Trump’s ‘catch and kill’ scheme could be what won him the election, prosecution claims

Former US President Donald Trump and his lawyer Todd Blanche speak to the media while at Manhattan criminal court
Former US President Donald Trump and his lawyer Todd Blanche speak to the media while at Manhattan criminal court - Steven Hirsch/New York Post/Bloomberg

The prosecution in Donald Trump’s hush money trial told the jury that the alleged “catch and kill” scheme to squash bad stories about the former president “could be what got Trump elected”.

Addressing the court in a mammoth six-hour closing argument, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said that the plot to cover up negative stories by Mr Trump and Michael Cohen took away Americans’ right to valuable information about a presidential candidate.

“This scheme, cooked up by these men, at this time, could very well be what got President Trump elected,” said Mr Steinglass in his argument that ended shortly before 8pm local time.

“The value of this corrupt bargain … it turned out to be one of the most valuable contributions to the Trump campaign.”

Both sides have delivered their closing arguments on Tuesday and the jury will on Wednesday begin deliberations over a verdict.

The case hinges on whether Mr Trump directed Cohen to make a $130,000 payoff to silence porn star Stormy Daniels about an alleged tryst with the then Republican nominee days before the election.

Mr Trump, 77, is accused of cooking the books to cover up reimbursing Cohen. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts and denies ever having a sexual encounter with Ms Daniels.

As it happened – closing arguments

01:12 AM BST

Over to the jury

The prosecution and defence have concluded their arguments and now the jury in New York must decide whether to convict Donald Trump.

The court will resume on Wednesday with a short session expected in the morning before the jury are sent out to deliberate.

It means we could know as soon as this time tomorrow whether Mr Trump will become the first former US president to be convicted of a criminal offence.

Thank you for joining our live coverage of the trial today and we’ll see you again tomorrow on another momentous day.

01:00 AM BST

Prosecution concludes closing argument

Mr Steinglass has finished his closing arguments.

“In the interest of justice, and in the name of the People of the State of New York, I ask you to find the defendant guilty”, he said.

Court resumes tomorrow at 10am EST (3pm UK) in light of the late finish tonight.

The day will kick off with the judge reading the jury the charges. They will then begin their deliberations.

12:57 AM BST

‘The evidence is literally overwhelming’

Mr Steinglass said the evidence in the case is “literally overwhelming”.

He said Mr Trump has “had his day in court… the law’s the law and it applies to everyone equally.”

“Donald Trump can’t shoot someone on Fifth Avenue during rush hour and get away with it”, he added.

12:55 AM BST

Trump intent to defraud could not be clearer, says prosecutor

“The defendant still had an incentive to keep the conspiracy quiet”, Mr Steinglass said.

“The defendant’s intent to defraud in this case could not have been any clearer”, he added.

12:50 AM BST

Use your common sense, prosecutor tells jury

Mr Steinglass urged the jury to be guided by their “common sense” when deliberating.

“You got to look at the evidence as a whole”, he added.

”The people have proven this case beyond all reasonable doubt”, he said.

He said there is a “mountain of evidence” that Mr Pecker, Cohen and Mr Trump conspired to influence the 2016 election.

“You’ve seen a tonne of evidence that this payment was driven by the defendant’s concerns” of the potential impact it could have on the election, Mr Steinglass told the jury.

12:34 AM BST

Prosecutor forgets what day it is

The prosecution’s closing argument has been running for hours, but the jury still seems engaged.

They are watching Mr Steinglass and reading the evidence. At least one juror is taking notes.

Today’s session is likely to run past 8pm our time (1am UK).

“Yesterday,” Mr Steinglass started, before cutting himself off. He was referring to comments he made at the start of his remarks today.

“It feels like yesterday”, he said.

12:23 AM BST

‘Cohen had 130,000 reasons to get Trump’s blessing’

“Cohen had 130,000 reasons to get the defendant’s blessing” to make the payment to Ms Daniels, Mr Steinglass tells the jury, referring to the amount of money paid to silence the porn star.

12:14 AM BST

The PowerPoint presentation goes on and on

Mr Steinglass has put a timeline on his PowerPoint, starting with the August 2015 meeting.

It’s 7.15pm here and the finish line for this mammoth argument doesn’t seem to be in sight.

11:58 PM BST

‘When someone screws you, screw them back in spades,’ Trump wrote

The jury has been shown further passages from Mr Trump’s books.

One states: “My motto is always get even, when someone screws you, screw them back in spades.”

Mr Steinglass said part of Mr Trump’s “strategy” is disparaging witnesses.

He points to a tweet from Mr Trump saying he wouldn’t recommend his former fixer’s legal services the day after Cohen testified in front of a grand jury.

He highlights another tweet in which he attacks Ms Daniels as “horseface” and another in which he states: “If you go after me I’m coming after you.”

