Donald Trump’s lawyers call star witness ‘the greatest liar’ in closing arguments

Donald Trump should not be convicted on the word of “the greatest liar of all time,” the former president’s defence told a New York jury, in an attempt to discredit the prosecution’s star witness during closing statements at the first criminal trial against a former president.

The days-long testimony of Michael Cohen, a former Trump acolyte who has become the presumptive Republican nominee’s sworn enemy, is crucial to establishing the prosecution’s case that Trump directed surreptitious payments to buy the silence of a porn actor who alleged an extramarital affair in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

Todd Blanche, a lawyer for Trump, told jurors that Cohen — once Trump’s personal attorney and general purpose “fixer” — had previously lied to federal judges, to Congress, to his family, and to banks, and was therefore the “human embodiment of reasonable doubt”.

“He lied to you repeatedly. He lied many many times before you even met him,” Blanche said of the disbarred attorney. Cohen, who revealed he has made more than $1mn from books and podcasts in which he recounts his animus towards the former president, “is biased and motivated to tell you a story that is not true,” Blanche added.

The remarks by Blanche came as the trial entered its final stretch, after the testimony of 22 witnesses over five weeks, including Stormy Daniels, whose alleged encounter with Trump, 77, is at the heart of the case.

A verdict could come as soon as Wednesday, when the seven men and five women who make up the New York jury are likely to be handed the case for deliberations following closing arguments.

If found guilty, Trump is unlikely to be jailed, but would probably face financial penalties and, if he were to win November’s election, would become the first occupant of the White House to be a convicted criminal. He is also likely to appeal against any conviction. The trial — which comes in one of four criminal cases he is facing — has so far done little to dent the presumptive Republican nominee’s standing in the presidential polls.

Cohen paid adult entertainment star Daniels $130,000 of his own money to buy her silence in the final days of Trump’s first presidential campaign. Trump is charged with falsely recording reimbursements to Cohen as legal expenses, in order to circumvent election laws.

The prosecution has claimed the scheme was deliberately designed to prevent damaging allegations against Trump from being made public in the run-up to the 2016 vote. His campaign was already reeling from the release of the Access Hollywood tape, in which the television personality was heard bragging about grabbing women’s genitals.

The payments therefore amounted to an attempt to “corrupt” the vote, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has maintained.

In its final arguments later on Tuesday, prosecutors said the case was about documents that “don’t lie and they don’t forget”, referring to invoices and cheques that had been entered into evidence.

“Those documents tell you everything you need to know,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said. “You don’t need Michael Cohen to connect those dots”.

Trump’s defence team has long argued that the former president “had nothing to do” with the bookkeeping of payments to Cohen.

On Tuesday, Blanche said that, while Daniels’ threat of coming forward with her allegations was upsetting to Trump, “he had never thought it was going to cause him to lose the campaign”.

“Nobody wants their family exposed to that type of story,” he told jurors, adding that testimony at trial had shown Trump was chiefly “concerned about his family. He was concerned about his wife”.

Cohen, who said he organised a secret reimbursement scheme at Trump’s direction, “cannot be trusted,” Blanche said.

As well as being convicted for a suite of federal charges, including tax fraud, Cohen was “a thief,” the defence lawyer added. “He literally stole on his way out of the door . . . and admitted to that on the stand”. Cohen had confessed last week to overbilling Trump by tens of thousands of dollars for enlisting an external consulting firm.

While closing arguments were taking place on Tuesday, the campaign team for President Joe Biden for the first time sent surrogates to speak outside the Manhattan courthouse, including Hollywood actor Robert De Niro and two former police officers who were at the Capitol during the January 6 2021 riots and are now campaigning for the incumbent president.

Robert De Niro outside the New York courthouse on Tuesday
Robert De Niro made a surprise appearance at a Biden campaign event outside the New York courthouse on Tuesday © Reuters

“Donald Trump wants to destroy not only this city but the country, and eventually he could destroy the world,” said De Niro, a native New Yorker. “He doesn’t belong in my city. I don’t know where he belongs, but he certainly doesn’t belong here.”

Trump, who was joined in court by his sons Eric and Don Jr, and by his daughter Tiffany, once again decried the case as “election interference” in his morning remarks. “They should have brought this case seven years ago, not in the middle of a presidential election,” he said.

Additional reporting by Lauren Fedor

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