Trump trial live updates: Closing arguments get underway in ex-president’s criminal hush money trial

Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial has entered its final stages as the defense and prosecution begin to deliver their closing arguments in Judge Juan Merchan’s courtroom.

The Republican presidential candidate stands accused by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg of falsifying business records in order to conceal a $130,000 payment made to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels in October 2016 in order to ensure her silence about a sexual encounter she alleges she had with the politician a decade earlier.

Mr Trump denies both the extramarital affair and the 34 charges he faces and has repeatedly insisted that the case is a “scam” brought against him by his political enemies in order to keep him cooped up in court and off from the campaign trail.

After five weeks of often explosive testimony, the prosecution hopes to convince the jury of 12 Manhattanites that the misdemeanour offenses with which the defendant has been charged should be elevated to felonies because they were carried out in order to subvert a presidential election, an accusation the defense denies.

The jury could begin its deliberations as soon as Wednesday.

Alex Woodward is covering the trial for The Independent live from court.

Key Points

  • Trump hush money trial: What to expect today

  • New York hush money trial: How Trump’s historic case will come to an end

  • Trump still raging about trial on eve of closing arguments aftering hitting out at ‘human scum’ on Memorial Day

  • The credibility of convicted liar Michael Cohen could determine Trump’s fate

  • ‘The third man in the room’: Is Allen Weisselberg the ‘missing piece’ in Trump’s trial?

15:32 , Alex Woodward

We see the handwritten notes from Weisselberg and McConney that draw up the payment plan. Blanche says the document is “full of lies.”

He notes testimony from Cohen and McConney that said nobody knew why it was grossed up for tax purposes.

Prosecutors argue that Trump falsified business records to commit or conceal another crime, including tax crimes – Blanche says that the handwritten doc is all they have to prove that.

Blanche also notes that after Cohen visited the White House on February 8, 2017, when he said Trump confirmed the payment plan, Cohen emailed McConney a few days later asking him for a reminder of how much he should make out for the invoice.

If this is some “evidence of a crime,” why didn’t McConney get rid of these notes?

“The supposed evidence of the false filing was in the records of Trump’s personal accountant … at his office. Does that make sense?”

‘Case turns on Cohen’

15:25 , Alex Woodward

On Cohen:”

“But there is a lot more. What the People have done, what the government did for the past five weeks at the end of the day, is ask you to believe the man who testified two weeks ago, Michael Cohen.”

“Do you believe that for a second? That after getting stiffed on his bonus in 2016 … do you think Mr Cohen thought, ‘I’m going to work for free?’ … Or was that a lie?”

Blanche has a slide up labeled “Case Turns on Cohen,” with a part of his testimony transcript that includes what Weisselberg said about the 12-month payment plan after a meeting at Trump’s office. Cohen “didn’t even pretend to be part of that conversation,” Blanche says.

Defense calls prosecution’s ‘scheme’ argument is ‘absurd’

15:22 , Alex Woodward

“You can’t convict President Trump because sometimes … President Trump looked at invoices. That is a stretch, and that is reasonable doubt”

There is “nothing sinister” about personal checks being FedExed from Trump Tower to Keith Schiller and then sent to the Oval Office, Blanche says.

He said prosecutors’ “leap” from believing Trump was part of a scheme – “which was to book a legal expense… as a legal expense” – is “absurd.”

15:15 , Alex Woodward

The first checks to Cohen were coming from the trust set up after Trump left for the White House, and emails show McConney signing off approval as per agreement with Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump.

“If there was some conspiratorial agreement … to pay Michael Cohen as a cover-up, this email does not exist,” Blanche argues. “There is no reason to get approval from Don and Eric if it’s already been decided … Guess who else you didn’t hear from in this trial? Don and Eric.”

There is no evidence that Trump had anything to do with those first waves of checks signed by Don Jr, Eric and Weisselberg in February and March 2017, according to Blanche.

The word “retainer” on the pay stubs was merely autogenerated from the company’s accounting system, Blanche says.

Defense tries to undermine evidence from Trump books

15:09 , Alex Woodward

Blanche is bringing up the Trump Organization’s accounting system for vouchers for invoices before checks were produced.

“There is no evidence that President Trump knew anything about this voucher system. No evidence. Not a single word. … If the government reads to you quotes from a book a decade earlier … you should be suspicious. That’s a red flag.”

Prosecutors used several excerpts to show that Trump routinely boasted about how much he micromanaged his business and knew it inside out, approved every dollar, etc.

