(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City, where he is facing felony charges related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It marks the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Here’s how the news is developing:

May 28, 3:27 PM
State says McDougal payment was ‘unlawful’ campaign contribution

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass, turning to the $150,000 payment that AMI made to Playboy model Karen McDougal, described the payment as a “unlawful corporation campaign contribution.”

“This transactions amounted to an unlawful corporation campaign contribution by AMI to the Trump campaign,” Steinglass said.

“There is not a lot of room for debate here,” Steinglass said. “[Dylan] Howard is acting in cahoots with the candidate to kill the story,” he said of the National Enquirer editor.

Steinglass emphasized a phone call that then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified he had with Trump about the McDougal payment.

“With all of the evidence and documents in this case, it’s easy to lose sight of the significance of this phone call,” Steinglass said. “Trump is deputizing Cohen right in front of Pecker.”

“Any go-ahead from Cohen is a go-ahead from Trump,” Steinglass said.

Steinglass emphasized that the testimony about the phone call is significant because it demonstrates the conspiracy separate from the testimony of Michael Cohen.

“This is powerful evidence of the defendant’s involvement wholly apart from Cohen,” Steinglass said.

May 28, 3:14 PM
Prosecutor begins taking jury through timeline of case

The first hour of prosecutor Josh Steinglass’ summation sounded impromptu, as if he was extemporaneously delivering a direct response to the defense’s closing.

As his closing entered its second hour, Steinglass unveiled a slideshow and timeline to make his argument — slowing down the pace of his delivery and bringing the jury back to the first witness in the case, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

Steinglass walked the jury through the $30,000 payment American Media Inc. made to doorman Dino Sajudin for the rights to his false story about Trump having a child out of wedlock. He outlined timeline of the catch and kill, emphasizing the steps taken to ensure Sajudin did not become a problem for the campaign.

According to Steinglass, Cohen added a $1 million breach of contract penalty “just to put the fear of God into Sajudin.”

“Mr. Sajudin had been completely neutralized as a threat to the campaign,” Steinglass said about the payment.

May 28, 3:01 PM
Trump engaged in a ‘subversion of democracy,’ state says

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass argued that Trump’s catch-and-kill arrangement with the National Enquirer was a “subversion of democracy.”

Steinglass pushed back against defense attorney Todd Blanche’s argument in his closing that Trump’s agreement with Enquirer parent AMI was democracy at work. During his opening statement, Blanche said, “I have a spoiler alert. There is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy.”

“In reality, this agreement at Trump Tower was the exact opposite. It was the subversion of democracy,” Steinglass said, arguing that it was an attempt “to pull the wool over [voter’s] eyes in a coordinated fashion” and that it was meant to “manipulate and defraud the voters.”

Referenceing the Trump Tower meeting in 2015, Steinglass said, “This scheme cooked up by these men at this time, could very well be what got President Trump elected.”

“It turned out to be one of the most valuable contributions anyone ever made to Trump,” he argued.

May 28, 2:52 PM
State has presented a ‘mountain of evidence,’ prosecutor says

“It’s difficult to conceive a case with more corroboration than this one,” prosecutor Josh Steinglass told jurors. “You don’t have to think too much about this one.”

Steinglass argued that jurors have seen a “mountain of evidence.”

“This case is not about Michael Cohen. This case is about Donald Trump and whether he should be held accountable for making false entries in his own business records, whether he and his staff did that to cover up for his own election violations,” Steinglass said, describing Cohen as a tour guide through the evidence.

“The question is not whether you like Cohen or whether you want to go into business with Cohen. It’s whether he has useful, reliable information,” Steinglass said. “He was in the best position to know.”

Steinglass called the defense’s focus on Cohen “deflection — like the defendant’s own tweets”

May 28, 2:46 PM
State says Trump employed Cohen because he was willing to lie

“The defense goes on and on about Michael Cohen is immoral or a liar or a thief,” prosecutor Josh Steinglass said of the state’s star witness.

“We didn’t choose Michael Cohen to be a witness. We didn’t pick him up at witness store. The defendant chose him as a fixer because he was willing to lie and cheat,” he said, drawing a few laughs from the jury.

