Trump’s historic closing arguments will be a ‘tale of 2 cases’

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the end of the day alongside his attorney Todd Blanche during his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, New York, on May 21, 2024. Michael M. Santiago/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The New York jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial is returning to court after a weeklong hiatus for closing arguments that will set the stage for historic deliberations.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers today will give dueling takes on the evidence and testimony presented over nearly five weeks. The jurors, who are expected to get the case as soon as Wednesday, could reach a verdict in a matter of days.


Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 payment to an adult film star on the eve of the 2016 election to keep her quiet about an alleged affair. The case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg may hinge on whether jurors believe Trump had an intent to defraud as well as conceal other crimes, namely election law and tax violations.

While the false-records charges are “simple and easy to understand,” turning those misdemeanors into felonies using New York election law along with other legal theories is more complicated, said Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor.

The defense’s closing argument will cast the issue as “muddled, confusing, and full of reasonable doubt,” Rodgers said, while prosecutors “will want to cast their enhancement theory as easy to understand and well supported by overwhelming evidence.”

“It will be a tale of two cases, for sure.”

The case is one of four criminal prosecutions Trump is facing as he campaigns to return to the White House, including state and federal charges over his failed attempt to overturn the result of the 2020 election. The presumptive Republican nominee has denied wrongdoing in all the cases, claiming without evidence that they’re part of a coordinated conspiracy against him by Democrats.

The defense and prosecution in the hush money trial rested their cases early last week, but Justice Juan Merchan delayed closing arguments so they would not be split from deliberations by the holiday weekend and previously scheduled days off.

Merchan has said closing arguments are expected to last all day Tuesday and could bleed into Wednesday. The judge must also give jurors so-called charging instructions to explain the law and aid their deliberations. Merchan told jurors they’ll start deliberating “hopefully, at some point on Wednesday.”

Closing arguments are important for prosecutors because a small number of witnesses “may have overshadowed the rest of the evidence,” according to Rodgers. She said the government must “re-acquaint jurors with all of the evidence in the case, not just the unforgettable moments.”

Prosecutors, who have the burden of proof, will argue that their case was overwhelmingly supported by multiple witnesses along with a trove of emails, text messages, business records and other pieces of evidence.

Bragg’s team relied heavily on its star witness, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who made the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels — the adult film actress — and was allegedly reimbursed by Trump in monthly installments throughout 2017.

Cohen gave jurors a first-hand account of every stage of the alleged hush money scheme, from its inception at a 2015 Trump Tower meeting to efforts to deceive the press and federal election regulators when news of the scheme leaked out three years later.

Much of Cohen’s testimony was backed by other witnesses or documents. Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified he met with Trump and Cohen at Trump Tower in 2015 to discuss how he could use his tabloid to help Trump win the White House.

Hope Hicks, Trump’s former campaign press secretary, testified about how the Daniels story was seen as an existential threat to Trump’s campaign on the eve of the election. She said Trump was less bothered when the story eventually came out in 2018 because he’d already won, bolstering Bragg’s charge that the payouts were intended to help Trump win the election.

One person who didn’t testify was Trump, but his team, led by Todd Blanche, will seek to sow doubt in the mind of at least one juror.

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