But Blanche says jurors can’t rely on “something he wrote in a book where he was assisted by ghost writers.

“Proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not include a passage in a book, ladies and gentlemen.”

(Those vouchers, the ledger entries, list Cohen’s payments as “legal expenses”.)

Criminalizing the labeling of those entries as payment for “legal expenses” is “absurd” and “not a crime,” Blanche says.

It was merely a label from a “drop-down menu,” Blanche says.

15:03 , Alex Woodward

“He talked to every reporter that he could, pushed the fact he would be the personal attorney to President Trump … This was not a secret … Michael Cohen was President Trump’s personal attorney, period.”

He pulls up Cohen’s testimony transcript:

“Never an expectation there would be a retainer agreement, right?”

“Correct.”

Blanche: That. was. a. lie.

He shows Weisselberg’s January 2017 email to Cohen to “please prepare the agreement” as evidence.

Blanche also argues that Cohen’s “retainer agreement” was consistent with what others said on the stand about verbal retainers – Steinglass objects to this.

Blanche brings up testimony from Keith Davidson and Jeffrey McConney, who said “to my knowledge, yes” when asked by the defense if those agreements can be verbal.

Prosecutors objected to this last week and wanted the judge to instruct jurors about state law about written retainers.

“Usually the simplest answer is the right one and that is certainly the case here … The story that Michael Cohen told you on the witness stand was not true.”

Trump mocked for his ‘ignorance’ as he rails against standard criminal trial process

15:00 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s Martha McHardy on the ridicule Trump’s latest social media whines about his case have attracted.

Trump mocked for his ‘ignorance’ as he rails against standard criminal trial process

14:57 , Alex Woodward

Blanche mentions accountant Deborah Tarasoff’s testimony of her general practice of stapling invoices to checks that Trump signed, but “general practice is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” he says.

Michael Cohen had written monthly invoices that indicated work was performed in the months he listed. Prosecutors argued and Cohen admitted that those invoices were not for work performed in those months. Blanche argues that “Cohen was rendering services to President Trump in 2017” because “there’s no question that in 2017 Michael Cohen was serving as President Trump’s personal attorney.”

He notes Cohen’s testimony that there were “outstanding matters they were dealing with”.

“Even if the amount of work … was minimal, there was a retainer agreement, and that’s how retainer agreements work.”

[Cohen testified that there was no retainer agreement]

Blanche argues that Cohen “lied to you” – the jury – by describing his work at that time as minimal.

14:52 , Alex Woodward

Blanche continues by saying that the trial isn’t about alleged affairs or nondisclosure agreements but about “whether and to what extent that President Trump while he was living in the White House as the leader of the free world” committed fraud.

“Is the booking of legal expenses in a personal ledger accurate? Were they done with an intent to defraud? That’s why you are here.” The answer is “absolutely and positively not.”

“There was no conspiracy to influence the 2016 election … The proof there doesn’t add up.”

“You cannot convict President Trump on any crime beyond a reasonable doubt on the words of Michael Cohen.”

“The words Michael Cohen said on that stand, they matter.” They were “lies, pure and simple.”

He pulled up a flow chart showing Cohen’s invoices, sent to the Trump Organization – the vouchers were entered by accounting and the checks prepared by accounting.

Blanche notes that “not a single invoice was presented to Trump directly.”

A glimpse of Trump’s Sharpie-written notes

14:51 , Oliver O’Connell

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sits in court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sits in court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sits in court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Blanche says ‘utter lack of proof’ of crime

14:48 , Oliver O’Connell

Todd Blanche tells the jury: “Each of you will decide at the end of this case whether President Trump is guilty or not guilty. When I stood here five weeks ago on April 22 I started out saying something I’m going to repeat to you … and that’s that President Trump is innocent. He did not commit any crimes, and the district attorney has not met the burden of proof, period.

“That evidence should leave you wanting more. … You should want and expect more from the testimony of Michael Cohen … than Deb Tarasoff … something beyond the word of a woman who claims that something happened in 2006.

“You should demand more than the testimony of Keith Davidson, an attorney who was trying to extort money from President Trump in the leadup to the 2016 election.

“And there are consequences … to the utter lack of proof … It’s a not guilty verdict, period.”

New York hush money trial: Can Trump still run for president if he is convicted?

14:45 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s another extremely knotty question arising from Trump’s unprecedented predicament.

The short answer is that there’s nothing in the US Constitution to prevent it.

The long answer lies below.

