Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Hugo Lowell

Trump lawyer gives jurors reasons to acquit – key takeaways from the closing arguments

Trump with his lawyer Todd Blanche in court on Tuesday
Donald Trump with his lawyer Todd Blanche in court on Tuesday. Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Donald Trump’s lawyer on Tuesday spent two hours focused on three key attacks against the Manhattan district attorney’s case that the former president falsified business records with an intent to commit a second crime – of covering up an illegal federal campaign finance violation.

Lawyer Todd Blanche presented at the end of his closing argument “10 reasons why” there was reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case and the jury should acquit Trump. It in effect came down to a handful of principal lines of argument:

Trump did not create the fake invoices and records; Michael Cohen did

Blanche pointed out that the 11 invoices each seeking $35,000 – which prosecutors have said was part of a scheme to reimburse Cohen for paying the hush money to the adult film star Stormy Daniels – were created by Cohen; Trump had no part in creating the invoices.

The invoices, which purported to seek payment for a legal retainer, were the basis for the Trump Organization to enter “legal expenses” in its business records, Blanche said. The multi-data system software had a dropdown menu, and Trump Organization staff used that dropdown.

Trump did not willfully violate federal campaign finance laws

Blanche then argued Trump could not have possibly conspired to influence the 2016 election in violation of New York state laws, because the law would require Trump to know he was using an “unlawful means” to influence the election.

The prosecution would suggest, Blanche posited, that the $130,000 hush money to Daniels exceeded federal campaign contribution limits. But Blanche argued there was no evidence to suggest Trump knew the payment would be an illegal contribution to his campaign, and knew he needed to cover it up.

The case rests on Cohen, who lies about everything

Blanche spent the bulk of his time attacking Cohen’s credibility, noting Cohen had lied to both houses of Congress, federal judges, the US justice department, and in this trial, essentially making him the “Gloat” – or, the “greatest liar of all time”.

The implication was that none of Cohen’s testimony could be credited because he lied with abandon. Cohen’s personal and financial wellbeing was motivated in this case, Blanche said, and Cohen had an axe to grind.

The trouble for Trump is that the lead prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass, had rebuttals for all three of Blanche’s attacks at the start of his closing arguments, before he got into his summation proper.

Trump did not create the invoices, but ‘caused’ them to be created

Steinglass pointed out that New York state law only required prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump helped “cause” Cohen or others to make false records. Steinglass suggested Cohen was carrying out an illicit repayment scheme that Trump concocted.

Trump’s unlawful means were to pay to kill negative stories

Steinglass then argued there was evidence of “unlawful means” – which occurred the moment “money changed hands” for the benefit of the Trump 2016 campaign in excess of federal campaign contribution limits, which are set at $2,700 per election per person.

Whether the jury actually proceeds on that notion remains to be seen. The presiding judge, Juan Merchan, has not yet ruled on what standard jurors have to use to decide whether Trump used an unlawful method to influence the 2016 election.

Attacks on Cohen’s credibility were inconsistent

The defense claimed that Cohen lied to Congress – but that’s kind of rich, Steinglass said, since Cohen lied to Congress at Trump’s behest about the number of times Trump had interacted with Russia, and Cohen got no benefit apart from staying in Trump’s good graces.

The defense also claimed Cohen stole $60,000 from the Trump Organization, when he billed Trump for $50,000 in order to reimburse a $20,000 cost to an IT company, because the $30,000 was doubled up in the repayment scheme.

Steinglass argued Blanche could not have it both ways – either Cohen was a thief, or he was reimbursed for hush money.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.