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Key points jurors will consider before verdict

The historic secret trial of former President Donald Trump is drawing to a close with fixer-turned-enemy Michael Cohen — the prosecution’s star witness — set to wrap up his testimony when he returns to the stand Monday.

Jury deliberations loom as Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan asked prosecutors and the defense to prepare for closing arguments as early as Tuesday.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan asked prosecutors and the defense to prepare for closing arguments as early as Tuesday. P.A.

After four weeks of testimony, the 77-year-old ex-president could soon find himself a convicted or newly acquitted criminal.

Here are some of the main pieces of evidence and questions that jurors will consider once they begin to evaluate the case:

Is Michael Cohen credible?

Prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office called 19 witnesses over the past four weeks, but saved arguably the most important one for last: Cohen, who worked for Trump for about a decade.

It will be up to the jury of seven men and five women to decide whether Cohen, a convicted liar, can be trusted.

Prosecutors questioned Cohen, 57, for two days last week, going over his lies and past misdeeds in painstaking detail — likely in an effort to preempt Trump’s lawyers who were trying to eviscerate the ex-convict’s credibility.

Michael Cohen opened up about the lies he told to protect Trump in court during his days-long testimony. P.A.

Among them, he lied about the invoices he charged the Trump Organization to get reimbursed for his payment to porn star Stormy Daniels by labeling the fees as part of his retainer agreement, as well as a plea of guilt for lying to Congress about the work he was doing. d fact on a Trump real estate deal in Russia.

In an effort to sow doubt in jurors’ minds, Trump’s lawyers seized on some of those lies by seeking to portray Cohen as a serial fabulist determined to see his former longtime boss behind bars.

During an intense cross-examination late last week, defense attorney Todd Blanche questioned Cohen, in part, about his false confession under oath when he pleaded guilty to federal charges, notably tax fraud, in 2018.

“Was that a lie? Correct?” asked Blanche, to which Cohen replied, “Correct.”

In another example, Cohen admitted to sending his attorney fake legal rulings generated by artificial intelligence as part of his failed attempt last year to get out of supervised release early for guilty pleas related to the campaign finance and other crimes in Manhattan federal court.

How involved was Trump?

There’s a good chance jurors will weigh the extent to which Cohen’s actions were directed by Trump.

During his testimony last week, Cohen said matter-of-factly that Trump was intimately involved in every aspect of the alleged scheme to cover up sex stories that threatened to torpedo his 2016 presidential campaign — including the $130,000 payment. $ to Daniels who is at the heart of the project. the case.

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“Everything required Mr. Trump’s approval,” Cohen said, adding that Trump pledged to repay the money he paid and was constantly briefed on behind-the-scenes efforts to bury the stories harmful.

“What I was doing, I was doing at the direction and for the benefit of Mr. Trump,” he testified elsewhere about his role in a separate $150,000 payment in 2016 to Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, who said he had an affair with Trump for a year while he was married to his wife Melania.

Trump has denied the affairs happened, including Daniels’ claim that she slept with him once in 2006 — an alleged tryst that she spoke about in court in detail.

His lawyers also questioned what he knew about Cohen’s dealings, saying for example that Cohen lied about a key phone call he claimed he made to Trump about paying Daniels. Instead, Blanche claimed, Cohen was actually complaining to Trump’s bodyguard, Keith Schiller, during the one-minute, 36-second phone conversation about harassment calls he was receiving from a prankster apparent age of 14.

Trump has denied the affairs happened, including Daniels’ claim that she slept with him once in 2006 — an alleged tryst that she spoke about in court in detail. REUTERS

Do these checks prove Trump paid Stormy Daniels?

The 12 Manhattanites on the jury could return to the 34 business records — including checks, invoices and other documents — that Trump is accused of illegally falsifying in order to conceal reimbursement to Cohen for Daniels’ payment.

Jeffrey McConney, the former comptroller of the Trump Org, said he had a conversation with then-CFO Allen Weisselberg in 2017 about how Cohen should be reimbursed a certain amount of money.

Jurors saw a bank statement showing Cohen sent $130,000 to Daniels’ lawyer, Keith Davidson, with Weisselberg adding $50,000 for technical services, doubled to account for taxes, and a $60,000 bonus – for a total of $420,000 to be paid to Cohen in $35,000. increments.

Deborah Tarasoff, Trump Org’s longtime accounts payable supervisor, testified about dropping the checks, 11 in total, nine of which were supposed to be sent to Trump at the White House via FedEx in 2017 for him to sign, other witnesses said.

Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about work he did on a Trump real estate deal in Russia. P.A.

Did Trump “intend” to hide a damaging scandal from voters?

For the 34 counts of falsifying business documents to constitute crimes, as the prosecutor claims, they would have to have been committed in the course of another crime. Prosecutors did not explicitly say what the alleged crime was, but suggested that Trump was trying to influence the 2016 election by hiding a potentially damaging sex scandal from voters.

Blanche scored a small victory last week when he asked Cohen to confirm that Trump was partly worried about the impact on his family if a story about his alleged affair with McDougal came to light.

Hope Hicks — Trump’s press secretary and then White House spokesperson — also told jurors how Trump tried to ensure that a Nov. 4, 2016, Wall Street Journal article detailing allegations in the McDougal affair would not be not seen by Melania.

“He was concerned about this story. He was worried about how this would be perceived by his wife,” Hicks said.

Hicks, 35, became visibly troubled at the end of her questioning by prosecutors about Daniels’ payment, testifying that she thought Trump felt “it was better to deal with” the situation in 2018 when she appeared, only before the 2016 elections.

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker – who engaged in “catch and kill” schemes to buy the McDougal story and an earlier story involving a former Trump Tower doorman and then not publish the claims – testified “yes” when asked if the purpose of the deal with McDougal was to “suppress her story in order to prevent it from influencing the election.”

Pecker refused to make the Daniels deal, leading Cohen to make the payment, prosecutors said.

Getty Images

What about Cohen’s secret recording of a conversation with Trump?

Another piece of evidence that jurors will likely consider is a secret recording of Trump made by Cohen on September 6, 2016, discussing plans to kill McDougal’s story with the help of the National Enquirer.

“So what are we going to pay for this?” One hour fifty? Trump could have been heard saying on the nearly three-minute recording played in court.

Cohen said the recording was intended to give Pecker assurance that Trump would reimburse Pecker for the $150,000 he paid McDougal for the exclusive rights to his story — which he never planned to publish.

“It was so I could show it to David Pecker and he would hear the conversation, so he would know… Mr. Trump is going to pay him back,” Cohen said on the stand.

Cohen said the call, recorded on his iPhone’s Voice Memos app, was the only time he surreptitiously recorded his ex-boss — which is not illegal in New York.

New York Post

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