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Attorneys to deliver closing arguments in Trump’s hush money trial

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Attorneys deliver their closing arguments in the trial of former President Donald Trump - the criminal trial - in a New York courtroom today.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Yeah. Prosecutors and defense lawyers recap weeks worth of testimony and documents for the jurors before they begin their deliberations. But the defense says too much depends on the testimony of Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, whose credibility they question.

MARTIN: NPR's Andrea Bernstein is with us once again for a preview. Good morning, Andrea.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So what should we look out for today?

BERNSTEIN: Today is the chance for the parties to tie all the evidence together and show, or not, how it makes their case. The defense comes first. When the trial testimony began, the defense highlighted how long ago this was - pre-COVID, they said. They said the sexual encounter with Stormy Daniels never happened. They said that Trump himself never issued false documents. He just signed checks when they were presented to him. But most of all, they said, Michael Cohen is a liar and there is no way to prove Trump was fully cognizant of the crimes unless you accept Cohen's testimony about conversations with Trump.

MARTIN: Andrea, as we've been talking about, as you have been reporting, that has been their defense for years. Did they make headway with that at trial?

BERNSTEIN: Cohen was an unflappably calm witness. When he was asked, straight up, did you commit crimes, did you lie to Congress, did you lie to banks, he said he had. But for the most part, these were old lies. There was one place where the defense may have raised a new inconsistency when they pointed out that text messages suggest one of the conversations Cohen said he had with Trump about the hush money may not have happened because Cohen at that time was being harassed by a 14-year-old prankster. But the prosecution may have cleaned that up when they pointed out something that the defense didn't deal with. There were many conversations with Trump, including on the day the payments were wired to Stormy Daniels.

MARTIN: So how will the prosecution deal with Cohen's history of lying?

BERNSTEIN: Cohen testified, and there was backup, that many of the lies, like the lie to Congress, were done to benefit Trump - in that case, to hide dealings over a proposed Trump Tower Moscow. But mostly, the prosecution worked hard to present all kinds of documentation they could use to back up Cohen's claims. For example, Trump's former comptroller described a meeting where he was told by Trump's former chief financial officer that Cohen would be reimbursed through payments that were described as a legal retainer, which the prosecution says they were not. Hope Hicks, Trump's former communications aide, testified that when Trump told her Cohen made the payment out of the kindness of his heart, she didn't believe it because Cohen is the kind of person who always wants credit.

MARTIN: What about the meetings with Trump that only Cohen testified about?

BERNSTEIN: So here's one example of how the prosecution dealt with that. So years ago, Cohen testified to Congress that Trump told him in the Oval Office in 2017, don't worry, Michael, your January and February reimbursement checks are coming. They were FedExed from New York, and it takes a while for that to get through the White House system. He said essentially the same thing in this trial, and the DA presented evidence from four current and former Trump employees that showed Cohen indeed met with Trump in the Oval Office, that it did take a while for checks to get through the system and that Cohen did get his first check in early February. So the DA is likely to lean into all that corroboration to say you don't have to take Cohen's word for it. This all happened beyond a reasonable doubt. It goes to the jury tomorrow, and there could be a verdict anytime after that.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Andrea Bernstein. Andrea, thank you.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Andrea Bernstein
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.