Steinglass then displayed a passage from one of Trump’s books to exemplify why he hired someone like Michael Cohen in the first place.

“As a matter of fact, I value loyalty above everything else — more than brains, more than drive, and more than energy,” the passage read.

May 28, 2:41 PM
Prosecutor role-plays alleged call between Cohen, Trump

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass addressed the defense allegation that Michael Cohen lied on the witness stand about an Oct. 24, 2016, phone call with Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller while Schiller was with Trump.

“Of course the defense says, ‘Ah-ha! That’s per-jur-y,’” Steinglass said, exaggerating the syllables to mimick how defense attorney Todd Blanche had said it during his closing.

“To them, that’s the big lie. But that’s not the only interpretation,” said Steinglass.

Steinglass then role-played the alleged conversation between Schiller and Cohen to suggest that Cohen could have talked to both Schiller and Trump during the 90-second call, as Cohen had testified.

“Forty-nine seconds,” Steinglass said after completing the role-play.

May 28, 2:32 PM
Cohen is ‘understandably angry,’ prosecutor says

“Michael Cohen is understandably angry that to date he’s the only one who paid the price,” prosecutor Josh Steinglass said about the state’s star witness.

“Cohen did the defendant’s bidding for years,” Steinglass said. “Anyone in Cohen’s shoes would want the defendant to be held accountable.

Regarding Cohen stealing $30,000 from the Trump Organization by submitting an inflated reimbursement request for IT expenses, Steinglass said Cohen “is the one who brought it to everyone’s attention. He raised it. He volunteered it.”

As to why he wasn’t arrested, Steinglass said, “he paid his price.”

“He’s been convicted of multiple felonies, … he can’t get a mortgage … not to mention the steady stream of online attacks,” Steinglass said.

And, Steinglass added, Cohen’s theft is not a defense to falsifying business records.

May 28, 2:25 PM
State says Trump didn’t want public to hear Daniels’ story

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass conceded that Stormy Daniels gave, at times, “cringe-worthy” testimony — but told they jury the details she provided bolster her credibility.

“To be sure, there were parts of her testimony that were cringe-worthy,” Steinglass said. “Some of the details of what the suite looked like, the contents of his toiletry bag” he said “ring true.”

He accused the defense of working hard to discredit Daniels because that’s the story Trump didn’t want the American public to see.

“Stormy Daniels is the motive,” Steinglass said. “And you can bet the defendant would not pay $130,000 … just because he took a photograph with someone on the golf course.”

May 28, 2:21 PM
Prosecutor calls Pecker’s testimony ‘devastating’

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass took aim at the defense assertion that Stormy Daniels was out to extort Donald Trump.

“Maybe you think it’s a sordid practice,” he said. “In the end it doesn’t really matter because you don’t get to commit election fraud or falsify business records because you believe you have been victimized.”

Steinglass told the jurors that many of the witnesses they heard from are Trump friends or fans.

“Pecker has no reason to lie here,” he said, speaking of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. “He still considers Donald Trump a friend and mentor, and still his testimony is utterly devastating.”

“These people like the defendant,” Steinglass said. “If anything, they have incentive to skew the testimony” in a way that will help him.

May 28, 2:16 PM
Prosecutor says they’ve presented ‘powerful evidence’

Assistant district attorney Josh Steinglass began his closing argument by quoting the People’s opening.

“This case, at its core, is about a conspiracy and a coverup, a conspiracy to corrupt the 2016 election and a coverup to hide that conspiracy,” Steinglass said.

“We asked you to remember to tune out the noise and to ignore the sideshows. And if you’ve done that … you will see the People have presented powerful evidence of the defendants guilt,” he said.

Steinglass pushed back on the defense’s suggestion that prosecutors manipulated evidence.

“There is nothing sinister here — no manipulation,” Steinglass said.

Steinglass argued that it was defense lawyers manipulated who the evidence in a phone summary chart showing calls between Michael Cohen and his onetime legal adviser Bob Costello, saying that defense lawyers were provided Cohen’s full phone extraction if they believed evidence was manipulated.