The defendant wanted people “to see the cost of taking him on”, Mr Steinglass said.

11:49 PM BST

Prosecutor attack’s defence’s key witness

Mr Steinglass laid into the credibility of lawyer Robert Costello, the defence’s only real witness.”Cohen never really trusted Mr Costello, and could you blame him? You saw Mr Costello”, Mr Steinglass said.

He said the lawyer had shown “nothing but disdain for this court and proper decorum.” 

He said of Mr Costello’s testimony that his allegiances lay with Cohen and his best interests, that was “just a bold-faced lie”.

“Cohen wasn’t playing Costello, Costello was playing Cohen”, Mr Steinglass said.

Robert Costello was admonished by the judge for his behaviour on the stand
Robert Costello was admonished by the judge for his behaviour on the stand - REUTERS

11:45 PM BST

Hope Hicks ‘put the final nail in Trump’s coffin’

Mr Steinglass suggested that Hope Hicks, Mr Trump’s former communications chief, cried on the stand because she realised she had put the “final nail in the coffin” of Mr Trump.

During her testimony, Ms Hicks said Mr Trump’s view on the Ms Daniels’ story leaking in 2018 was that it was “better to be dealing with it now, and that it would have been bad to have that story come out before the election.”

She “basically burst into tears” straight afterwards.

11:19 PM BST

Trump ‘checked everything’

The jury is again being shown excerpts from Mr Trump’s many books.

These include recommendations to not “trust” anyone and to check everything, including invoices from painters and decorators.

“If Trump is checking the invoices from his decorator, you can bet that he’s checking the invoices of Michael Cohen”, Mr Steinglass said.

11:17 PM BST

Trump’s ‘entire philosophy’ was to be involved in every part of his business

Mr Steinglass asked the jury to question why Mr Trump would sign cheques for $35,000-a-month for “the guy who’s basically doing no work at all”.

“He just signs it every month and he never once picks up that phone, he never once makes further inquiry”, he said.

“Despite his frugality and his attention to detail, the defendant didn’t ask any questions, because he already knew the answers”, he added.

He also called on the jury not to buy the “bogus narrative” put forward by the defence that Mr Trump was “too busy”.

He said Mr Trump’s “entire philosophy” was to be involved in his business “down to negotiating the price of the lightbulbs”.

11:11 PM BST

Prosecutor jokes for the jury

Mr Steinglass won a smile from the jury.

He is going through one of the documents at the heart of the case, a cheque stub attached to one of Cohen’s invoices.

“I know what you’re thinking: is this guy going to go through all of the cheques?” Mr Steinglass said.

He assured the jury he will only go through two - one of the cheque from the trust and one signed by Mr Trump himself - prompting a smile from jurors.

Earlier in the trial they had to sit through each cheque, stub and invoice being admitted into evidence.

11:01 PM BST

Payments were clearly not for legal services – prosecution

The prosecution argued emails in which Cohen asked Mr McConney what the monthly reimbursement amount is show there was no retainer for him to consult.

Mr Steinglass also attempted to pour water on the defence’s claim that the invoices and payments were for legal services rendered.

He said Cohen did more work in the first three months of 2018 than he did for the whole of 2017, but he “wasn’t paid a nickel”.

10:46 PM BST

‘You almost have to laugh’

“These documents are so damning you almost have to laugh”, Mr Steinglass told the jury.

He added: “Here’s a question for you: is there anything you’ve learned about Donald Trump in this trial that makes you think he would pay twice what he owed?”

10:41 PM BST

These documents are ‘smoking guns’, prosecutor says

Mr Steinglass has claimed two scrawled documents are the “smoking guns” in the case against Mr Trump.

The documents in question include a bank statement confirming the $130,000 payment annotated by former Trump Organisation CFO Allen Weisselberg with details of the repayment plan to reimburse Cohen.

Another is a note to the same effect scribbled on Trump Organisation headed paper by executive Jeffrey McConney.

“These are Trump Organisation documents, they came from them”, Mr Steinglass told the jury.

“They are the smoking guns. They completely blow out of the water the defence claims that the payments were for legal services rendered.”

He added that the defence have to “stare at these pieces of paper and tell you with a straight face that the payments to Cohen were not a reimbursement”.

10:33 PM BST

‘Cohen wanted his money back’

The jury is seated and court is back in session.

Joshua Steinglass, for the prosecution, resumes with his closing argument.

After Mr Trump won the election, Cohen wanted his money back for the $130,000 hush money payment, he says.

“The defendant knew he couldn’t just write Cohen a cheque… so enter the false business records”, Mr Steinglass told the jury.

“Make no mistake, Cohen wanted the credit… but he also wanted his money back.”

