Trump hush money trial prosecutor urges guilty verdict as closing arguments wrap up

New York, New York - Donald Trump engaged in a "conspiracy and a cover-up" to hide hush money payments to an adult film star, prosecutors told the jury on Tuesday in closing arguments at the first-ever criminal trial of a former US president.

Donald Trump (r.) engaged in a "conspiracy and a cover-up" to hide hush money payments to an adult film star, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass (l.) told the jury on Tuesday in closing arguments at the first-ever criminal trial of a former US president.
Donald Trump (r.) engaged in a "conspiracy and a cover-up" to hide hush money payments to an adult film star, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass (l.) told the jury on Tuesday in closing arguments at the first-ever criminal trial of a former US president.  © Collage: MICHAEL M. SANTIAGO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP & POOL / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

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 both for the 77-year-old personally, but also for the country.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records to reimburse his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels when her account of an alleged sexual encounter could have doomed his 2016 presidential campaign.

Assistant district attorney Joshua Steinglass delivered the summation for the prosecution after Trump's defense lawyer, Todd Blanche, called for his acquittal, insisting that the historic case against the former president was based on lies.

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Steinglass asked the jury to "tune out the noise and ignore the sideshows."

"If you've done that, you'll see that the people have presented powerful evidence of the defendant's guilt," he said.

Steinglass said Daniels's story about her 2006 tryst with the married Trump was the "motive" for his alleged crime but the "case at its core is about a conspiracy and a cover-up."

"Her story is messy, it makes people uncomfortable to hear," he said. "That's the display to the American people the defendant wanted to avoid."

Trump's defense team claims "there was no conspiracy" despite "mountain of corroborating evidence"

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (l.) speaks to the media with his attorney Todd Blanche (r.) during his criminal trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on Tuesday.
Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (l.) speaks to the media with his attorney Todd Blanche (r.) during his criminal trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on Tuesday.  © Spencer Platt / POOL / AFP

Steinglass addressed the jury after Blanche told them the trial "isn't a referendum on your views of President Trump" or "who you plan on voting for in 2024."

Prosecutors failed to prove their case, Blanche said, and the only outcome should be a "very quick and easy not guilty verdict."

"President Trump is innocent," he said.

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Blanche spent much of his remarks attacking Cohen, the prosecution's star witness, who has spent time in prison for tax evasion and other crimes, calling him the "MVP of liars" consumed by "outright hatred for Trump."

"He told you a number of things on that witness stand that were lies, pure and simple," he said.

"You cannot convict President Trump of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt on the word of Michael Cohen."

Blanche said Trump was "busy running the country" when the reimbursements were made to Cohen and he did not closely 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.

Steinglass countered that Cohen's testimony was not the entire case and there is "a mountain of corroborating evidence."

"This case is not about Michael Cohen. This case is about Donald Trump and whether he should be held accountable," he added.

Trump tells reporters that historic hush money trial is "rigged"

Speaking on behalf of the Biden campaign outside court, actor Robert De Niro (pictured) berated Trump as a "clown" intent on destroying the country.
Speaking on behalf of the Biden campaign outside court, actor Robert De Niro (pictured) berated Trump as a "clown" intent on destroying the country.  © CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

Speaking to reporters before entering the Manhattan courtroom, Trump said "this is a very dangerous day for America."

"We have a rigged court case that should have never been brought," he said as three of his five children – Don Jr, Eric, and Tiffany – stood behind him.

The 12 anonymous jurors will start deliberations as early as Wednesday.

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

Speaking on behalf of the Biden campaign outside court, actor Robert De Niro berated Trump as a "clown" intent on destroying the country.

The first former or sitting president under criminal indictment, Trump faces charges ranging from the relatively minor hush money case to accusations 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 and days of gripping testimony by Daniels and Cohen, is the only one likely to come to trial by election day.

If convicted, Trump faces up to four years in prison on each of his 34 counts, but legal experts say that as a first-time offender, he is unlikely to get jail time – and a conviction would not bar him from appearing on the ballot in November.

Cover photo: Collage: MICHAEL M. SANTIAGO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP & POOL / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

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