May 28, 2:08 PM
Judge consults with prosecutors on curative instruction

Following the lunch break, the parties returned to the courtroom ahead of their closing argument.

Judge Merchan began the afternoon session by asking prosecutors about the curative instruction following defense attorney Todd Blanche’s mention of prison at the end of his closing argument.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger told Merchan that Blanche’s mention of prison time was “highly improper” and a direct violation of a pretrial order about arguments related to potential punishments.

“Mr. Blanche was certainly on notice that this was an improper argument,” Hoffinger said.

Blanche did not opposed to the curative instruction about his earlier arguments. Merchan will deliver it to the jury as drafted by prosecutors.

May 28, 12:58 PM
Before break, judge slams defense for ‘prison’ remark

Before Judge Merchan recessed court for the lunch break, prosecutors took issue with defense attorney Todd Blanche saying “You cannot send someone to prison based upon the words of Michael Cohen.”

Prosecutors called Blanche’s reference to prison “ridiculous” and an effort to gain sympathy for their client.

“I think that saying that was outrageous, Mr. Blanche,” Merchan told Blanche. “It is simply not allowed, period.”

The judge said he would give the jury curative instructions.

“Its hard for me to imagine how that was accidental in any way,” Merchan said.

The parties then left the courtroom for the break. Blanche left the courtroom smiling as another member of the legal team gave him a big pat on the back.

May 28, 12:50 PM
Defense concludes by calling Cohen GLOAT for ‘greatest liar’

Finishing up his 10 reasons why he says Trump should be acquitted, defense attorney Todd Blanche listed:

– “There is no evidence of any illegal effort to influence the 2016 election,” Blanche said.

– “AMI would have run Mr. Sajudin’s story no matter what,” Blanche said. “That’s not catch and kill.”

– “McDougal did not want her story published,” Blanche said. “That’s not catch and kill.”

– Daniel’s story was “already public,” Blanche said.

– Blanche argued that key evidence was “manipulated” during the trial. He alleged that the district attorney’s office made mistakes when analyzing Cohen’s phone. “How can you trust that the September 6 recording is actually reliable? The answer is you can’t,” Blanche said.

– “Michael Cohen. He is the human embodiment of reasonable doubt,” Blanche said.

In a play on words, Blanche asked the jurors if the knew of the term GOAT — the greatest of all time. Some of them nodded.
He then said Cohen was the GLOAT, the “greatest liar of all time.”

“You cannot send someone to prison based upon the words of Michael Cohen,” Blanche said, concluding his closing statement.

May 28, 12:44 PM
Defense lists their reasons why Trump should be acquitted

Defense attorney Todd Blanche listed 10 reasons why he says the jury should have reasonable doubt about the prosecution case’s. Among them:

– “You should have real reasonable doubt is that Cohen created those invoices,” Blanche said. “They are accurate and President Trump did not have any intent to defraud.”

– “There is no proof that President Trump ever, ever saw anything that Ms. Tarasoff or Mr. McConney did,” Blanche said referring to the Trump Organization employees who processed the invoices, adding that Trump was busy running the country when he signed the associated checks.

– “There is absolutely no evidence of an intent to defraud,” Blanche said, highlighting the forms that disclosed the Cohen payment to authorities.

– Blanche argued that Trump has “absolutely no intent to unlawfully influence the 2016 election.”

May 28, 12:33 PM
Michael Cohen is ‘MVP of liars,’ defense says

Defense attorney Todd Blanche continued to argue that the jury cannot trust Cohen’s testimony as a whole based on the misstatements they highlighted.

“We happened to catch him in a lie,” Blanche said. “We put them into evidence, and now you know it happened.”

Blanche argued that the lie highlighted that Cohen didn’t care about his oath to tell the truth.

“For that we have an oath, we have an oath that every witness takes when they testify before you the jury. It matters — the oath matters to most. He lied,” Blanche said, as the jury watched attentively.

Blanche told the jury that Michael Cohen lied to his banker, his family, his wife, every single reporter he speaks to, prosecutors, and federal judges.

“He lied to you, make no mistake about it,” said Blanche.

