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Closing Arguments Due in Trump Trial   05/28 06:07


   NEW YORK (AP) -- Prosecutors and defense lawyers in Donald Trump's hush 
money trial are set to deliver closing arguments to the jury Tuesday, each side 
looking to score final points with the panel before it starts deliberating the 
fate of the first former American president to be charged with felony crimes.

   The arguments, expected to last the entire day, will give the attorneys one 
last chance to address the Manhattan jury hearing the landmark case. After more 
than four weeks of testimony, the summations tee up a momentous and 
historically unprecedented task for the jury as it decides whether to convict 
the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in connection with payments 
during the 2016 election to prevent a porn actor from going public with her 
claims of a sexual encounter with Trump.

   Prosecutors will tell jurors that they have heard enough testimony to 
convict Trump of all charges while defense attorneys will aim to create doubts 
about the strength of evidence by targeting the credibility of Michael Cohen, 
Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer who pleaded guilty to federal charges 
for his role in the hush money payments and who served as the star prosecution 
witness in the trial.

   After the closing arguments are given, the judge will instruct the jury, 
likely Wednesday, on the law governing the case and the factors it can take 
into account during deliberations. The deliberations will then proceed in 
secret, though some clues as to the jury's thinking may arrive through any 
notes it sends to the judge with questions.

   Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, charges 
punishable by up to four years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and denied 
any wrongdoing. It's unclear whether prosecutors would seek imprisonment in the 
event of a conviction, or if the judge would impose that punishment if asked.

   The case centers on a $130,000 payment Cohen made to porn actor Stormy 
Daniels in the final days of the 2016 election to prevent her from going public 
with her story of a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump 10 years 
earlier in a Lake Tahoe hotel suite. Trump has denied Daniels' account, and his 
attorney, during hours of questioning in the trial, accused her of making it up.

   When Trump reimbursed Cohen, the payments were logged as being for legal 
services, which prosecutors say was designed to conceal the true purpose of the 
transaction with Daniels and to illegally interfere in the 2016 election, in 
which Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

   Trump's lawyers contend they were legitimate payments for actual legal 
services, and they say that his celebrity status, particularly during the 
campaign, made him a target for extortion, points they are expected to revisit 
during their closing arguments Tuesday.

   The nearly two dozen witnesses included Daniels, who described in sometimes 
vivid detail the encounter she says she had with Trump; David Pecker, the 
former publisher of the National Enquirer, who testified that he used his media 
enterprise to protect Trump by squelching stories that could harm his campaign, 
including by paying $150,000 to a former Playboy model to keep her from going 
public with a claim that she had had a yearlong affair with Trump; and Cohen, 
who testified that Trump was intimately involved in the hush money discussions 
-- "Just pay it," the now-disbarred lawyer quoted Trump as saying.

   Prosecutors are expected to remind jurors of the bank statements, emails and 
other documentary evidence they have viewed, as well as an audio recording in 
which Cohen and Trump can be heard discussing the deal involving the Playboy 
model, Karen McDougal.

   Defense lawyers called two witnesses -- neither of them Trump. They focused 
much of their energy on discrediting Cohen, pressing him on his own criminal 
history, his past lies and his recollection of key details.

   On cross-examination, for instance, Cohen admitted stealing tens of 
thousands of dollars from Trump's company by asking to be reimbursed for money 
he had not spent. Cohen acknowledged once telling a prosecutor he felt that 
Daniels and her lawyer were extorting Trump.

   Though jurors witnessed numerous memorable moments, they won't be told 
during closing arguments about exchanges and rulings that occurred outside 
their presence -- and there were many. Judge Juan M. Merchan, for instance, 
fined Trump $10,000 for violating a gag order barring incendiary out-of-court 
comments and threatened to jail him if it continued.

   The New York prosecution is one of four criminal cases Trump is confronting 
as he seeks to reclaim the White House from Democrat Joe Biden.

   The three other state and federal cases center on charges of illegally 
hoarding classified documents at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, and 
conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election. But it's unclear that 
any of them will reach trial before the November election.

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