HomePoliticsAfter 20 days in court for Trump's hush money trial, here's what...

After 20 days in court for Trump’s hush money trial, here’s what you missed

Closing arguments will begin Tuesday in Donald Trump’s hush-money trial, after which a jury of 12 New Yorkers will have to decide whether to convict him on charges that he falsified business records and acted to influence the 2016 election.

For weeks, prosecutors from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office have worked to prove that Trump orchestrated a scheme to cover up an alleged sexual encounter with a porn star at a fraught time for his 2016 presidential campaign, which aides feared his bid for the White House would fail. in turmoil. Jurors will have to decide whether the accusation that Trump approved hush money payments and tried to break the law by falsely recording them was part of a broader criminal scheme — or an attempt to avoid embarrassment.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 charges of falsifying corporate records in connection with payments Michael Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels. The government is trying to convince the jury that Trump tried to hide the payments in furtherance of another crime and that that is enough to convict him in the legally complex case.

Here’s what you missed during 20 days in court for Trump’s hush money trial:

I believe in the key witness

Trump said “bull—-” when Daniels said the alleged arrangement, she said, led to her being paid $130,000 to remain silent days before the 2016 election.

But Trump said little else as a parade of former aides and associates took the witness stand, where they recounted the events that led prosecutors to charge him with 34 crimes.

Cohen, his estranged fixer, sat steps away from him and testified that Trump and his top financial director had a plan to disguise the return of his payment to Daniels as a legal kickback. Cohen said that when he later faced legal jeopardy for violating campaign finance law by coordinating the hush money payments, he came under pressure from people around Trump who he viewed as trying to frame him keep from freaking out.

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Cohen admitted that he called Trump a “crass cartoon misogynist” and a “Cheeto-dusted” villain who should be locked up “like an animal,” even as he struck a pose that was unrecognizable to people who had known him for years.

An attorney, Todd Blanche, urged the judge not to “let this case go to a jury relying on Mr. Cohen’s testimony,” that of an admitted liar who admitted at trial to having stolen tens of thousands of dollars stolen from the Trump CEO. Organization.

Blanche cast doubt on a phone call later in October 2016, when Cohen claimed to have discussed Daniels’ payout with Trump, showing court text messages suggesting Cohen had spoken to Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller about prank calls he made at the same time received. . Cohen responded that he could have discussed both issues during the conversation.

Blanche also showed a January 2017 email from the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer asking Cohen to “prepare the agreement we discussed so we can pay you monthly” after Cohen claimed the repayment plan was secret and was never put into writing.

While the email can be read as confirmation that Trump and Allen Weisselberg, then the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, were involved in the scheme, it also raised new questions about Cohen’s design of the scheme.

I believed Trump when we didn’t hear from him

Despite saying he “absolutely” planned to testify, Trump ultimately did not. Instead, he sat largely silent at the defense table as smears and accusations flew around the courtroom and lawyers dredged up vivid stories of infidelity, theft and deceit.

Trump hit back at reports that he was seen sleeping in court, claiming he was simply resting his “beautiful blue eyes” while listening “intensely” to the proceedings to “take it all in better!!!”

Early in the trial, tabloid impresario David Pecker explained how he helped “capture and kill” damaging stories about Trump, a plan Pecker said was devised with Trump and Cohen during a Trump Tower meeting when Trump, his old friend, made a presidential bid.

But Pecker didn’t want to pay for Daniels’ story, and he advised Cohen to do so, leading to a scramble to find the money for a deal that Cohen said secured Trump’s signature. Prosecutors say the scheme was in service of a scheme to defraud American voters by interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

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“No, ma’am,” Cohen told prosecutors when asked if he ever paid for Daniels’ non-disclosure agreement himself.

Daniels also told the court that Cohen wanted to delay the payment until after the election, when the story no longer mattered.

Lawyers for Trump tried to portray Daniels’ demands as an attempt at extortion.

Whether the jury believes Cohen was motivated by revenge or Daniels by profit, as the defense claimed, should be of no consequence.

Cohen did not provide testimony to link Trump to the crime of avoiding campaign disclosures, and he was the only witness who said Trump personally discussed the refund.

How the two sides argue

Prosecutors will present their closing arguments on Tuesday, seeking to convince the jury that Trump was guilty of covering up business documents with the intent to commit another crime and that he tried to conceal the commission of that crime.

The facts about who paid whom and when are not in dispute, as nearly a dozen checks signed by Trump to Cohen have been entered into evidence. Trump denies there is anything false about the payments — not that they occurred.

The burden on Trump’s lawyers is lower. The defense will have to create doubt in the minds of jurors that while Trump made the payments, the claim that he orchestrated a broader scheme to influence the election has not been proven.

The indictment alleges that eleven checks were issued from the Trump Revocable Trust and Trump’s personal bank account “for a false purpose” and that these, along with falsified ledger records and invoices, formed the basis of a scheme to make a secret payment of $130,000 to “hide” from Cohen.

“Each check was processed by the Trump Organization and illegally disguised as payment for legal services provided under a non-existent retainer agreement,” Bragg’s office said.

After the defense’s closing arguments, State Judge Juan Merchan will instruct the jury on how to interpret the evidence and the law.

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Court of public opinion

Defense witness Robert Costello delivered the final blow to Cohen’s credibility from the defense, telling the court that Cohen had repeatedly told him, “I have nothing on Donald Trump.” Cohen told him that “he did this on his own,” Costello testified. Cohen said that was because he didn’t trust Costello.

As he grumbled and grumbled in the stands and snorted “jeez” amid a sustained objection, Costello tested Merchan’s patience. “Are you staring at me now?” Merchan warned before temporarily ordering the courtroom to be cleared.

At that point, Trump’s allies were given fodder to suggest that Merchan was acting unfairly toward him. Merchan “showed his bias at that moment,” claimed law professor Alan Dershowitz, who backed Trump last week.

It didn’t matter that Costello, under heated cross-examination, cringed when presented with emails and documents proving his denials were false, including Cohen’s claim that Costello had offered a so-called back channel to Trump because he was in possible legal jeopardy had to deal with.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger produced an email in which Costello wrote to his law partner about the need to get Cohen “on the right page without giving him the appearance that we are taking instructions from Giuliani or the President,” a reference to former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

For Trump, who has never taken the stand himself, Costello offered the defense an opportunity to have Cohen’s story questioned by someone who had heard his claims to the contrary at the time.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has accused Bragg of conducting a politically motivated “witch hunt” and Cohen, as an embittered ex-employee, who wants to attack him at all costs.

To get that message across, Trump has relied on a parade of allies and surrogates — from the Speaker of the House of Representatives to potential vice presidential running mates — to carry out attacks he is barred from carrying out under a gag order. One group recorded a campaign ad from the courthouse.

Trump has also continued to talk to reporters in front of cameras outside the courtroom, and he has launched dozens of fundraising missions during the trial.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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