Trump defense attorney attacks hush money case as ‘lies’

Trump to meet former Japanese prime minister in New York
Source: Video Screenshot

Defense lawyers in Donald Trump’s hush money trial made their final pitch to the jury on Tuesday, insisting the first ever criminal prosecution of a former US president was based on “lies.”

Less than six months before American voters choose whether to return Trump to the White House, the stakes riding on the verdict are hard to overstate — for the 77-year-old personally, but also for the country.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records to reimburse his lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, when her account of a 2006 sexual encounter could have doomed his 2016 presidential campaign.

“This is a very dangerous day for America,” Trump told reporters before entering the Manhattan courtroom as three of his five children — Don Jr, Eric and Tiffany — stood behind him. “We have a rigged court case that should have never been brought.”

“President Trump is innocent,” his defense attorney Todd Blanche told the jury at the start of what he said would be about two-and-a-half hours of closing arguments.

“The consequences of the lack of proof you have heard over the last five weeks is simple — it’s a not guilty verdict,” Blanche said.

He attacked Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness, as a liar.

“He told you a number of things on that witness stand that were lies, pure and simple,” Blanche said. “You cannot convict president Trump of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt on the word of Michael Cohen.”

Then-president Trump was “busy running the country” when the reimbursements were made to Cohen,” he said, and he did not inspect all the invoices that came across his desk.

“There was no intent to defraud and beyond that there was no conspiracy to influence the 2016 election by president Trump,” Blanche said. “He did not commit any crimes.”

Trump had a grave look on his face as his lawyer spoke, his head titled to the side studying the jurors. He gave a thumbs-up as he left the courtroom during a break but did not address reporters.

– Graphic testimony –

Prosecutors will get the last word. They will lay out the case that Trump falsified records to keep the hush money payment secret amid fear that the episode could sink his already rocky outsider’s bid to defeat Hillary Clinton.

The 12 jurors — whose identities have been kept secret for their protection — will start deliberations as early as Wednesday.

Polls show Trump neck and neck against President Joe Biden in the White House race and the verdict will inject new tension into an already bitter contest.

Speaking on behalf of the Biden campaign outside court, actor Robert De Niro berated Trump as a “clown” and “grubby real estate developer” intent on destroying the country.

Trump is the first former or sitting president under criminal indictment, with charges ranging from the relatively minor hush money case to accusations that he took top secret documents and tried to overthrow the 2020 election.

The New York case, which featured more than 20 witnesses over five weeks, is the only one likely to have come to trial by election day on November 5.

If convicted, Trump faces up to four years in prison on each of 34 counts, but legal experts say that as a first-time offender he is unlikely to get jail time.

Trump would almost certainly appeal and a conviction would not bar him from appearing on the ballot in November.

Trump chose not to testify in his defense — a move that would have exposed him to damaging cross-examination.

Instead, he was forced to listen silently while Daniels recounted their alleged tryst and his once close personal attorney and fixer Cohen took the stand.

– Unanimity required –

Trump has used his daily trips to court to stage televised tirades against “corrupt” Judge Juan Merchan, and to claim the trial is a Democratic ploy to keep him off the campaign trail.

A number of Republican Trump loyalists, including several vying to be his vice president, have made the trek to the courtroom to sit behind him.

The judge has said he expects closing arguments to take up all of Tuesday. He will then give final instructions to the jury on how to interpret the law.

To return a guilty or not guilty verdict requires unanimity. Just one holdout means a hung jury and a mistrial, although prosecutors could seek a new trial.

In addition to the New York case, Trump has been indicted in Washington and Georgia on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

He also faces charges in Florida of hoarding huge quantities of classified documents after leaving the White House.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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