“He’s literally like an MVP of liars,” Blanche said of Cohen.

May 28, 12:20 PM
Daniels testified to ’embarrass’ Trump, defense says

Defense attorney Todd Blanche suggested t the jury why Stormy Daniels was called as a witness, given there was no dispute about a nondisclosure agreement being signed and that she knew nothing about the records in question.

“I’ll tell you why — they did it to try to inflame your emotions. They did it to try to embarrass President Trump” Blanche said.

It drew a loud objection from prosecutors that was overruled.

Trump has disputed the sexual encounter ever happened.

May 28, 12:16 PM
Defense argues Trump was concerned about family

Defense attorney Todd Blanche says argued that Trump’s concern about the “Access Hollywood” tape was primarily related to his family, not his campaign.

“Nobody wants their family exposed to that type of story,” Blanche said. “He was concerned about his family, he was concerned about his wife.”

Prosecutors have alleged that the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape motivated Trump to buy Daniels’ story to help his political ambitions, but defense attorneys say Trump’s main concern in October 2016 — regarding both the “Access Hollywood” tape and Stormy Daniels allegations — was his family.

“It was not a doomsday event,” Blanche said of the “Access Hollywood” tape. “He never thought it was going to cause him to lose the campaign, and indeed it didn’t.”

But Blanche argued that Michael Cohen overreacted to the “Access Hollywood” story, and that Cohen created a problem for him to fix.

May 28, 12:11 PM
Defense says Daniels took advantage of ‘Access Hollywood’ tape

Advancing his argument that Trump was extorted by Stormy Daniels, defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors that Stormy Daniels and her agent Gina Rodrgiuez saw a “time to strike” after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.

“Ms. Daniels and Ms. Rodriguez seized an opportunity,” Blanche said. “They came back to Mr. Howard again and said … now it is the time to strike.”

Turning a prosecution argument on its head, Blanche argued that rather than being the catalyst for the Daniels hush payment and the eventual falsifying of business records, the “Access Hollywood” was Daniels and Rodriguez seizing an “opportunity.”

Shouting emphatically, Blanche ticked through the three alleged catch and kills in an attempt to shred prosecutors’ theory that they constituted a conspiracy to influence the election.

The doorman story was “not true,” he said. Susan McDougal didn’t want her story out. Daniels came forward after the “Access Hollywood tape” and David Pecker said, “Nah, I want nothing to do with it,’ Blanche said.

“That’s the conspiracy?!” Blanche yelled. “That’s the three catch and kills!?”

May 28, 12:01 PM
Defense seeks to discredit Stormy Daniels testimony

Resuming his closing argument following the break, defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors that Stormy Daniels lied on the witness stand about her motivation to go public with her story.

Daniels told jurors that she was worried about her safety, citing a 2011 encounter in Las Vegas where someone threatened her safety for going public about her allegations — but Blanche said she lied about the encounter to create an excuse for why she didn’t come forward earlier.

“This started off an extortion … and it ended very well for Ms. Daniels, financially speaking,” Blanche said.

Blanche also pointed out that Daniels has “repeatedly denied having sex with Trump.”

“The government wants you to believe those statements were coerced — that Ms. Daniels was either forced to sign them, or didn’t have a say … but she decided to go public after these statements supposedly because she was trying to protect herself from what she said was a threat someone made to her in a gym parking lot in 2011,” Blanche said. “But there are recordings where you know that’s just not true.”

May 28, 11:55 AM
Defense summation resumes after break

Judge Merchan returned to bench and Trump returned to the courtroom following the mid-morning break.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche told the judge he has about half an hour left before he finishes his summation.

The defense’s closing will be followed by prosecutors’ closing arguments.

Merchan said he spoke to the jurors and they are willing to work late tonight.

May 28, 11:45 AM
Robert De Niro criticizes Trump outside courthouse

The judge recessed court briefly for the mid-morning break.

Trump, exiting the courtroom, patted his daughter Tiffany as he passed her and she gave him a big smile.

Meanwhile, outside the courthouse this morning, actor Robert De Niro and two former Capitol police officers slammed Trump at a campaign news conference for President Joe Biden.