Can Trump still run for president if he is convicted?

Defense closing argument gets underway

14:44 , Alex Woodward

Judge Merchan is telling the jurors what’s coming next and instructing them how closing arguments work. After those summations, he will instruct the jury on the law.

He reminds them that “whatever the lawyers say and however they say it,” it is “simply an argument for your consideration.”

“Lawyers not witnesses in the case,” he notes. “Nothing the lawyers say at any time is evidence. … You have heard the evidence and you must decide the case as you find it and as to the law as I explain it.”

He’s leaving it up to jurors to decide whether they want to stay past 4:30 today. “Perhaps an hour.” They’ll discuss among themselves later today and decide.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche, in a powder blue tie and navy suit, gets the defense argument underway.

“I’m going to start with something that I can say with confidence … which is just to thank you, to thank you for your jury service.”

In pictures: Trump arrives in court

14:42 , Oliver O’Connell

Former President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media upon arriving at Manhattan Criminal Court (AP)Former President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media upon arriving at Manhattan Criminal Court (AP)

Former President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media upon arriving at Manhattan Criminal Court (AP)

 (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

 (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

 (REUTERS) (REUTERS)

(REUTERS)

Judge Merchan is at the bench

14:36 , Oliver O’Connell

Judge Juan Merchan is back at the bench as things get underway.

Alex Woodward reports from the court:

Merchan gave jury instructions to attorneys on Thursday afternoon, and “I didn’t hear from either one of you”, so those will be the instructions.

Trump defense lawyer Todd Blanche says he needs 2.5 hours for his closing argument. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass says he needs 4.5 hours.

Judge Merchan says he will ask the jury to work past 4.30pm so we can do it all today but it could mean we spill over to tomorrow.

He reminds attorneys to “stay away” from explaining the law to jurors during their closing arguments: “That’ll be my job. I’ll take care of it.”

The jury is brought in.

Trump family show up for closing arguments

14:33 , Oliver O’Connell

Today, Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump, and Tiffany Trump are showing support for their father in court — a rare sighting of the former president’s younger daughter. They are joined by Trump legal adviser Alina Habba and are sitting directly behind Mr Trump.

Melania Trump, Barron Trump and Ivanka Trump have not attended any of the trial.

Former President Donald Trump’s sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr, daughter Tiffany Trump, and daughter-in-law Lara Trump (REUTERS)Former President Donald Trump’s sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr, daughter Tiffany Trump, and daughter-in-law Lara Trump (REUTERS)

Former President Donald Trump’s sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr, daughter Tiffany Trump, and daughter-in-law Lara Trump (REUTERS)

More from the pool report:

Trump walked into the hallway today at 9:19 am. He spoke for 6 minutes.

He spoke to cameras next to Todd Blanche, who wears a powder blue tie and holds a power pose.

He gave his usual notes criticizing the trial and blaming Biden for it. Read from articles by legal commentators criticizing the case.

“The judge never allows us anything”

“We had an election expert who was going to say everything was perfect”

“I could give you a list of 40 people who would say the same thing”

His usual posse (Jason Miller, Boris Epshteyn, Alina Habba, Susie Wiles, etc) was joined today by Don Jr., Eric Trump, Lara Trump, Tiffany Trump, son-in-law Michael Boulos, and commentator Deroy Murdock.

No Melania, no Ivanka or Jared, no Barron.

New York hush money trial: Will Trump go to prison?

14:30 , Oliver O’Connell

This is perhaps the biggest question of them all, with monumental ramifications for this year’s election.

We try to answer it below.

Will Donald Trump go to prison?

Trump is speaking in the hallway

14:27 , Oliver O’Connell

Per the pool:

Trump is speaking in the hallway now. He’s repeating his talking points about Justice Juan Merchan being “conflicted” and corrupt. He’s also reading from conservative opinion pieces about the case, including one from Jonathan Turley and another from Andy McCarthy.

He’s also attacking the gag order, saying the judge is conflicted — and he cannot say why he is conflicted because of the order.

New York hush money trial: Legal experts reveal what jurors will consider in Trump trial

14:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Gustaf Kilander has been speaking to legal experts about what the 12 jurors at Manhattan Criminal Court will be looking at as they decide whether to make history by convicting a former US president of a crime for the first time.

What will jurors consider when deciding Trump’s fate? Legal experts weigh in

‘The third man in the room’: Is Allen Weisselberg the ‘missing piece’ in Trump’s trial?