“Mr Trump was also aware of how upset Cohen was”, Mr Steinglass added.

10:01 PM BST

Jurors staying late to hear closing arguments

Judge Juan Merchan says the jury all look alert, despite court being in session later than usual.

“I don’t think we’re losing anyone”, he said, adding that some jurors have been forced to make childcare arrangements until 8pm tonight local time (1am UK).

The court is now on a short break.

09:57 PM BST

Prosecutor trying to inject energy into longest court session so far

Mr Steinglass is doing a good job of building tension in the courtroom from what is quite dull evidence.

He is pulling up phone records on a PowerPoint presentation and listing the string of frantic calls fired off between Mr Trump, Cohen, Mr Richardson, Ms Hicks and others following the fallout of the Wall Street Journal article about Ms McDougal.

It’s helping keep up the energy in the room for what has been the longest court session so far.

The jury has agreed to stay late today. The hope is closing arguments can be tied up by the end of the day, leaving jurors able to begin deliberations tomorrow.

09:48 PM BST

‘Trump didn’t need to sign it’

Mr Steinglass said Mr Trump did not need to sign the non-disclosure agreement for it to be legitimate.

“It’s true Mr Trump didn’t sign the documents himself… it wasn’t necessary in order to have a binding NDA against Daniels”, he said.

He added: “The objective of the NDA was to keep Stormy Daniels quiet, period – and they had enough to do that.”

Mr Steinglass said Cohen called Mr Trump when everything was signed to “let him know the deal is done and to get credit for sidestepping this landmine”.

09:45 PM BST

‘Damning’ timing of Cohen’s call to Trump

Mr Steinglass said it’s “damning” that Cohen speaks to Mr Trump 30 minutes before he goes across the street and makes the payment for Ms Daniels’ non-disclosure agreement.

“Half an hour before that he’s getting the final go-ahead from Donald Trump”, Mr Steinglass told the jury.

He said Cohen and Mr Trump discussed other things on the call, too.

“They didn’t need the full four-and-a-half minutes” to talk about the Stormy Daniels NDA, Mr Steinglass said.

09:42 PM BST

Prosecution highlighting chaos around payment to Daniels

Mr Steinglass is mapping out the chaos leading up to the payment for Ms Daniels’ hush money payment.

The jury has been shown excerpts of Mr Davidson’s testimony, during which he said he didn’t think Cohen had the authority to make a payment without Mr Trump’s approval.

This is central to the case – the defence argues Cohen went rogue and made the payment of his own volition.

Cohen, meanwhile, argues that the $130,000 fee was given a green light by Mr Trump.

09:26 PM BST

Stormy Daniels’ story would have ‘totally undermined’ Trump’s strategy, says prosecutor

The prosecution has now turned to the hush money payment this case hinges on: the $130,000 to Stormy Daniels.

Mr Steinglass says Ms Daniels’ story “would have totally undermined” Mr Trump’s “strategy to spin away the Access Hollywood tape”.

The 2011 story, which was promptly removed following the efforts of Cohen and Keith Davidson, did not include Ms Daniels’ account of the alleged sex act.

Mr Steinglass said it was “nothing like one of the two parties of a sexual encounter going public with the sexual encounter”.

Mr Trump arriving in court on Tuesday afternoon
Mr Trump arriving in court on Tuesday afternoon - GETTY IMAGES

09:18 PM BST

Access Hollywood tape ‘was like a category-five hurricane’

Mr Steinglass has described the Access Hollywood tape leak as a “like a category-five hurricane”.

He said it resulted in the RNC discussing whether to replace him and the preparations for the second debate being halted as officials entered “damage control mode”.

At first they attempted to deny, deny, deny, Mr Steinglass said, and then thought it could be spun as “locker room talk”.

08:47 PM BST

Defence are ‘desperate to discredit Cohen recording’

The prosecution is hitting back at the defence’s suggestion the secret recording Cohen made of his conversation with Mr Trump about the Ms McDougal deal was compromised.

“The metadata for this file proves it was not tampered with in any way”, Mr Steinglass said.

He said it was “kind of funny” that the defence wants the jury to rely on some bits of evidence from Cohen’s phones, but not others.

They want the jury to disregard the recording because it is “nothing short of jaw-dropping”, Mr Steinglass said.

“That’s why they’re so desperate to discredit it”, he said.

08:38 PM BST

Pecker ‘had no intention of printing McDougal story’

Although Mr Pecker said the Ms McDougal story would have been “National Enquirer gold”, he had no intention of printing it, Mr Steinglass said.

“He never would have published it under any circumstances at any time before or after the election”, the lawyer told the jury.

The deal was “the very antithesis” of a normal, legitimate one.

“AMI purchased the life rights [of the McDougal story] for and at the request of the defendant to help his candidacy”, Mr Steinglass added.