De Niro, a lower Manhattan resident, was accompanied by former Capitol police officers Michael Fanone and Harry Dunn, both of whom were working at the U.S. Capitol on Jan, 6, 2021.

May 28, 11:33 AM
Defense calls Stormy Daniels payment extortion

Defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors that while both Trump and Stormy Daniels denied the affair, the allegations came back in 2016 so Daniels and others could extort Trump.

“There were a group of people that wanted to take advantage of a situation and ultimately wanted to extort money from President Trump,” Blanche said.

Blanche argued that Daniels’ claim of a sexual tryst with Trump was known in 2011, so the hush payment could not have been meant to influence an election five years later.

“The idea that when Ms. Daniels surfaced in 2016 that it caused some sort of panic amongst everybody is not true. It’s just not true,” Blanche said.

Blanche hesitantly used the word extortion in his opening statement to describe the Daniels payment — calling it “almost an attempt … to extort” — but the defense appears to have leaned into the argument in their closing.

Blanche also suggested that Trump may not have known about the Daniels payment at the time, telling jurors they only have Michael Cohen to rely on for that evidence.

“There’s no way that you can find that President Trump knew about this payment at the time it was made without believing Michael Cohen. Period,” Blanche said. “And you cannot believe his words.”

May 28, 11:27 AM
Defense says Cohen lied about Trump wanting to repay in cash

Continuing with his attack on Michael Cohen’s recording of the 2016 meeting with Trump, defense attorney Todd Blanche cast doubt on Cohen’s contention that Trump was going to repay AMI for the Karen McDougal payment in cash — meaning bills.

“Cash just means no financing,” Blanche said. “It doesn’t mean you are going into the closing with a duffel bag full of green.”

According to Blanche, Cohen tried to mislead the jury by suggesting Trump wanted to pay in cash.

“That was Mr. Cohen lying to you, painting a picture that fits his narrative, not the truth,” Blanche said.

“There’s no scenario under which there has been any testimony at this trial that Mr. Trump was going to walk around with a duffel bag full of $150,000 in cash.”

Addressing why the recording cut off, Blanche said when Trump says “check” it was the beginning of a new sentence — not about writing a check — before it cuts off.

“It’s clearly talking about a beginning of a sentence that we will never know,” Blanche said.

May 28, 11:19 AM
Defense casts doubt on Cohen’s recording of Trump

“So you have a lawyer recording his client,” defense attorney Todd Blanche said of Michael Cohen’s 2016 recording of a meeting with Trump.

“There is a lot of dispute about that recording. A lot,” Blanche said. “The government has not shown you that that evidence is reliable.”

Blanche again played the recording for the jury.

Blanche said Trump never said the words “150” about McDougal in the call, disputing what the transcript prosecutors made says.

“Listen to the recording, see if you hear 150,” Blanche said. “There is a lot of doubt that it discussed Karen McDougal.”

“What did you just hear? ‘Transfer of all the stuff’,” Blanche said, saying that was actually about a box of stuff related to Trump that was at the National Enquirer offices.

Trump, at the defense table, appears fully engaged, with one arm propped on the back of his chair, looking directly at Blanche’s back.

May 28, 11:10 AM
Defense argues that McDougal payment wasn’t catch and kill

Moving on to the arrangement with Playboy model Karen McDougal, defense attorney Todd Blanche argued there was no catch and kill at all.

“What is clear from what you heard … this was not a catch and kill either,” Blanche said. “Karen McDougal did not want her story published,” Blanche said, saying she wanted to kickstart her career. “How is that a catch and kill? It’s not.”

“To be clear, it was not Mrs. McDougal’s intention to publish her story,” Blanche said, seeking to undercut prosecutors’ theory this was an ongoing conspiracy to influence the election.

“There was never any risk that her allegations would influence the election because she didn’t want her allegations published,” Blanche said.

May 28, 11:03 AM
‘Nothing usual about catching and killing,’ defense says

Defense attorney Todd Blanche says turned his attention to the three alleged catch-and-kill schemes cited by prosecutors, telling the jury that such arrangements were a normal industry practice and not illegal.