14:00 , Joe Sommerlad

As Trump’s New York hush money trial enters its final phase with closing arguments on Tuesday, the jury’s verdict is expected to largely hinge on their opinions of the prosecution’s star witness: Michael Cohen.

On the stand, Mr Trump’s former attack dog described the moment he met with his boss on the 26th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan in January 2017 to agree a $420,000 deal for his reimbursement for a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. Cohen testified that he made the payment on Mr Trump’s behalf to ensure Ms Daniels’ silence about an alleged sexual encounter that had the potential to derail his bid for the White House had it come to light.

But there was a third man in the room during the crucial meeting that day – a man who the jury has not heard from: Allen Weisselberg, the long-time chief financial officer to the Trump Organization.

Here’s more on a shadowy figure whose fingerprints and signatures have been all over the document trail.

‘The third man in the room’: Is Allen Weisselberg the missing piece in Trump’s trial?

New York hush money trial: What to expect today

13:45 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s Alex Woodward’s latest dispatch from court:

“A long line of reporters is still snaking down the block in front of Manhattan Criminal Court for the seventh and potentially final week of Donald Trump’s hush money trial.

“I arrived just before 5am for what was the 50th spot in line and eventually made it into an overflow courtroom for 100 reporters just before 8:30am.

“The overflow courtroom, which has been closed for over the long holiday weekend, is humid, steamy, and now full of tired reporters and roughly two dozen members of the public. Unclear if the infamous air-conditioning will click on today. The room has two settings: uncomfortably warm and frigid.

“After 16 days of testimony from 22 witnesses, closing arguments will begin this morning with prosecutors and defense attorneys making their last pitch to jurors before deliberations begin as soon as Wednesday.

“A verdict could arrive as early as tomorrow afternoon.

“Attorneys are expected to take all of Tuesday for closing statements. Justice Juan Merchan will then deliver instructions to the jury, which could take about an hour. That will give jurors a framework for understanding the law as it applies to the charges against Trump.

“Manhattan prosecutors will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump not only falsified business records but did so to commit or conceal another crime. One of those ‘other’ crimes: a conspiracy to corrupt an election by ‘unlawful means’.

“They won’t be presenting any new testimony, but they are expected to thread the needle of the last several weeks’ of testimony – connecting a 2015 Trump Tower meeting about boosting his chances of winning the election to hush money payments and how Trump organized it all, then approved his reimbursement payments to Michael Cohen, and then covered them up in his company’ accounting.

“What they’ll argue is a sort of Russian nesting doll of crimes within crimes within a coverup of a coverup: that Trump violated federal election law, by committing an election conspiracy, by falsifying business records to cover up hush money.

“Defense attorneys don’t have to prove Trump’s innocence, but they will need to convince at least one juror that prosecutors have not proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Watch live: Closing arguments set to begin in Trump’s hush money trial

13:30 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s our latest livestream from Manhattan.

New York hush money trial: What to expect in a momentous week for Trump

13:00 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s the IndyTV team to set the scene for us.

What to expect as Donald Trump’s hush money trial comes to an end

New York hush money trial: ‘It’s crunch time for Trump – but will he go to jail or be a free man?’

12:30 , Joe Sommerlad

The former president is set to learn his fate in his hush money trial within a few days but, writes Jon Sopel.

Should he walk free, there is one thing we can be certain of – he will do so with neither humility nor grace.

It’s crunch time for Trump – but will he go to jail or be a free man? | Jon Sopel

New York hush money trial: The credibility of a convicted liar could determine Trump’s fate

12:00 , Joe Sommerlad

During Trump’s hush money trial, Michael Cohen did what the 19 other prosecution witnesses could not: directly tie the former president to the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels that is at the heart of the criminal case against him. But will jurors buy his story?

No single person was closer to Trump’s alleged scheme to corruptly influence the 2016 presidential election than his one-time “fixer,” who abandoned his position as the pugilistic “consigliere” for a more civic-minded — and lucrative — role as Trump’s chief antagonist.

Cohen openly loathes his former employer. He at least partially blames him for his prison sentence for crimes tied to the New York case. He admitted in court to calling Trump a “boorish cartoon misogynist” and “Cheeto-dusted” villain. Jurors heard clips from Cohen’s podcast screaming that “revenge is a dish best served cold.”

Defense attorneys depicted Cohen as a disgruntled, selfish and fame-hungry opportunist. He was furious with a lower-than-usual bonus check, so he stole from Trump’s company and then flipped against him when federal prosecutors snooped around his home and office, eventually turning the newfound attention into a multimillion-dollar business that revolves around trashing his old boss.

