Jury in Donald Trump hush money case to begin deliberating after hearing instructions from judge – Chicago Tribune

Jury in Donald Trump hush money case to begin deliberating after hearing instructions from judge – Chicago Tribune

NEW YORK – Jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial are expected to begin deliberations on Wednesday after being instructed by the judge on the law and factors they can consider as they strive to reach a verdict in the first criminal case. against a former American president.

The deliberations follow a marathon day of closing arguments in which a Manhattan prosecutor accused Trump of trying to “mislead” voters in the 2016 presidential election by engaging in a hush money scheme aimed at squelching embarrassing stories that He feared they would torpedo his campaign.

“This case, at its core, is about a conspiracy and a cover-up,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told jurors during summaries that ran from early afternoon into the evening.

Trump’s lawyer, by contrast, called the prosecution’s star witness the “biggest liar of all time” as he proclaimed his client innocent of all charges and pressed the panel for a blanket acquittal.

The lawyers’ competing accounts, wildly divergent in their assessments of witness credibility, Trump’s guilt and the strength of the evidence, offered both sides one last chance to score points with the jury as it prepares to embark on the trial. momentous and historically unprecedented task of deciding whether to convict the presumptive Republican presidential nominee before the November election.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, charges punishable by up to four years in prison. He pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing. It is unclear whether prosecutors would seek prison time in the event of a conviction, or whether the judge would impose that punishment.

Jurors will have the option of convicting Trump on all charges, acquitting him of all charges, or returning a mixed verdict finding him guilty of some charges and not others. If they reach an impasse after several days of deliberations and cannot reach a unanimous verdict, Judge Juan M. Merchán can declare a mistrial.

The trial featured allegations that Trump and his allies conspired to stifle potentially embarrassing stories during the 2016 presidential campaign with hush payments, including to a porn actor who alleged she and Trump had had sex a decade earlier. His attorney, Todd Blanche, told jurors that he cannot trust either actor Stormy Daniels or the Trump lawyer he paid for her, Michael Cohen.

“President Trump is innocent. He committed no crime and the district attorney failed to meet his burden of proof, period,” Blanche said.

Harvey Weinstein will appear before a judge in the same court where Trump is being tried

Steinglass attempted to address jurors’ potential concerns about witness credibility. Trump, for example, has said that he and Daniels never had sex and has repeatedly attacked Cohen as a liar.

The prosecutor acknowledged that Daniels’ account of the alleged 2006 encounter in a Lake Tahoe hotel suite, which Trump has denied, was at times “embarrassing,” but said the details she offered, including about the decor and What he said he saw when he snooped through Trump’s toiletries kit was full of touchstones that “ring true.”

And, he said, the story matters because it “reinforces (Trump’s) incentive to buy his silence.”

“His story is confusing. People find it uncomfortable to hear it. This is probably uncomfortable for some of you to hear. But that’s the point,” Steinglass said. He told the jury: “In the simplest terms, Stormy Daniels is the motive.”

The reward unfolded in the context of the disclosure of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording in which Trump could be heard bragging about sexually grabbing women without their permission. If Daniels’ story had emerged after the recording, it would have undermined his strategy of discrediting his words, Steinglass said.

“It’s critical to appreciate this,” Steinglass said. At the same time he was dismissing his words on the tape as “locker room talk,” Trump “was negotiating to gag a porn star,” the prosecutor said.

Blanche, who spoke first, tried to downplay the consequences by saying that the “Access Hollywood” film was not an “apocalyptic event.”

Steinglass also tried to assure jurors that the prosecution’s case did not rest solely on Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer who paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet. Cohen later pleaded guilty to federal charges for his role in the hush money payments, as well as lying to Congress. He went to prison and was disbarred, but his direct involvement in the transactions made him a key witness at the trial.

“It’s not about whether you like Michael Cohen. It’s not about whether you want to do business with Michael Cohen. It’s about whether he has useful, reliable information to give you about what happened in this case, and the truth is, he was in the best position to know that,” Steinglass said.

Although the case included a sometimes sordid discussion about sex and tabloid industry practices, the actual charges concern something decidedly less flashy: the refunds Trump signed for Cohen for payments.

The refunds were recorded as legal expenses, which prosecutors said was a fraudulent label designed to conceal the purpose of the hush money transaction and unlawfully interfere in the 2016 election. Defense attorneys say Cohen actually performed work substantial legal for Trump and his family.

In her own hour-long speech to the jury, with sweeping denials that echoed Trump’s “deny everything” approach, Blanche lambasted every foundation of the case.

He said Cohen, not Trump, created the invoices that were submitted to the Trump Organization for reimbursement and rejected the prosecution’s caricature of a detail-oriented manager, suggesting instead that Trump was concerned about the presidency and not the checks. that I was signing. And he rejected the idea that the alleged hush money scheme amounted to election interference.

“Every campaign in this country is a conspiracy to promote a candidate, a group of people working together to help someone win,” Blanche said.

Unsurprisingly, he reserved his most animated attack for Cohen, with whom he clashed during a lengthy interrogation.

Imitating the term “GOAT,” used primarily in sports as an acronym for “greatest of all time,” Blanche called Cohen the “GLOAT” (the greatest liar of all time) and also called Cohen “the embodiment of reasonable doubt.” That language was intentional because, to convict Trump, jurors must believe prosecutors proved his case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“He lied to you repeatedly. She lied many, many times before you even met him. His financial and personal well-being depends on this case. He is biased and motivated to tell you a story that is not true,” Blanche said, referring to Cohen’s relentless and often scathing personal attacks on social media against Trump and the lucrative income he has made from books and podcasts about Trump.

Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price in New York contributed to this report.