08:32 PM BST

Jury engrossed by closing argument

The jury looks engrossed as Mr Steinglass delivers his closing arguments.

They are focusing on the evidence flashing on the screens in front of them - text messages about the Ms McDougal deal - and looking directly at Mr Steinglass himself.

08:22 PM BST

‘I’ve got this locked down for you’

Mr Steinglass is now talking about the deal to buy Ms McDougal’s story.

He showed text messages between Mr Howard and Cohen from June 2016, in which the then National Enquirer editor told Cohen: “Understand I’ve got this locked down for you. I won’t let it out of my grasp”.

Mr Steinglass said Mr Howard was “acting in cahoots with the candidate to kill the story”.

Mr Steinglass said it was “true” Ms McDougal preferred the AMI deal because it would revive her career “and she wouldn’t have to be the next Monica Lewinsky”.

08:02 PM BST

Steinglass defends Cohen’s credibility as ‘the defendant’s right hand’

Mr Steinglass has continued to defend Cohen’s credibility.

“We didn’t choose Michael Cohen to be our witness, we didn’t pick him up at the defendant store”, Mr Steinglass said.

“The question is not whether you like Michael Cohen or whether you want to go into business with Michael Cohen”, he said

“The truth is he was in the best position to know, he was in the best position because he was at the defendant’s right hand”.

07:59 PM BST

Prosecution mimics Michael Cohen in impression of phone call

Mr Steinglass did an impression of the 96 second phone call at 8.02pm on 24 October to show the jury how Cohen could have discussed harassing phone calls with Keith Schiller, his former bodyguard, and spoken about the hush money payment with Mr Trump.

Mimicking Cohen’s Long Island accent, Mr Steinglass pretended to speak to Mr Schiller before asking to chat to Mr Trump.

The simulated phone call lasted 49 seconds.

07:56 PM BST

Trump’s children rail against ‘witch hunt’ and ‘political warfare’

Donald Trump’s children, who have been in court today, held a news conference outside the courthouse echoing the arguments made by the former president’s defence team.

Donald Trump Jr said the Biden campaign holding a news conference at the trial showed the case was a “political persecution” and in using one of his father’s frequent terms, called it a “witch hunt.”

His brother Eric Trump denounced the trial as “political warfare” and said his father is the “toughest man I’ve ever seen” and “he endures this nonsense every single day”.

Lara Trump, Eric Trump’s wife and the Republican National Committee co-chair, said that Alvin Bragg, the top law enforcement officer in New York, was focusing on her father-in-law instead of crime in New York.

“If they can profit off it on the other side, so can we,” she said, and plugged Trump’s campaign website where donations can be accepted.

Donald Trump Jr, right, Lara Trump, centre, and Eric Trump, left, speak outside the courthouse
Donald Trump Jr, right, Lara Trump, centre, and Eric Trump, left, speak outside the courthouse - UPI / Alamy Live News

07:38 PM BST

Steinglass: Michael Cohen has ‘paid the price for his role in this conspiracy’

“Michael Cohen is understandably angry. That to date, he’s the one who’s paid the price for his role in this conspiracy,” Mr Steinglass told the jury.

“Anyone in Cohen’s shoes would want the defendant to be held accountable,” he added.

However, Mr Steinglass stops short of being sympathetic towards Cohen, adding: “I’m not trying to make you feel bad for Michael Cohen. He made his bed.”

07:29 PM BST

Stormy Daniels’ testimony was ‘uncomfortable’ but necessary, says Steinglass

“Stormy Daniels was the motive”, Mr Steinglass told the jury.

“You can bet Mr Trump would not pay $130,000… just because he took a photograph with someone on a golf course”, he added.

Mr Steinglass said Ms Daniels’ testimony was “uncomfortable” but necessary to show that she remembered the ordeal.

He said she was not asked for, “nor did she volunteer” details about the sex act itself.

“If her testimony was so irrelevant, why did they work so hard to try and discredit her?”, he said.

07:18 PM BST

Prosecution begins by reminding jury case is about ‘a conspiracy and coverup’

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass reminded the jury the case is about “a conspiracy and coverup”.

Hitting back at the defence’s suggestion they had manipulated evidence, he said: “There’s nothing sinister here, no manipulation”.

Addressing the claim Mr Trump had been extorted by Ms Daniels, Mr Steinglass said: “You don’t get to commit election fraud or falsify your business records because you believe you’ve been victimised.”

07:10 PM BST

Trial resumes

Court is back in session. The jury is seated and Joshua Steinglass is beginning his cross-examination.

