Opening Statements Conclude in Trump’s New York Criminal Trial

‘The 34 counts, ladies and gentlemen, are really just pieces of paper,’ the former president’s attorney said of the indictment. ‘None of this was a crime.’

Prosecutors and defense attorneys in former President Donald Trump’s so-called “hush-money” trial concluded their opening arguments on April 22, with both sides delivering their statements to the court and jury.

President Trump is accused of falsifying business payments during the 2016 campaign by allegedly paying a former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to bury negative stories.

At issue were claims from an adult film performer, Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, that she was engaged in a relationship with the former president. President Trump has denied the claims and has pled not guilty.

An attorney for the former president spoke to the jury, asking them to “use your common sense” when they assess the case.

“We’re New Yorkers. It’s why we’re here,” Todd Blanche said.

“There will be a very swift not guilty verdict” if they decide based on the evidence involved, he said.

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“You told all of us, you told the court, you told me, you will put aside whatever views you have of President Trump,” Mr. Blanche told the jury as he wrapped up his arguments.

“The 34 counts, ladies and gentlemen, are really just pieces of paper,” Mr. Blanche said of the indictment. “None of this was a crime.”

Mr. Blanche was critical of Ms. Clifford, saying that she has earned income and fame from her allegations about an alleged affair that occurred in 2006.

“She also wrote a book. She was paid for a documentary,” Mr. Blanche says of Ms. Clifford, adding that courts have sided with President Trump’s legal disputes with Ms. Clifford.

As for Mr. Cohen, Mr. Blanche accused him of profiting off his criticism of President Trump.

“His entire financial livelihood depends on President Trump’s destruction,” he said of Mr. Cohen. “You cannot make a serious decision about President Trump relying on the words of Michael Cohen.”

“He has a goal, an obsession with getting President Trump,” Mr. Blanche said of Mr. Cohen, who is expected to be a witness. “I submit to you that he cannot be trusted.”

But prosecutors claimed on April 22 that the case wasn’t just about the payments to Mr. Cohen. They argued that it constituted election fraud.

‘Orchestrated a Criminal Scheme’

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo, in a bid to reframe the narrative, said that President Trump, Mr. Cohen, and former National Enquirer boss David Pecker “formed a conspiracy … to influence the presidential election.”

“The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election,” he alleged. “Then he covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his New York business records over and over and over again.”

Calling it “election fraud,” he provided several instances when the three allegedly conspired to block negative press about President Trump from becoming public before the 2016 contest.

The plan was  allegedly hatched at Trump Tower shortly after the then-presidential candidate had announced his candidacy in what Mr. Colangelo is referring to as the “Trump Tower conspiracy.”

During that meeting, prosecutors say, Mr. Pecker agreed to “help the defendant’s campaign by working as the eyes and the ears of the campaign.”

Mr. Colangelo, senior counsel to the district attorney, told jurors that although the payments to Mr. Cohen, then Trump’s personal lawyer, were labeled as legal fees pursuant to a retainer agreement, there was no retainer and there were no legal services.

“The defendant was paying him back for an illegal payment to Stormy Daniels on the eve of the election. The defendant falsified those business records because he wanted to conceal his and others’ criminal conduct,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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