Jury to Deliberate in Unprecedented Donald Trump Criminal Case

Defense and Prosecution Make Their Case in Trump Hush-Money Trial

by Faruk Imamovic
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Jury to Deliberate in Unprecedented Donald Trump Criminal Case
© Getty Images/David Dee Delgado

Accused of unlawfully covering up hush-money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. As the jury prepares to deliberate, the nation watches, anticipating a verdict that could mark a significant moment in American history.

The Defense's Stance

Trump's defense lawyer, Todd Blanche, was the first to address the jury during the closing arguments. His summation, which stretched nearly three hours, covered a wide range of topics from tax filings to the mechanics of modern political campaigns. Blanche aimed to dismantle the prosecution's portrayal of a scheme involving Trump, his former lawyer Michael Cohen, and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker to suppress negative news stories during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Blanche argued that the actions taken were merely standard campaign practices. “It doesn’t matter if there’s a conspiracy to win an election,” he stated. “Every campaign in this country is a conspiracy to promote a candidate, a group of people who are working together to help somebody win.”

He further challenged the relevance of Daniels's testimony, which he suggested was designed to evoke sympathy rather than shed light on the charges. Cohen, whom he depicted as a "serial liar" and "the human embodiment of reasonable doubt," was another focal point of his argument. Blanche's final appeal to the jury was to separate their personal feelings about Trump from the legal issues at hand. “This is not a referendum on the ballot box,” he emphasized, urging jurors to consider the evidence objectively.

Blanche also highlighted the inconsistencies in Cohen's statements, questioning his credibility as a key witness. He suggested that Cohen's testimony was driven by a personal vendetta against Trump and not grounded in factual evidence. By casting doubt on Cohen's reliability, Blanche aimed to weaken the prosecution's case and introduce reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors.

The Prosecution's Case

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass countered with an equally lengthy closing argument, meticulously outlining a series of events that he argued demonstrated a deliberate attempt by Trump to "manipulate and defraud the voters." Steinglass revisited other "catch-and-kill" schemes associated with Trump, including efforts by the National Enquirer to purchase and suppress stories of alleged affairs and other potentially damaging claims.

Steinglass acknowledged Cohen's flaws but emphasized his unique insight into Trump's operations. “This case is not about whether you like Michael Cohen,” he told the jury. “It’s whether he has useful, reliable information to give you about what went down in this case.”

The prosecution sought to dismantle the defense’s argument that the hush-money payments were aimed at protecting Trump’s family from embarrassment rather than influencing the election. Steinglass pointed out that the payment to Daniels was made in 2016, a decade after the alleged affair, questioning why it was handled during an election year if it was merely a personal matter.

Closing Arguments Begin In Former President Donald Trumps Hush Money Trial
Closing Arguments Begin In Former President Donald Trumps Hush Money Trial© Getty Images
 

He also addressed the defense's characterization of the payments as "legal expenses," referencing a social media statement from Trump about a "reimbursement" to Cohen, suggesting it contradicted the claim of legal fees. Steinglass concluded his argument just shy of 8 PM, leaving the jury with a detailed narrative of events aimed at proving Trump's intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Steinglass further illustrated how the alleged "catch-and-kill" tactics were not isolated incidents but part of a broader pattern of behavior aimed at shielding Trump from negative publicity. He detailed the mechanisms through which these payments were made, emphasizing the coordinated effort between Trump, Cohen, and Pecker to influence the election outcome by silencing potentially damaging stories.

The Media Circus and Celebrity Spotlight

The trial has not only drawn legal scrutiny but also significant media attention, with a host of political figures and celebrities making appearances outside the Manhattan Criminal Court. High-profile supporters of Trump, such as Senator Rick Scott and Representative Matt Gaetz, have voiced their backing for the former president.

In a notable twist, actor Robert De Niro, a prominent critic of Trump, appeared on behalf of President Joe Biden's campaign. De Niro, accompanied by two former police officers who witnessed the January 6 Capitol riot, spoke passionately about the potential consequences of a Trump re-election. “If Trump returns to the White House, you can kiss these freedoms goodbye that we all take for granted,” De Niro warned.

De Niro's presence added a layer of celebrity intrigue to the proceedings, drawing further media attention and highlighting the high stakes of the trial. His comments underscored the broader political implications of the case, framing it not just as a legal battle but as a fight for the future direction of the country.

Awaiting the Verdict

As the trial nears its conclusion, Judge Juan Merchan will provide the jury with specific legal instructions before they retire to deliberate. The jurors will review the evidence and must reach a unanimous decision for a verdict to be rendered. If they cannot agree, a mistrial will be declared.

The jury's decision will be a landmark moment, potentially convicting a former US president of a crime for the first time in history. Should Trump be found guilty, sentencing will follow, although experts suggest he is more likely to face penalties such as fines, probation, or community service rather than prison time.

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