07:01 PM BST

Pictured: Donald Trump Jr. speaks to press during break

Donald Trump Jr., son of the former US president, speaks to the media outside Manhattan Criminal Court while the trial breaks for lunch
Donald Trump Jr., son of the former US president, speaks to the media outside Manhattan Criminal Court while the trial breaks for lunch - Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
Donald Trump raises his fist as he leaves the courtroom after the defence conclude their closing arguments
Donald Trump raises his fist as he leaves the courtroom after the defence conclude their closing arguments - Andrew Kelly/Reuters/Bloomberg

06:55 PM BST

Trump’s defence cast former president as victim of blackmail

In his closing argument, Todd Blanche cast Mr Trump as a victim of blackmail by adult actress Stormy Daniels and argued that prosecutors had failed to prove he covered up a $130,000 payment to buy her silence in the final days of the 2016 election about an alleged sexual encounter a decade earlier.

Blanche said Daniels had been trying to extort Trump by threatening to go public with her story as he battled a string of unflattering stories of sexual misconduct.

“If you focus just on that evidence you heard in this courtroom, this is a very, very quick and easy not guilty verdict,” he said.

06:33 PM BST

Court breaks for lunch

Following the conclusion of Todd Blanche’s closing arguments, the court has taken a break for lunch and will return at 2pm ET (7pm BST).

06:29 PM BST

Donald Trump Jr. hits out at Biden’s ‘Hollywood friend’ Robert de Niro

Donald Trump’s son has criticised actor Robert de Niro’s speech at a Joe Biden campaign presser in which he described the former president as a “clown”, who will be “president for life”.

Mr de Niro, speaking outside the courthouse in Manhattan, said Americans can “kiss these freedoms goodbye that we all take for granted” if Mr Trump is re-elected.

In a post on X, Donald Trump Jr. responded to a post from user RNCResearch: “The only people Joe Biden and his Hollywood friends hate more than Donald Trump, are the working-class Americans who support Trump!”

06:03 PM BST

Judge dresses down Trump defence for ‘outrageous’ statement

Judge Juan Merchan just gave Mr Blanche a dressing down for his statement that you “can’t send someone to prison” based on Cohen’s testimony.

After the jury left, the prosecution complained, claiming it was said in order to get sympathy for Mr Trump and there is no requirement a guilty verdict would result in impsionment.

Mr Merchan said the “Statement was outrageous”.

He said it was “highly inappropriate, it’s simply not allowed. Period. It’s hard to imagine how that was accidental in any way.”

05:56 PM BST

Blanche finishes by describing Cohen as the ‘GLOAT’ - ‘literally the greatest liar of all time’

“He’s the GLOAT, he is literally the greatest liar of all time”, Mr Blanche said.

“His words cannot be trusted... All those lies under oath, to family… put them to the side for just a moment.”, he said.

“Then he came in here, he raised his right hand and then he lied to each of you.”

“You cannot send somebody to prison based on the words of Cohen”, he added.

Mr Blanche has now finished his closing arguments.

05:53 PM BST

Michael Cohen is ‘the human embodiment of reasonable doubt’, says Blanche

Mr Blanche is summing up his arguments from today as 10 reasons why the jurors should have reasonable doubt over the charges against Mr Trump.

Number 10 is Michael Cohen.

“He’s the human embodiment of reasonable doubt”, he said.

“He lied to you repeatedly, he lied many many times before you even met him”, he added.

“His financial and personal wellbeing rely on this case... He is biased and motivated to tell you a story that is not true.”

05:42 PM BST

Blanche: Cohen is ‘literally like an MVP of liars’

Mr Blanche has again torn into Cohen’s credibility.

“He’s repeatedly, repeatedly lied under oath. He’s lied to his family.. He said that he lied to his kids… he lied to his banker...He’s literally like an MVP of liars”, he said.

“He’s also a thief, he literally stole, on his way out the door, tens of thousands of dollars”, he added.

“What should matter to you is the lies that he said when he took an oath two weeks ago and gave testimony to you guys.

“When you take an oath like he did, that matters, it has to matter, and he lied to you, make no mistake about it”, he said.

05:38 PM BST

How is Todd Blanche doing?

One seasoned Manhattan court reporter said he would give him a B+ for today’s performance.

The lead defence lawyer hasn’t taken his eyes off the jury throughout his closing arguments.

He is standing at a lectern, occasionally pacing and making grand arm gestures.

He has had a week to prepare for this moment, and it shows.

Court sketch shows Todd Blanche, Donald Trump's defence lawyer, presenting his closing arguments to the jury
Court sketch shows Todd Blanche, Donald Trump's defence lawyer, presenting his closing arguments to the jury - REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

05:34 PM BST

Cohen ‘had an axe to grind’ after Trump snubbed him for plum job at White House

Mr Blanche is arguing that Cohen was upset after Mr Trump did not give him a plum job at the White House.

