Criminal trial of Donald Trump | The jury will begin its deliberations

(New York) Jurors in Donald Trump’s concealed payments trial are expected to begin deliberations Wednesday after receiving instructions from the judge on the law and the factors they may consider as they seek to reach to a verdict in the first criminal case against a former US president.


Posted at 8:22 a.m.

Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Eric Tucker and Jill Colvin

Associated Press

The deliberations follow a marathon day of arguments during which a Manhattan prosecutor accused Mr. Trump of trying to “deceive” voters in the 2016 presidential election by engaging in a money scheme secret intended to cover up embarrassing stories that could have torpedoed his campaign.

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

Donald Trump’s lawyer, on the other hand, called the prosecution’s star witness “the biggest liar of all time,” proclaiming his client innocent of all charges and pressuring the jury for a blanket acquittal.

The lawyers’ closing arguments, widely divergent in their assessments of the witnesses’ credibility, Mr. Trump’s guilt and the strength of the evidence, represented the last chance for both sides to score points with the jury, as he is preparing to embark on the momentous and historically unprecedented task of deciding whether to convict the presumptive Republican presidential nominee before the November election.

Mr. Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records, charges punishable by up to four years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing. It is difficult to know at this time whether prosecutors would seek a prison sentence in the event of conviction or whether the judge would impose this sentence.

Jurors will have the option to find Donald Trump guilty on all counts, acquit him of all counts, or return a mixed verdict in which he would be found guilty of some counts and not others. ‘others.

If they reach an impasse after several days of deliberations and fail to reach a unanimous verdict, Judge Juan M. Merchan could declare a mistrial.

The credibility of witnesses undermined

The lawsuit contained allegations that Donald Trump and his allies conspired to cover up potentially embarrassing stories during the 2016 presidential campaign by paying hush money, including to a pornographic actress who claimed she and Mr. Trump had had sex a decade earlier.

The former president’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, told jurors that neither actress Stormy Daniels nor Donald Trump’s lawyer who paid her, Michael Cohen, could be trusted.

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PHOTO CHARLY TRIBALLEAU, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVES

Stormy Daniels

“President Trump is innocent. He did not commit any crime and the prosecutor did not assume the burden of proof, period,” Mr. Blanche ruled.

Joshua Steinglass sought to address jurors’ potential concerns about witness credibility. Mr. Trump, for example, claimed that he and Stormy Daniels never had sex and attacked Mr. Cohen repeatedly as a liar.

The prosecutor acknowledged that Stormy Daniels’ account of the alleged 2006 encounter in a Lake Tahoe hotel suite was at times “embarrassing,” but he pointed out that the details she provided – including about the decor and about what she says she saw when she rummaged through Mr. Trump’s toiletry bag — were full of references “that ring true.”

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

“His story is complicated. Hearing it makes people uncomfortable. Some of you are uncomfortable hearing it. But that’s kind of the problem,” Mr. Steinglass said. He told jurors: “Simply put, Stormy Daniels is the motive. »

This story unfolded against the backdrop of the disclosure of a recording of the show Access Hollywood from 2005, in which Donald Trump could be heard boasting about having sexually touched women without their consent. If Stormy Daniels’ story had come to light following the recording, it would have undermined his strategy of reinterpreting his words, Mr. Steinglass suggested.

Mr. Steinglass also tried to reassure jurors that the prosecution’s case did not rest solely on Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer and personal matchmaker who paid Stormy Daniels US$130,000 to she is silent. Mr. Cohen later pleaded guilty to federal charges for his role in the secret payments, as well as lying to Congress. He had gone to prison and been disbarred, but his direct involvement in the transactions made him a key witness at trial.

“It’s not about whether you like Michael Cohen. It’s not about whether you want to go into business with Michael Cohen. “It’s a question of whether he has any useful and reliable information to give you about what happened in this case, and the truth is he knew best,” Steinglass said. .

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PHOTO JULIA NIKHINSON, ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

Michael Cohen

Although the case included sometimes sordid discussions of sex industry and tabloid practices, the actual accusations concern something far less flashy: the reimbursements that Donald Trump signed for Mr. Cohen for payments.

The reimbursements were recorded as legal fees, which prosecutors say was a fraudulent label intended to conceal the purpose of the secret transaction and illegally interfere in the 2016 election. Defense attorneys say Mr. Cohen has indeed done substantial legal work for Mr. Trump and his family.

Donald Trump denies everything

In his own hour-long closing argument to the jury, with sweeping denials echoing Donald Trump’s “deny everything” approach, Todd Blanche blasted the entire basis of the case.

He said Mr. Cohen, not Mr. Trump, created the invoices that were submitted to the Trump Organization for reimbursement and rejected the suit’s caricature that he was a detail-oriented manager.

He suggested instead that Mr. Trump was concerned about the presidency and not the checks he 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.

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