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“A Narrative of Trump Criminality”: Jury Begins Deliberations in Hush Money Case

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Jury deliberations begin today in Donald Trump’s hush money and election interference trial. Trump has been charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in relation to a $130,000 hush money payment that his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. In a marathon day of closing arguments, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass argued that the payment scheme amounted to an effort by Trump “to manipulate and defraud the voters” before the 2016 presidential election by preventing Daniels from going public with her claim that she had a sexual encounter with Trump. “It was an amazing summation in which every piece of evidence was explained as a part of the entire narrative of Trump criminality,” says Ron Kuby, a criminal defense lawyer. On the other hand, Trump’s defense lawyer Todd Blanche branded Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness, as “the greatest liar of all time” and dismissed the trial as a politicized attack. If Trump is found guilty, it will likely be weeks or months until he is eventually sentenced. The charges carry a maximum of four years in prison, and Trump is expected to appeal any conviction.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Jury deliberations begin today in Donald Trump’s hush money and election interference trial. Trump has been charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in relation to a $130,000 hush money payment that his former lawyer Michael Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The prosecution has argued the payments were part of a wider scheme to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election and prevent Daniels from going public with her claim she had sex with Trump. Trump has denied that any such encounter took place and has dismissed the entire trial as a politicized attack.

In a marathon day of closing arguments, Trump’s defense lawyer Todd Blanche sought to discredit Cohen, calling him, quote, “the greatest liar of all time,” the ”GLOAT,” and “the human embodiment of reasonable doubt.” Meanwhile, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass argued the payment scheme amounted to an effort by Trump to, quote, “manipulate and defraud voters, to pull the wool over their eyes in a coordinated fashion.” He also portrayed Cohen as a flawed individual but one who offered invaluable testimony backed up by documents.

If Trump is found guilty, it will likely be weeks or months until he’s eventually sentenced. The charges carry a maximum of four years in prison. In his closing arguments, Trump’s lawyer told jurors Trump could go to jail if convicted. This led to the judge admonishing Blanche for making what the judge called a, quote, “outrageous” and “highly inappropriate” remark.

For more, we are joined by Ron Kuby. He is a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer based here in New York who’s closely following all the Trump cases. He’s joining us in New York.

It’s great to have you with us, Ron.

RON KUBY: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you just summarize the closing arguments yesterday and what your assessment of them was?

RON KUBY: Summarizing an amazing eight hours total of argument, not going to be an easy thing to do. Basically, the defense strategy they went on for two to three hours was to not tell a counternarrative, not explain another reason why all this stuff was done, but just to search for reasonable doubt. Like, when we were little kids, we’d look at puzzles and, you know, circle the rabbits that are hidden in the puzzle. And that’s kind of what the defense was doing. Michael Cohen is a reasonable doubt. Stormy Daniels is — you know, and all of the discrepancies were reasonable doubts.

Unfortunately, as the prosecution sort of indicated in their five-and-a-half-hour marathon, a trial isn’t a search for reasonable doubts: “Oh, look, I found one!” No, it’s a search for the truth. And while he could have told the story in four hours rather than six, frankly, it was an amazing summation in which every piece of evidence was explained as a part of the entire narrative of Trump criminality. And it was wildly persuasive, in a way that summations usually are not.

Now, what the jury does with it, with any of it, of course, is impossible to know. I mean, half the time I don’t even know what’s going on in the minds of my family, let alone 12 people that I’ve never met before.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ron, I wanted to ask you: What do you think is the impact, either way, in the fact that neither the defense nor the prosecution called Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial guy for Trump and the guy at the center of this alleged conspiracy? What impact will that have, do you think?

RON KUBY: I don’t think it’s going to have much of an effect at all, honestly. They have the Weisselberg memo in there. Either side could have called him. Neither side did. So, arguing that, you know, the defense should have called Weisselberg if he was going to corroborate Trump’s account of this is as silly as arguing the opposite. Plus, the jury doesn’t know where Weisselberg is. They don’t know that he’s sitting around in Rikers Island right now in the geriatric wing on his second perjury plea. For all they know, he’s dead or out of town or, you know, is lying there with a heart attack. So I don’t think it’s going to make much difference.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And of the 34 counts that Trump is facing, are there any that you think are more likely to get a guilty verdict than some of the others?