“Mr Cohen had an axe to grind because he didn’t appreciate what Mr Trump did and didn’t do for him after he became president of the United States”, Mr Blanche said.

05:26 PM BST

Access Hollywood tape was not ‘a doomsday event’, says Trump team

Mr Blanche has said the infamous Access Hollywood tape was not “a doomsday event”, but one of many stressful stories in the run-up to the election.

The prosecution has argued that the leaked tape was so damning Mr Trump worried about the impact Ms Daniels’ story could have on the election, prompting him to direct Cohen to make the $130,000 hush money payment.

“He never thought it was going to cause him to lose the campaign, and indeed it didn’t”, Mr Blanche said, pouring water on the argument.

He also said Mr Trump was concerned about his family and his wife, following the fallout from the “grab them by the p----” recording.

On why the prosecution had called on Ms Daniels to take the stand, Mr Blanche said: “They did it to try and inflame your emotions… embarrass president Trump… that’s why, ladies and gentleman.”

05:19 PM BST

Blanche argues against ‘catch and kill’ conspiracy

After the Access Hollywood tape was published, Ms Daniels and her then-publicist Gina Rodriguez “seized an opportunity” to make money, believing “now is the time to strike”, Mr Blanche argued.

Mr Blanche also showed texts between Dylan Howard, the editor of the National Enquirer and the magazine’s publisher David Pecker in which Mr Pecker said “we can’t pay $120k” for the story. He argued that this was evidence there was no “catch and kill” conspiracy, as Mr Pecker wanted nothing to do with it.

Mr Blanche also pulled up texts from Ms Rodriguez in which she upped the fee from $100,000 to $120,000.

05:09 PM BST

Stormy Daniels changed story because ‘somebody offered more money’, Blanche claims

Mr Blanche has argued that Ms Daniels changed her story about the alleged tryst with Mr Trump because she wanted money.

“At the end of the day what really happened is that somebody offered more money to Ms Daniels... and then she wrote a book and she has a podcast and a documentary”, Mr Blanche has said.

“This started out as an extortion, there’s no doubt about that, and it ended very well for Ms Daniels, financially speaking”, Mr Blanche added.

05:04 PM BST

Blanche suggests former magazine editor was part of plot to extort money from Mr Trump

Mr Blanche has suggested former National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard was in on the plot to extort money from Mr Trump.

He has shown the jury texts from Mr Howard to Ms Rodriguez in which he says not much pisses him off except Donald Trump.

“He wants to help Ms Daniels and Ms Rodriguez to get money”, he said.

He questioned why Mr Howard and Ms Rodriguez had not been called to testify.

04:51 PM BST

Pictured: Scenes from the trial in Manhattan

Donald Trump's sons, Don Jr, left, and Eric Trump, right watch as former US President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media
Donald Trump's sons, Don Jr, left, and Eric Trump, right watch as former US President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media - Justin Lane/EPA/Bloomberg
Donald Trump sitting between his defence lawyers, Todd Blanche and Emil Bove inside the courthouse in New York
Donald Trump sitting between his defence lawyers, Todd Blanche and Emil Bove inside the courthouse in New York - Steven Hirsch/New York Post/Bloomberg

04:37 PM BST

‘There is a lot of doubt’ Cohen’s secret recording of Trump is about former Playboy playmate, defence claims

The secret recording Cohen took in which he and Mr Trump can be heard discussing payments for the Ms McDougal story is now under the microscope.

Mr Blanche has suggested Cohen and Mr Trump were discussing paying Mr Pecker for a file AMI held on Mr Trump, not Ms McDougal’s story of an alleged fair.

“There is a lot of doubt” the pair discussed Ms McDougal, Mr Blanche said.

He also questioned the claim that Mr Trump can be heard saying “one fifty”.

That’s just Cohen’s word, he says, urging the jury to listen for themselves.

04:19 PM BST

Defence again claims Michael Cohen lied repeatedly throughout testimony

Mr Blanche is again trying to tear into Cohen’s credibility, claiming he had lied repeatedly throughout his testimony.

He has claimed there are inconsistencies between Mr Pecker’s recollections of a phone call with Mr Trump and Cohen’s recollections of overhearing that phone call.

He has also questioned how Cohen managed to remember “with clarity” key meetings and conversations from 2016.

“You gotta check that... is there something beyond the words of Michael Cohen that suggests to you [that those meetings]... actually happened?”

04:12 PM BST

Blanche on payment to former Playboy playmate: ‘This was not a catch and kill either’

Now we are on to the $150,000 payment to former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal.

“This was not a catch and kill either”, Mr Blanche said.

“Everybody said the same thing, Karen McDougal did not want her story published… she wanted to kick start her career”, he added.

“She wasn’t interested in selling her story... how is that a catch and kill?”

