All eyes on Michael Cohen in Trump trial closings

All eyes on Michael Cohen in Trump trial closings

NEW YORK — The “MVP” of lying, or the defendant’s “right hand man?”

An ex-employee with an “ax to grind,” or Trump’s “consigliere?”

It may be former President Trump sitting at the defense table, but in closing arguments Tuesday, his one-time fixer, Michael Cohen, was front and center at Trump’s hush money criminal trial.

Attorneys mentioned Cohen’s name more than 150 times as they made their final pitches to the jury as to whether Trump should be convicted in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

Closing arguments in Trump’s trial concluded at nearly 8 p.m., with the judge keeping the jury well past their normal dismissal time to finish summations in a single day.

The jury’s deliberations are expected to begin on Wednesday after the judge delivers his final instructions, and how the 12 New Yorkers perceive Cohen’s credibility is expected to be a central issue.

A defense slide displayed during final summations plainly read: “Case Turns On Cohen.”

Trump attorney Todd Blanche looked to portray Cohen as a serial liar, noting he has admitted to lying under oath and pleaded guilty to federal crimes. His closing argument echoed his days-long cross-examination of the state’s star witness.

Invoking professional sport legends Michael Jordan and Tom Brady, Blanche asked jurors if they had heard of the acronym “GOAT,” which means “greatest of all time.”

“Michael Cohen is the GLOAT. He’s literally the greatest liar of all time,” Blanche said, drawing laughter and shared glances from the jurors hearing Trump’s case.

Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office acknowledged that Cohen is not the perfect witness. From opening statements to closings, they warned jurors of his “baggage” and jokingly lamented that they didn’t “pick him up at the witness store” in perfect condition.

Joshua Steinglass, who delivered the office’s closing argument, contended that the case is “not about Michael Cohen,” suggesting his role in the trial is to be a “tour guide” providing “context and color” to the documents that make the state’s case.

Still, they urged jurors to consider his perspective and use “common sense” when weighing his credibility.

“Michael Cohen is understandably angry that, to date, he’s the only one who’s paid the price for his role in this conspiracy,” Steinglass said.

Tuesday’s closings came after roughly four weeks of testimony from 22 witnesses, including Trump’s former employees, White House aides and key people in his orbit during his 2016 campaign.

Prosecutors charged Trump with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, accusing him of covering up Cohen’s $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels by recording repayments to Cohen as a legal expense. Trump pleaded not guilty.

Trump’s jury began the day engaged with the defense’s summation, but as the hours dragged on, their energy appeared depleted. Several jurors began peering around the courtroom, packed with reporters, while others seemed to struggle with keeping their eyes open.

Judge Juan Merchan said he’d keep everyone late, indicating the jurors insisted on moving ahead and that some had even made childcare arrangements for the evening.

“I was watching the jurors. They look pretty alert to me. I don’t think we’re losing anyone,” Merchan told the lawyers before an evening break.

Trump, meanwhile, took to Truth Social while the court took a brief break after 5 p.m. He posted, simply, “BORING!” and “FILIBUSTER” as prosecutors’ closing arguments stretched for hours – with several more hours expected to go well into the evening.

In the final hour of the state’s summation, Trump grew visibly agitated, shaking his head in disagreement, shrugging emphatically and whispering with his attorneys. His family members — the biggest posse of relatives to join him in court yet — reacted more openly to evidence as prosecutors’ summation went on, too. They all booked it out of the courtroom when the judge finally called it a day.

For much of the day, the courtroom was uncomfortably warm, at times exceeding 80 degrees Fahrenheit — a stark contrast to the chilly temperatures Trump has derided in statements outside the courtroom.

Throughout their argument, prosecutors cast their case as one of election interference, rejecting the defense’s notion that the alleged conspiracy was merely standard campaigning.

It came as part of the district attorney’s office’s efforts to prove Trump falsified business records with an intent to commit or aid some other crime, a necessary element to secure the felony conviction.

“In reality, this agreement at Trump Tower was the exact opposite. It was the subversion of democracy,” Steinglass said.

“Democracy gives people the right to elect their leaders, but that rests on the premise that voters have access to accurate information about the candidates,” he continued. “The entire purpose of this meeting at Trump Tower was to deny that access. To manipulate and defraud the voters. To pull the wool over their eyes in a coordinated fashion.”

Jurors had braced to stay late into the evening to finish the summations and ensure their deliberations would begin Wednesday morning.

Steinglass’s lengthy closing argument was still far from over by the time the clock struck 4:30 p.m., when the trial is usually adjourned for the day. At the time, Steinglass was still walking jurors through text messages that form the foundation of the state’s case and had yet to bring up the 34 documents that correspond to Trump’s actual charges.

The judge will deliver his jury instructions Wednesday morning and then they will then begin deliberations – placing the former president’s fate in the hands of 12 New Yorkers.

Any decision stands to reverberate throughout the nation as Trump vies for another chance at the White House.

Updated 9:06 p.m.

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