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Here’s what to expect in the closing arguments of the Trump hush money trial

How will lawyers approach the demand letters on Tuesday in the landmark case of People v. Donald Trump?

There is reason to think the state will urge jurors to use their common sense and focus on the story that several witnesses have corroborated. The defense, meanwhile, may have no choice but to sow as much confusion as possible, with its best chance being to sow doubt about the relatively complicated nature of the legal charges.

While anything could happen in court, the state has already provided a preview of what it will likely argue. When prosecutor Matthew Colangelo made his opening statement last month, he told jurors:

The prosecutor explained:

Clearly, we expect Steinglass to guide the jury himself through the allegedly forged documents, which relate to former Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s compensation for paying hush money to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. But to prove the crime charges, the state must unanimously convince the jury that Trump not only caused its forgery, but that he did so with the intent to defraud, including the intent to commit another crime commit or conceal. (Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied having sex with Daniels.)

Legally, this means you have to jump through a number of hoops. The main “other crime” cited by the prosecutor is a state crime that prohibits conspiracy to promote or prevent the election of a public official by “unlawful means.” This raises the question of what the ‘illegal means’ are. This may include federal campaign finance violations of the kind to which Cohen pleaded guilty, including in connection with the hush-money scheme at the center of this state case. (The jury cannot legally infer from Cohen’s guilt that Trump, who has never been federally charged, is therefore guilty.)

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These somewhat sophisticated charges could become impractical in the hands of inexperienced prosecutors. But the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has simplified the story that Trump covered up an election conspiracy with false documents. In addition to the documents, the state relies not only on testimony from Cohen – certainly a key witness – but also on witnesses who are friendlier to Trump, such as tabloid publisher David Pecker, who testified about the catch-and-kill plan before the election. 2016 election, and former Trump aide Hope Hicks, who said she didn’t believe her boss when he told her Cohen paid Daniels out of the goodness of his heart.

Steinglass will likely remind jurors that the case is not about whether Cohen is a good guy — and that some of the ways in which Cohen is not a model citizen actually demonstrate Trump’s guilt, as in the Hicks example. Whatever Cohen’s anti-Trump bias, it’s harder to believe there’s a conspiracy against the defendant when testimony from Trump’s allies — even his own words from his books — lines up with the documents to prove it to support the state’s narrative.

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There is no one smoking gun, but there is also no legal obligation to do so. That’s where common sense and affirmation come into play.

Interestingly, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche also invoked common sense in his opening, telling jurors, “Use your common sense. We are New Yorkers. That’s why we’re here.” The problem is that the defense did not try this case in a purely logical manner. Trump’s lawyers have disputed things they didn’t need to — like whether Trump had sex with Daniels — and they put a witness in the Robert Costello case whose testimony, both in terms of what he said and how he said it , possibly was more useful to the prosecutor.

That doesn’t make this a slam-dunk case for prosecutors. It is always dangerous to guess what a jury will do (hence why I wrote that the case could be won or lost in jury selection). And no matter how persuasively the state has made the case, and no matter how blunder the defense has sometimes been, it is still the state’s burden to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Ultimately, that may be the defense’s best case. Trump’s lawyers don’t have to provide a compelling counternarrative about what happened — though that might have been helpful — because they can simply argue that the prosecution failed to prove its case. While they may have lost credibility in the way they conducted Trump’s defense, their best hope may lie in portraying this entire case as too legally complex to prove beyond a reasonable doubt (hence why I wrote that the way the judge instructing the jury about the law will also be crucial).

Trump has good lawyers. But their apparent blunders may be at least partly due to their client’s insistence that they do things a certain way. The success of the summons presented on his behalf may depend in part on the extent to which Trump is involved in this final phase of the process – and the extent to which he leaves his fate to the professionals.

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This article was originally published on MSNBC.com

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