Trump Was Victim of Extortion, Lawyer Tells Hush-Money Jurors

Donald Trump’s lawyer in his hush money criminal trial argued to a New York jury that the former president is a victim of extortion, saying the case is rooted in an effort to squeeze him for money before the 2016 election.

Bloomberg
First Published28 May 2024
Trump Was Victim of Extortion, Lawyer Tells Hush-Money Jurors
Trump Was Victim of Extortion, Lawyer Tells Hush-Money Jurors

Donald Trump’s lawyer in his hush money criminal trial argued to a New York jury that the former president is a victim of extortion, saying the case is rooted in an effort to squeeze him for money before the 2016 election.

Adult film star Stormy Daniels got the $130,000 payment to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter after her publicist and lawyer threatened to go public on the eve of the election, even though she’d previously denied the affair, Trump attorney Todd Blanche said during closing arguments Tuesday.

“This started out as an extortion, there’s no doubt about that, and it ended very well for Ms. Daniels,” Blanche told the Manhattan jury as the former president and several family members watched.

The first criminal trial of a former US president is coming to an end after nearly five weeks of testimony and evidence in a case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Trump’s accused of falsifying dozens of business records to conceal the payment to Daniels, part of a broader alleged scheme to influence the election with help from the publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid.

Blanche said that Daniels was assisted in her hush money talks by her agent Gina Rodriguez and her lawyer Keith Davidson, who arranged the deal. 

“There are a group of people who wanted to take advantage and extort money from President Trump,” Blanche said.

No ‘Criminal Intent’

Trump’s lawyer also tried to raise doubts about the 34 counts of falsifying business records that Trump faces to conceal his payment to Michael Cohen, his former attorney who paid Daniels. They included vouchers that Cohen submitted, invoices that the Trump Organization prepared and checks that Trump signed. Blanche argued that the records failed to prove criminal intent by Trump. 

Blanche saved his most pointed vitriol for Cohen, who prosecutors used to provide the connective tissue between the records and Trump’s criminal intent. Cohen, he said, was a serial liar who went from loving Trump to hating him, and then made millions of dollars on books and podcasts castigating his former boss. 

“Michael Cohen is the human embodiment of reasonable doubt,” Blanche said. “Michael Cohen is the GLOAT - literally, the greatest liar of all time.” 

Blanche said Cohen acted alone when he made the payment to Daniels, seeking to debunk his testimony that Trump authorized the deal at every step. Blanche told the jury that wasn’t true, and suggested Cohen went rogue.

“If there’s anything we’ve learned from this trial — Michael Cohen does not take that oath seriously,” Blanche said. “He’s lied repeatedly,” the defense lawyer said, citing a litany of lies Cohen told to Congress, prosecutors, and most importantly, jurors at the Trump trial. “He’s like the MVP of liars.”

Cohen, who was Bragg’s star witness after going to prison for various crimes, spent days testifying about Trump’s knowledge of the hush-money scheme. But Blanche said the jury shouldn’t believe Cohen, saying he’s admitted to lying under oath. 

Blanche also sought to defuse Trump’s poor political standing in Manhattan, which is heavily Democratic. 

“This isn’t a referendum on your views of President Trump, this is not a referendum on the ballot box, who you voted for in 2016 and 2020, or who you plan to vote for in 2024,” Blanche said. “If you focused on what evidence you heard in this courtroom, this is a very, very quick and easy verdict.”

With assistance from Erik Larson.

This article was generated from an automated news agency feed without modifications to text.

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