“There is nothing unusual … about catching and killing,” Blanche said.

He started with Dino Sajudin, the Trump Organization doorman who made unfounded claims about a love-child Trump supposedly fathered. Blanche called it “literally a made-up story.”

Blanche used National Enquirer publisher David Pecker’s initial desire to publish the story to undercut the idea of a conspiracy.

“The government wants you to believe that in Aaugust 2015 there was a super conspiratorial criminal meeting, where Mr. Pecker is going to criminally help Trump, and the first opportunity, he says, Oh no, I’m publishing this,” Blanche said.

“What kind of a conspiracy is that?!” Blanche asked.

May 28, 10:52 AM
Defense says National Enquirer followed ‘standard procedure’

Defense attorney Todd Blanche highlighted that American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, normally helped campaigns with suppressing negative information.

“This is the same thing AMI had been doing for decades,” Blanche said. “They had been doing it for President Trump since the 90s.”

“Nothing criminal about it — it’s done all the time,” Blanche said.

Blanche added that AMI worked with Rahm Emanuel and Arnold Schwarzenegger during their campaigns and that published David Pecker thought his arrangement with Trump was “good business.”

“There is zero criminal intent in that 2015 meeting,” Cohen said about the Trump Tower meeting where prosecutors argued that the conspiracy originated.

Blanche calls the idea that “sophisticated people” like Trump and Pecker “believed positive stories in the National Enquirer could influence the 2016 election is preposterous.”

Blanche highlighted the limited circulation of the National Enquirer — about 350,000 at the time of the alleged scheme — prevented the publication from having a meaningful impact on voters.

May 28, 10:44 AM
Defense says there was no ‘tight conspiracy’

Defense attorney Todd Blanche sought to undermine a key moment in the state’s story of the case — the White House meeting in February 2017, in which Cohen said he and Trump discussed the plan to repay him.

Blanche showed jurors an email in which Cohen asked a Trump Organization employee to remind him what the agreed-upon monthly sum would be, which was sent less than a week after the meeting.

Blanche said the email demonstrated that there was no discussion of an agreement — no “tight conspiracy.”

“Six days later Cohen doesn’t even know how much he’s supposed to be paid,’ Blanche said.

He also argued against the idea that the parties conspired to win the election.

“It doesn’t matter if there was a conspiracy to try and win an election,” Blanche said. “By the way, even that — even if you find that’s true — that’s still not enough. It doesn’t matter if there was a conspiracy to try to win an election. Every campaign in this country is a conspiracy to promote a candidate.”

May 28, 10:40 AM
‘Where’s the intent to defraud?’ defense asks

Defense attorney Todd Blanche shifted his argument to the prosecution’s burden to prove criminal intent, “Like a conscious objective. A purpose to defraud. There is no evidence of that ladies and gentlemen,” Blanche said. “Where’s the intent to defraud on the part of President Trump?”

“President Trump is not guilty. But I expect you’re going to hear from Judge Merchan that there’s something else that has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt … the government has to prove to you that President Trump caused these entries … with an intent to defraud.”

“There is no evidence of that,” Blanche said. “Were’s the intent to defraud on the part of President Trump?”

Displaying Michael Cohen’s 1099 form, Blanche said, “If there was some deep-rooted intent to defraud, why do you think it was reported to the IRS as what it was? (Payments) to Michael Cohen, as Trump’s personal attorney?”

“The Trump Organization disclosed these payments to the IRS,” Blanche said.

May 28, 10:34 AM
State showed no evidence of tax crime, defense says

Defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors not to believe that Trump participated in a tax crime by “grossing up” Cohen’s reimbursement to account for taxes.

Prosecutors have suggested Trump acted to advance another crime — potentially the alleged tax crime — when he falsified business records.

“I expect the government is going to tell you there might have been some tax scheme,” Blanche said. “You saw no evidence of the tax treatment from anybody.”

Referring to the bank statement where then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and Michael Cohen took handwritten notes about the repayment arrangement, Cohen said the document was “full of lies.”

“So what proof do you have? What actual evidence do you have that this gross-up was anything to do with taxes? … There’s none,” he said.

