prosecutors, Trump arrive

Prosecutors have entered the courtroom, with Joshua Steinglass, Matthew Colangelo and Susan Hoffinger positioned behind counsel table.

Former President Trump has arrived at the courthouse.

May 28, 9:01 AM
Courtroom filled to capacity

The courtroom is filled to capacity this morning with more than 60 reporters crammed in the gallery’s wooden benches.

Over 150 members of the press and public lined up outside the courthouse this morning vying for admittance. The line appeared to be the longest of the entire trial.

The courtroom itself is a balmy 76 degrees this morning, after weeks of chilly temperatures that prompted Trump to complain about sitting in the cold conditions.

May 28, 8:32 AM
Sons, daughter expected to join Trump in court

Former President Trump is expected to be joined by a number of his children for today’s critical day in court.

Trump is set to be accompanied by his sons Eric and Don Jr., his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, and — for the first time — his daughter Tiffany, according to the Trump campaign.

It would be the largest family showing for Trump since the criminal trial began six weeks ago.

May 28, 6:56 AM
Jury to hear closing arguments

After five weeks of testimony, jurors in former President Trump’s hush money case are scheduled to hear closing arguments today.

Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office and attorneys for Trump are both set to deliver closing statements.

Judge Juan Merchan is then expected to delivery jury instructions on Wednesday, after which jurors will begin deliberations.

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