04:04 PM BST

‘Preposterous’ idea that ‘sophisticated’ Trump believed stories in magazine could influence election

“The idea that sophisticated people like President Trump and Mr Pecker believed that positive stories in the National Enquirer could influence the election is preposterous”, Mr Blanche argues.

The defence lawyer compares the circulation of the magazine, around 350,000, to that of papers such as the New York Times.

04:00 PM BST

Robert de Niro speaks at Biden campaign presser outside courthouse

Actor Robert de Niro has spoken at a press conference being held by Joe Biden’s 2024 election campaign. The president is not there.

Special guests include one of the officers attacked at the Capitol on 6 Jan 2021.

A top adviser said they weren’t there to talk about the trial, rather to exploit the large media focus on the legal proceedings.

“We’re not here today because of what’s going on over there,” said Biden campaign communication director Michael Tyler, gesturing toward the courthouse. “We’re here today because you all are here.”

The Biden campaign last week released a new ad that was narrated by De Niro sharply criticizing Trump’s presidency and plans if he’s reelected.

“I love this city. I don’t want to destroy it,” De Niro told reporters. “Donald Trump wants to destroy not only the city but the country and eventually, he could destroy the world.”

Actor Robert De Niro argues with a Donald Trump supporter after speaking to reporters in support of President Joe Biden across the street from Trump's criminal trial in New York
Actor Robert De Niro argues with a Donald Trump supporter after speaking to reporters in support of President Joe Biden across the street from Trump's criminal trial in New York - AP Photo/Seth Wenig

03:51 PM BST

Blanche: ‘There is no crime, period’

“The way the forms were filed… there’s no crime, period”, Mr Blanche said.

With regards to allegations of conspiring to influence the 2016 election, Mr Blanche said it “doesn’t matter”.

“Every campaign in this country is a conspiracy to promote a candidate... you have to find this effort was done by unlawful means.”

03:48 PM BST

Pictured: Trump in court

Former US president Donald Trump in court for the closing arguments in his hush money trial
Former US president Donald Trump in court for the closing arguments in his hush money trial - Julia Nikhinson-Pool/Getty Images
Donald Trump clasps handwritten notes at his trial in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City
Donald Trump clasps handwritten notes at his trial in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City - JULIA NIKHINSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

03:44 PM BST

Blanche on Trump repayments: ‘That is absurd’

“That is absurd”, Mr Blanche bellows as he comments on Mr Trump repaying Cohen $420,000 for a $130,000 payment.

He said: “If Mr Trump had entered into this fraudulent scheme, why did he keep the records sketching out the payment plan with all the other company records.

“He didn’t get rid of them or try to destroy them”

He added: “The supposed evidence of the false filing were… in the payroll cabinet in Mr McConney’s office”, he added.

03:36 PM BST

Trump team tears into Mr Cohen’s credibility

Mr Blanche has highlighted the invoices at the centre of the case were created by Cohen, not the Trump Organisation.

“All of that ends the case”, he said. “Not guilty.”

Tearing into Cohen’s credibility, he questioned whether a man who was upset about getting “stiffed” on his bonus would agree to work for free.

“Do you think that Mr Cohen thought ‘I’m gonna work for free’?”

“Was that the man who testified or was that a lie?”, Mr Blanche added.

03:33 PM BST

Defence questions why key players not called to stand

Mr Blanche has questioned why key players mentioned during the past four weeks of testimony weren’t called to the stand.

Among those mentioned were Allen Weisselberg, the former Trump Organisation CFO, Keith Schiller, Mr Trump’s bodyguard, and Mr Trump’s children Eric and Don Jr.

03:31 PM BST

Pictured: Trump addresses media outside courtroom

Former President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media upon arriving at Manhattan Criminal Court
Former President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media upon arriving at Manhattan Criminal Court - AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson, Pool

03:29 PM BST

Mr Blanche urges jury to question Mr Cohen’s ‘version’ of events

Mr Blanche urged the jury to think about what is more probable when it comes to the $35,000-per-month payments.

“Nobody disputes” Cohen was Mr Trump’s lawyer in 2017, he said.

He said it “makes perfect sense” that the former president would pay his lawyer $35,000-per-month for legal fees.

He told the jury to question “the version that Mr Cohen came in and told you…. ‘No I was going to work for free... For the first time in President Trump’s life, he decided to pay me back triple.”

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

03:26 PM BST

‘Cohen lied to you’

The jury looks completely engrossed as Mr Blanche makes his case.

Some are taking notes, while others are staring at Mr Blanche intently.

The defence has put up excerpts of Cohen’s testimony about how much work he did for Mr Trump in 2017.

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

03:24 PM BST

Prosecution’s proof ‘doesn’t add up’, says Trump’s lawyer

Mr Blanche has tried to remind the jury about the crux of the case - falsifying documents with the intent to commit another crime.