May 28, 10:28 AM
Defense says Cohen never would have worked for free

Returning to the testimony of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, defense attorney Todd Blanche asked jurors, “How is the government going to ask you to convict President Trump based on the words of Michael Cohen?”

Blanche insisted to jurors that if the payments were all for repaying Cohen, that would mean Michael Cohen was working for free in 2017 — something he said he never would have done.

“You saw him on the stand for three days — do you believe that for a second?,” Blanche asked. “That after getting stiffed on his bonus in 2016 … do you think that Michael Cohen thought, ‘I’mgoing to work for free?"”

“Is that the man that testified, or was that a lie?” Blanche asked. “That is absurd!” he nearly shouted.

May 28, 10:21 AM
Defense says Trump was ‘too busy’ to be involved

Defense attorney Todd Blanche reminded the jury that Trump was president at the time Cohen’s invoices were being paid, suggesting that he was too busy to actually look at the checks he was signing.

“President Trump was very busy. He was running the country,” Blanche said.

Blanche noted the testimony of then-Trump aide Madeleine Westerhout who testified that Trump “sometimes” looked at what he was signing.

“You can’t convict President Trump because ‘sometimes,’ without being specific at all … President Trump looked at invoices … that is a stretch,” Blanch said. “And that is reasonable doubt.”

“The leap that the government wants you to take that he looks at the checks, looked at the invoices … is absurd,” Blanche said.

May 28, 10:15 AM
Defense challenges that repayment was for hush money

Defense attorney Todd Blanche tried to downplay prosecutors’ theory of the case and emphasized that Cohen was Trump’s attorney in 2017 and that the $35,000 paid each month over that year was Trump paying him for his services.

“Take a step back. Nobody disputes that Mr. Cohen was President Trump’s lawyer in 2017,” Blanche said. “So what makes more sense, that president was paying his personal attorney in 2017 the $35,000 per an agreement he made with his personal attorney?… Or the version that Mr Cohen said?”

Blanche then mimicked Cohen’s testimony, as Michael Cohen:

“No, I was not paid, I was going to work for free … I’ll just work for free and make a lot of money as a consultant,” Blanche said, mimicking Cohen.

“For the first time in President Trump’s life, he decided to pay me back triple,” Blanche continued, mimicking Cohen. “He doubled up the $130,000, he gave me $50,000 for some online poll — by the way, I stole from him a little bit on that — and I decided I wanted a bigger bonus. That’s what really happened, ladies and gentlemen.

“There’s a reason why in life usually the simplest answer is the right one — and that’s certainly the case here,” Blanche said.

May 28, 10:09 AM
Defense says Cohen lied about retainer agreement

Defense attorney Todd Blanche attacked Michael Cohen’s testimony that he did not work under a retainer agreement for Trump, as referenced in the invoices.

“There was a retainer agreement, and that’s how retainer agreements work,” Blanche said, referring to Cohen’s testimony. “Anything criminal about that?”

“That’s not evidence of some secret agreement that Mr. Cohen had with President Trump. He broadcasted this to the world,” Blanche continued. “This was not a secret. Michael Cohen was President Trump’s personal attorney — period.”

Pulling up a transcript in which Cohen testified there was never expected to be a retainer agreement, Blanche said, That was a lie,” stretching out each word.

“A lie is a lie, and this is a significant lie,” he said.

As Blanche argued about the practice of “verbal retainer agreements,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass objected twice. Judge Merchan overruled both.

May 28, 10:01 AM
Defense says invoices were for legal work

Defense attorney Todd Blanche tells jurors they will have to find two things to convict: “First, that the documents contained false entries, and second, that President Trump acted with an intent to defraud.”

Blanche argued that Michael Cohen did legal work for Trump in 2017, making his invoices for legal services — which he submitted for reimbursement of the Stormy Daniels payment — legitimate requests for payment.

“Cohen was rendering services to President Trump in 2017 as his personal attorney,” Blanche argued, highlighting parts of Cohen’s testimony about his role and work for Trump.

Cohen testified that he served as Trump’s personal attorney for free, but Blanche is attempting to suggest that the invoices at the center of the case were Cohen’s way of getting payment in 2017.

