Trump ‘did not commit any crimes,’ lawyer says at hush money trial

US News

Former U.S. President Donald Trump exits Trump Tower to attend his hush money trial at Manhattan criminal court in New York City, New York, U.S., May 28, 2024.

Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

Closing arguments in the criminal hush money trial of Donald Trump began in New York on Tuesday, with jurors on track to begin deliberations in the historic case the following day.

“President Trump is innocent,” defense lawyer Todd Blanche told jurors.

“He did not commit any crimes, and the District Attorney has not met their burden of proof. Period,” Blanche said.

Blanche went first to argue to jurors that they should find the former president not guilty of falsifying business records related to reimbursements paid to his then-lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payout Cohen gave porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election.

The defense lawyer said, “You should want and expect more than the testimony of Michael Cohen” to convict Trump.

After Blanche finishes, Joshua Steinglass, a prosecutor from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office then will urge the 12-member jury to convict Trump of the 34 felony counts he faces related to the records, which labeled the Cohen reimbursements as legal expenses for work that prosecutors say never existed.

Blanche told jurors the records were not false, and there was no intent to defraud anyone by labeling the records as legal expenses.

“Cohen lied to you, Cohen lied to you,” Blanche said of Trump’s former lawyer, who testified at length about Trump directing him to pay off Daniels, and how he did little if any legal work for Trump on the heels of that payment.

“The story Mr. Cohen told you on that witness stand is not true,” Blanche said.

On his way into the courtroom, Trump blasted the trial judge, Juan Merchan, calling him “highly conflicted” and “corrupt.”

“This is a dark day in America,” Trump told reporters. “This is a very dangerous day for America. It’s a very sad day.”

Trump is the first former U.S. president ever to be tried in a criminal case. If convicted, Trump faces a possible maximum sentence of four years in prison for each felony count.

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump sits with his lawyer Todd Blanche, as his criminal trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 continues, at Manhattan state court in New York City, U.S. May 28, 2024.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

He denies Daniels’ claim that the two had sex once in 2006, months after his wife Melania gave birth to their son, Barron. Cohen’s payment to Daniels kept her from telling that story to the media at a time when she could have damaged his chances of winning the 2016 White House contest.

In his opening statement in Manhattan Supreme Court, assistant D.A. Matthew Colangelo told jurors that the hush money payment to Daniels, and the reimbursements to Cohen, amounted to “election fraud. Pure and simple.”

More news on Donald Trump

Trump spent Memorial Day on social media complaining about the case, which is just one of four criminal cases he faces as he heads to a rematch in the November election against President Joe Biden.

“Why can’t the defense go last?” Trump asked in a Truth Social post. In New York state courts, unlike many other U.S. criminal courts, defense attorneys give their closing arguments before prosecutors.

Trump also rhetorically asked his Truth Social followers “can you imagine” him facing closing arguments “on a FAKE & MADE UP CASE.”

“THERE IS NO CRIME OR CASE against President Trump, and if there was it should have been brought seven years ago, not in the middle of his Campaign for President,” he wrote.

This is developing news. Check back for updates.

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