RON KUBY: No, because they’re all essentially the same conduct: falsifying business records, which clearly were falsified, Donald Trump causing those business records to be falsified, which I think has been proved, and doing so for the purpose of committing another crime. And let’s face it, most people, when they falsify business records, they do it to either get something that they’re not allowed to get or to avoid doing something the law requires them to do. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, you know, “Should I cook up some bacon and eggs, or should I cook up my business records?”

AMY GOODMAN: Explain the other crime. I wonder if you polled people in this country if they understood what he is being tried for, would they really know?

RON KUBY: They wouldn’t. And, in fact, the defense didn’t fully find out until a few days ago. There are three other crimes that — and the jury doesn’t have to agree. One, New York state law election interference — that is, the machinations of Trump and Cohen and Daniels constituted interference or conspiracy under New York state election law. Two, federal election law — even though there’s no jurisdiction to prosecute federal law and the feds decided not to prosecute Trump for this, cases in New York have held that if you’re covering up your business records or falsifying business records to conceal a federal crime, you could be prosecuted, and usually it’s a federal tax crime. And the third is state tax crime. That is, I don’t know if people were paying attention, but Michael Cohen’s, quote-unquote, “legal fee” was grossed up — that is, they paid him double what he was owed — because he had to pay taxes on the money that he got from Trump to reimburse him for the Stormy Daniels payout. And ordinarily, when I collect a legal fee, if I’m charging a client $10,000, I don’t say, “You know, better make it 20, because I have to pay taxes on that.” I pay taxes out of the money that I get, like everybody else. So, three potential crimes.

AMY GOODMAN: And the proof that this involved the election and not just wanting to hurt his wife Melania and his family for having had an affair with Stormy Daniels is that the sex allegedly happened in 2006, and they’re paying her off with less than two weeks before the election, 10 years later, in 2016?

RON KUBY: Right after the Access Hollywood tape came out, where he made his assaultive and crude comments and people thought that he might be doomed from that. If he cared about Melania, the argument goes, and Steinglass made this yesterday, he would have paid her off in 2006, 2007.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ron, what do you sense would be the political ramifications of either way the case goes, whether Trump is convicted or acquitted?

RON KUBY: Well, now you’re talking outside of my area of expertise, Juan. I will say, from the people I’ve spoken to, the people who support Trump are absolutely undeterred by the potential conviction. “It’s a rigged trial.” “It’s a phony trial.” “It’s Biden weaponization.” Blah, blah, blah, all the same stuff that Trump has emphasized over and over again. Whether it’s going to be — a conviction would enough to peel away some voters, I have no idea.

AMY GOODMAN: So, finally, on a different note, you represent many protesters, those who are protesting around Gaza, students from City College to Purchase to Fordham, and also the climate protesters from outside Citibank to the Westminster Dog Show last week.

RON KUBY: Right, and most of those cases have gone fairly well. The Purchase students have had their charges dismissed. The Fordham students are getting their charges dismissed. A lot of the City College students, though, are facing some felony charges, and I’ve got some of those cases.

And Extinction Rebellion did a fantastic protest at the Westminster Dog Show with their usual, you know, “No dog shows on a dead planet” banner that disrupted things. We’re in court on that on Friday. And it is indeed going to be a “ruff” case, but I will continue to work, pro


RON KUBY: There you go, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Such a dogged attorney.


AMY GOODMAN: Now, wait. I want to ask about City College in particular — 


AMY GOODMAN: — because they’re facing serious charges, and many make the accusation it’s the most diverse college. What are they facing? City College.

RON KUBY: It’s unclear right now, because the charges mostly went in as felonies, and right now the Manhattan DA’s Office is reviewing these cases sort of one by one to see whether they’re going to indict people or offer people plea to a misdemeanor or lesser charges.

The most serious one that I’m familiar with is one I’m handling, where a 21-year-old woman, who was literally doing nothing, was grabbed off the sidewalk by a member of the NYPD Legal Bureau who has a long history of misconduct, and was grabbed, thrown down, and he’s now claiming she assaulted him because he hurt his hands on her wristwatch. It’s one of the sort of old, “yes, the defendant hurt my foot by repeatedly striking my shoe with his head” kind of cases. Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll continue to follow this. Ron Kuby, criminal defense and civil rights lawyer based here in New York.

When we come back, history is being made in Mexico. Whoever wins, of the top two candidates, it will lead to a woman president. We’ll speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa, who interviewed both of them. Back in a minute.

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