“Cohen lied to you. Cohen lied to you on direct examination,” Blanche said.

May 28, 9:55 AM
Defense attacks Michael Cohen’s credibility

“It’s a paper case,” defense attorney Todd Blanche says. “This case is not about an encounter with Stormy Daniels 18 years ago. An encounter that President Trump has unequivocally and repeatedly denied ever occurred. It’s not even about a settlement in 2016.” 

“The bookings were accurate. And there was absolutely no intent to defraud,” he said. “And beyond that, there was no conspiracy to influence the 2016 election.”

Starting a PowerPoint showing the evidence, Blanche quickly seeks to made the case a referendum on the credibility of Michael Cohen, telling jurors he lied on the witness stand.

“You cannot convict President Trump of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt on the words of Michael Cohen,” Blanche said.

“He told you a number of things on that witness stand that were lies, pure and simple,” Blanche continued.

“The words that Michael Cohen said to you on that stand — they matter. He took an oath, he swore to tell the truth, and he told you a number of things on that witness stand that were lies, pure and simple,” Blanche said.

May 28, 9:47 AM
‘President Trump is innocent,’ defense lawyer says

“I’m going to start with something I can say i think with confidence … which is just to thank you. To thank you for your jury service,” defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors to begin his closing argument.

“Each of you will decide … whether President Trump is guilty or not guilty,” he said.

All eyes in this courtroom are on Blanche. Every member of Trump’s family is looking at him. The jurors are staring at him, many with pens in their hands ready to take notes.

“President Trump is innocent,” Blanche said. “He did not commit any crimes, and the district attorney has not met their burden of proof. Period.”

May 28, 9:40 AM
Defense closings to take around 2.5 hours

Defense counsel Todd Blanche says he has a 2.5-hour closing, “maybe a little longer.”

Prosecutors say they estimate they have a 4 or 4.5-hour closing.

“Defense counsel must come up first, and the prosecutor must follow,” Judge Merchan said.

Merchan says he will ask the jury if they will work later than 4:30 p.m. to do all the closings in one day.

May 28, 9:34 AM
Proceedings underway

Judge Juan Merchan has taken his seat at the bench.

“Good morning, counsel. Good morning, Mr. Trump,” Merchan said in his normal greeting to start the proceedings.

May 28, 9:29 AM
Trump enters courtroom with several family members

Donald Trump has entered the courtroom alongside his lawyers.

Don Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, Lara Trump, and Tiffany Trump followed behind the former president and took seats in the gallery immediately behind the defense counsel table.

Today is the first time Tiffany Trump attended the trial, and it’s the largest showing of Trump family members on a single day of the trial.

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, also in court today, is seated behind his prosecution team.

May 28, 9:20 AM
Prosecutors, Trump arrive

Prosecutors have entered the courtroom, with Joshua Steinglass, Matthew Colangelo and Susan Hoffinger positioned behind counsel table.

Former President Trump has arrived at the courthouse.

May 28, 9:01 AM
Courtroom filled to capacity

The courtroom is filled to capacity this morning with more than 60 reporters crammed in the gallery’s wooden benches.

Over 150 members of the press and public lined up outside the courthouse this morning vying for admittance. The line appeared to be the longest of the entire trial.

The courtroom itself is a balmy 76 degrees this morning, after weeks of chilly temperatures that prompted Trump to complain about sitting in the cold conditions.

May 28, 8:32 AM
Sons, daughter expected to join Trump in court

Former President Trump is expected to be joined by a number of his children for today’s critical day in court.

Trump is set to be accompanied by his sons Eric and Don Jr., his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, and — for the first time — his daughter Tiffany, according to the Trump campaign.

It would be the largest family showing for Trump since the criminal trial began six weeks ago.

May 28, 6:56 AM
Jury to hear closing arguments

After five weeks of testimony, jurors in former President Trump’s hush money case are scheduled to hear closing arguments today.

Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office and attorneys for Trump are both set to deliver closing statements.

Judge Juan Merchan is then expected to delivery jury instructions on Wednesday, after which jurors will begin deliberations.

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