Trump Trial Day 17: Summations Conclude

NEW YORK—Closing arguments in the hush money trial against former President Donald Trump concluded Tuesday, sending the case to a jury of 12 New Yorkers to decide. Trump stands accused of 34 felony charges of falsifying business records in a bid to cover up a scheme to catch-and-kill unflattering stories that would implicate Trump in his 2016 election.

Adult star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal were paid off by Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, and media executive David Pecker to make sure that the pair could not share their stories of alleged affairs with the then-2016 presidential nominee. Cohen was a central witness to the prosecution's case against Trump.

The defense, led by attorney Todd Blanche, spent the first two hours of the day in court characterizing Cohen as a liar and untrustworthy. Blanche called Cohen the "Greatest Liar of All Time," the "GLOAT," and the Tom Brady of lying. He also told the jury that Cohen's indictment should be an indication of his credibility as a witness.

On the other end, the prosecution rebutted the defense for almost five hours—at least four hours and forty-one minutes. Joshua Steinglass, assistant district attorney to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office led by Alvin Bragg, defended Michael Cohen by arguing that the case isn't about the disgraced former attorney but about Donald Trump and his alleged crimes.

Steinglass reiterated testimony by David Pecker. Pecker, who served as the publisher of the tabloid National Enquirer and former chief executive officer of its parent company, American Media Inc., agreed to watch out for stories that would hurt Trump's credibility in his run-up to the 2016 election. When it came out that Stormy Daniels had an affair with Trump in 2006 at Lake Tahoe, the Trump team engaged Cohen and Pecker to pay her off through a shell firm that included $130,000 and a non-disclosure agreement signed by Daniels and Trump using pseudonyms.

Note that Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to tax evasion and campaign finance violations. His indictment from the Department of Justice noted his scheme of paying $130,000 to an "adult film actress." Cohen also had a hand in ensuring McDougal was paid by Pecker. Daniels and McDougal were both represented by Los Angeles-based attorney Keith Davidson.

Davidson accepted payments on behalf of Stormy Daniels, who also testified in the trial.

Judge Juan Merchan will instruct the jury on how to approach deliberations about Trump's innocence or guilt on Wednesday. The jury is expected to be back with a verdict this week.