“This case is not about an encounter with Stormy Daniels 18 years ago”, he said, adding that Mr Trump has denied ever having a relationship with the porn star.

He said there was “no intent to defraud” and there was “no conspiracy” to influence the 2016 election.

The prosecution’s proof “doesn’t add up”, he added.

Mr Blanche also teed up how Cohen will be a central figure of his closing argument.

“You’re gonna hear me talk a lot about Michael Cohen today, that should not surprise you”, he said.

He added: “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.”

03:18 PM BST

Trump team hits out at prosecution’s star witness

Todd Blanche started his closing arguments by thanking the jury for their service.

“Each of you will decide at the end of this case whether President Trump is guilty or not guilty”, he said.

Looking directly at the 12-strong jury, he said: “Mr Trump is innocent, he did not commit any crimes”.

Trying to pour water over the prosecution’s star witness, he added: “You should want and expect more than the testimony of Michael Cohen.”

03:15 PM BST

Trump declares trial an exercise in ‘election hunting’

Donald Trump has protested his innocence at the court ahead of closing arguments in his hush money trial.

The former president called the trial an exercise in “election hunting” and said he was there because of Joe Biden.

“This country is being destroyed rapidly. On the borders, on energy, on inflation,” he said.

He added: “This is all election hunting, election interfering. It’s going after Joe Biden’s political opponent because he can’t do it himself.

“We have a judge who’s highly conflicted. He happens to be corrupt. It’s the worst confliction that anybody has ever seen.”

03:12 PM BST

Closing arguments may not conclude today

Todd Blanche, Mr Trump’s lawyer, says the defence’s closing arguments will take around two-and-a-half hours.

Joshua Steinglass, for the prosecution, says he will take around four hours or more.

Judge Juan Merchan says closing arguments may run past 4:30pm, when court is due to end. He said he will ask the jurors if they are able to stay late today.

03:10 PM BST

Trump flanked by entourage

Donald Trump strode into the courtroom followed by an entourage of family members, confidantes and lawyers.

Today he has opted for a navy suit and ruby red tie.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg arrived in the courtroom moments before Mr Trump.

He is sat on the front row behind the prosecution table, flanked by security guards.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, who is expected to deliver the prosecution’s closing arguments, is seated in front of him.

02:27 PM BST

Trump arrives at court

Donald Trump has arrived at court, with closing statements on his hush money trial due to start soon.

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives - REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/Pool

02:25 PM BST

Trump family members at court

Several of Donald Trump’s family members plan to be in attendance at court today.

They include his sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, daughter-in-law Lara Trump, daughter Tiffany Trump and her husband Michael Boulos.

Other family members have not yet joined him in court, including his wife Melania and his eldest daughter, Ivanka.

02:12 PM BST

Could Donald Trump go to jail if he is convicted?

Falsifying business records is normally classed as a misdemeanour in New York, but Mr Trump has controversially been charged with a Class E felony instead, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison, Benedict Smith writes.

John C Coffee, of Columbia Law School, predicted there was a good chance that a New York jury could find the former president guilty, noting the hefty fines imposed against him in his fraud and defamation cases.

However, he downplayed the likelihood of Mr Trump serving time in prison, noting that he is 77 years old and has never been criminally convicted.

“Although it is conceivable that a judge – particularly one that Trump has regularly insulted – would impose some jail time to underline the culpability of Trump’s conduct, the betting is no jail time, but a high fine and a sentence to probationary conditions,” Prof Coffee told The Telegraph.

Read the full article here.

01:47 PM BST

Trump complains his lawyers have to go first

Donald Trump lashed out at court proceedings on the eve of the final closing arguments.

On Monday, Mr Trump complained on truth social about the fact his lawyers cannot “go last”.

It is typical criminal procedure that defense gives its closing argument first, followed by the prosecution, in a criminal trial.

01:42 PM BST

In the courtroom: Final day excitement

I’m back in courtroom 1530 for what should be the final day in Donald Trump’s hush money trial.

There is a buzz of excitement among the rows of reporters penned into the wooden benches in the drab room where the first criminal trial of a US president has been taking place for the past six weeks.

The queue to get into the courthouse was so crowded this morning it went through and snaked around the park opposite Manhattan Criminal Court.

After today’s closing arguments, the jury will retire to decide whether to convict Mr Trump on any of the 34 charges he faces.

Jurors could convict Mr Trump on some of the charges - such as those based on the nine cheques he signed himself - but acquit him on others.

If they cannot reach a unanimous verdict, Judge Juan Merchan will have to declare a mistrial.

01:38 PM BST

Hello and welcome to our live coverage

We’re bringing you live updates from Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York.

Closing arguments in the five week trial are set to begin today at around 2.30pm BST.