Donald Trump's Trial Enters Final Phase with High Stakes

Trump’s Trial Reaches Dramatic Conclusion

by Faruk Imamovic
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Donald Trump's Trial Enters Final Phase with High Stakes
© Getty Images/Jared C. Tilton

The trial of Donald Trump has reached its climactic stage, with lawyers on both sides prepared to deliver their final arguments before the jury. This trial, which began over a month ago, holds historic significance as it may result in Trump becoming the first former president to be convicted of a crime. The charges revolve around allegations that Trump falsified financial records to conceal a hush money payment to an adult film star in 2016.

The outcome of this trial is expected to have profound implications, extending beyond the courtroom and affecting Trump's political ambitions. With the possibility of Trump reclaiming the White House, the stakes are particularly high. Notably, this is likely to be the only one of the four pending criminal trials to reach a jury before the November election.

On the eve of the trial's conclusion, Trump displayed his characteristic defiance, labeling his opponents as “Human Scum” in a Memorial Day message on social media.

Defense Strategy Centers on Discrediting Key Witness

Trump’s legal team, led by Todd Blanche, aims to prevent a conviction that would tarnish Trump's reputation. Blanche is expected to focus on undermining the credibility of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and a central figure in the case. Cohen, who has turned against Trump, faced intense cross-examination and admitted to lying under oath. The defense will question why other crucial figures from Trump's business and personal circles were not called to testify by the prosecution.

Joshua Steinglass, representing the prosecution, will counter Blanche's arguments by guiding the jury through the substantial evidence presented during the trial. This includes text messages, phone logs, testimonies from other witnesses, and the 34 allegedly falsified documents that support Cohen’s narrative. The prosecution will argue that Trump orchestrated a scheme to conceal damaging information from voters, thus interfering with the 2016 election.

Potential Political Repercussions

Trump has consistently denied any wrongdoing, claiming he never had an affair with Stormy Daniels and pleading not guilty to the charges. His defense team doesn't need to convince the entire jury of his innocence; a single juror’s dissent is sufficient to prevent a unanimous guilty verdict. This strategy was evident as the defense called only two witnesses and argued that the prosecution failed to prove criminal intent.

A hung jury, resulting in a mistrial, could still serve Trump’s political objectives, allowing him to portray himself as a victim of a politically motivated prosecution. This narrative could be leveraged in his campaign to regain the presidency.

Donald Trumps Trial Enters Final Phase with High Stakes
Donald Trumps Trial Enters Final Phase with High Stakes© Getty Images
 

Cohen's Credibility Under Scrutiny

Throughout the trial, Blanche argued that Cohen’s testimony was too conflicted to be credible, suggesting that the case should not even go to the jury. He emphasized that Cohen admitted to lying under oath, which could lead to a conviction if the jury accepts his testimony.

Closing arguments are crucial as they allow lawyers to summarize complex evidence and highlight the trial's stakes. The jury must determine if New York state prosecutors have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump falsified business records with the intent to commit another crime related to the 2016 election.

Former Manhattan prosecutor Jeremy Saland explained that the jury’s view of Cohen’s character is less important than the truthfulness of his testimony. “Whether you like Michael Cohen, whether you’d want him to date your sister, whether you’d want (him) to be your brother-in-law … you don’t have to like the guy. This is not a likability contest. (Was he) truthful in that moment in time? Was he honest and credible?”

Building the Case Against Trump

The prosecution has meticulously constructed a case to pre-empt attacks on Cohen’s credibility. This involved weeks of testimony from various witnesses, supported by emails, bank records, phone calls, and other documents that suggested a conspiracy to hide the hush money payment.

Key testimonies included that of former tabloid publisher David Pecker, who highlighted Trump’s history of suppressing embarrassing stories. Evidence from former Trump associates, such as Hope Hicks, aimed to show that Trump’s motivation was to prevent voters from forming a negative opinion of him, rather than simply avoiding personal embarrassment.

The prosecution also established a paper trail indicating that Cohen acted on Trump’s orders to pay Daniels and that Trump was involved in manipulating financial records to reimburse Cohen during his presidency.

Trump Faces Another Personal Test

The final arguments present another significant test for Trump, whose attacks on witnesses have previously led to warnings from Judge Juan Merchan. While he has avoided further violations of the gag order, Trump has continued to criticize the judge, prosecutors, and the Justice Department, claiming the trial is part of a broader conspiracy by President Joe Biden to undermine him before the election.

Trump's doubts about receiving a fair trial from the 12 New Yorkers judging him have been echoed by his Republican supporters, including House Speaker Mike Johnson. This level of defiance is extraordinary for any defendant, especially one aspiring to return as the nation's president.

The trial’s outcome, expected just months before the election, may not drastically shift public opinion, which remains deeply polarized. However, some polls suggest that a conviction could hurt Trump in a closely contested election against Biden. Conversely, Trump could use an acquittal or a mistrial to claim vindication and strengthen his narrative of being targeted by a politically motivated justice system.

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