But on the witness stand in the Republican presidential nominee’s criminal trial in Manhattan, Cohen — his eyes wide and sunken, his hair graying and his Long Island accent softened — admitted to and directly confronted his history of lies, convictions and shameful behavior that compromised his freedom and family.

Alex Woodward has one final look at this pivotal figure.

The credibility of a convicted liar could determine Trump’s fate

New York hush money trial: Trump rips judge amid countdown to jury deliberations

11:30 , Joe Sommerlad

Yesterday’s “human scum” attack was not the former president’s only attack on Judge Merchan on social media as his trial draws to a close.

Here’s more from Eric Garcia and Alex Woodward.

Trump rips into hush money trial judge amid countdown to jury deliberations

Trump tries to rewrite what happened at Libertarian Convention after he was booed on stage

11:00 , Joe Sommerlad

The Republican presidential contender was roundly booed at the Washington Hilton on Saturday night but has since been busy attempting to spin it as evidence of his audience’s “enthusiasm” for him, despite his failure to even qualify for the Libertarian Party’s vote on its presidential candidate on Sunday after declining to submit the necessary paperwork.

He received only two write-in ballots that day – only one more than Stormy Daniels!

Trump tries to rewrite story of Libertarian Convention after he was booed on stage

Trump told donors he’ll deport pro-Palestinian protesters

10:30 , Joe Sommerlad

Before we get onto the trial in earnest, here’s a disturbing line worth noting.

Trump has reportedly told campaign donors that he would deport pro-Palestinian student demonstrators in order to get them to “behave” should he return to the White House in November.

The former president promised a crackdown on campus protests – that have swept across the country over the past few months – as he spoke at a roundtable event in New York earlier this month.

“One thing I do is, any student that protests, I throw them out of the country. You know, there are a lot of foreign students. As soon as they hear that, they’re going to behave,” Trump said, according to event attendees, who spoke to The Washington Post anonymously.

Here’s more from Mike Bedigan.

Trump told donors he’ll deport pro-Palestinian protesters

Truth Social: Trump still raging about trial on eve of closing arguments aftering hitting out at ‘human scum’ on Memorial Day

10:00 , Joe Sommerlad

The defendant was sounding distinctly rattled on his social media platform last night as he raged against Judge Merchan and Bragg, complaining about witnesses that did not appear and the order in which the prosecution and defense get to present their closing arguments in among the usual baseless gripes that the justice is “Highly Conflicted” and the DA “Soros backed”.

He fears being labelled “a common criminal” should he be convicted, it appears.

Trump also belatedly got Biblical on Memorial Day, this after a less than dignified attack on the “human scum” he accuses of working against him yesterday.

By way of contrast, its worth noting that President Joe Biden spent the day delivering a moving address for fallen servicemen and women at Arlington National Cemetery, touching on his grief for his late son Beau seven years after his passing.

New York hush money trial: How Trump’s historic case will come to an end

09:30 , Joe Sommerlad

Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial enters its final stages on Tuesday as the prosecution and defense prepare to deliver their closing arguments in Judge Juan Merchan’s courtroom.

The Republican presidential candidate stands accused by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg of falsifying business records in order to conceal a $130,000 payment made to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels in October 2016 in order to ensure her silence about a sexual encounter she alleges she had with the politician a decade earlier.

Trump denies both the extramarital affair and the 34 charges he faces and has repeatedly insisted that the case is a “scam” brought against him by his political enemies in order to keep him cooped up in court and off from the campaign trail.

After five weeks of often explosive testimony, the prosecution hopes to convince the jury of 12 Manhattanites that the misdemeanour offenses with which the defendant has been charged should be elevated to felonies because they were carried out in order to subvert a presidential election, an accusation the defense denies.

The jury could begin its deliberations as soon as Wednesday.

Here’s Alex Woodward with the latest.

The final countdown: How Trump’s historic hush money trial will come to an end

Good morning!

09:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Hello and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial, with closing arguments scheduled to take place on Tuesday before the jury begin their deliberations on Wednesday.

How long they will take to reach a verdict is anyone’s guess but we could potentially have an answer as soon as tomorrow.

The 12 jurors must unanimously agree on a guilty or not guilty verdict.

If they can’t reach a consensus after several days of deliberations, the judge will likely ask them to keep trying.

If they’re still deadlocked, he could declare a mistrial.