Evening Report — Cohen in the crosshairs for closing arguments at Trump trial

A quick recap of the day and what to look forward to tomorrow


The Hill logo


©  Mark Peterson and Seth Wenig, Associated Press

The closing arguments at former President Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan Tuesday focused on a central question the jury will have to consider as deliberations near: Can Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen be trusted?


How jurors view testimony from Cohen, who was disbarred and imprisoned for tax evasion and lying, will be critical in determining whether they believe prosecutors proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.


Trump attorney Todd Blanche spent the bulk of his closing arguments attacking the credibility of Cohen, who was the prosecution’s star witness.


Blanche called Cohen the “MVP of liars” and the “embodiment” of reasonable doubt.


“You cannot convict President Trump of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt on the words of Michael Cohen. Cohen lied to him. Cohen. Lied. To. You.”


During the trial, Cohen admitted to stealing money from the Trump Organization. The defense says that Cohen’s claim he spoke to Trump by phone to greenlight a hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels was a lie. The defense previously cast Cohen as an opportunist who has raked in millions from media deals since he turned on Trump


Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said during closing arguments that the jury should use “commons sense” when it comes to Cohen’s testimony.


“Michael Cohen is understandably angry that, to date, he’s the only one who’s paid the price for his role in this conspiracy.”


Trump’s defense team also questioned the theory at the heart of the prosecution’s case — that Trump altered bank records in furtherance of another crime. In this case, the alleged crime is that Trump sought to deceive voters ahead of the 2016 election by burying a story that would be harmful to his campaign.


Blanche argued that every political campaign “is a conspiracy to promote a candidate.” He noted that Daniels’ allegations had appeared online in 2011, so there was no concern that news of the affair would impact the election.


“He did not commit any crimes, and the district attorney has not met their burden of proof. Period.”


Steinglass fired back in his closing remarks. The prosecution contends that Daniels’ allegations would have been a death blow to Trump’s 2016 campaign after the leak off the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump can be heard bragging about grabbing women.


“Democracy gives people the right to elect their leaders, but that rests on the premise that voters have access to accurate information about the candidates. The entire purpose of this meeting at Trump Tower was to deny that access. To manipulate and defraud the voters. To pull the wool over their eyes in a coordinated fashion.”


Filing from the courtroom, The Hill’s Ella Lee notes the jurors’ energy is waning as closing arguments drag on:


“Several jurors have begun peering around the courtroom as prosecutor Joshua Steinglass makes his final pitch. At least one juror is struggling to keep her eyes open, putting her head in her hands. Another has rested his eyes for several seconds at a time.”


Once the prosecution concludes its final arguments, Judge Juan Merchan will give instructions to the jury. Those instructions have been litigated by both sides, and will determine how the jury interprets the case against Trump.


The prosecution is expected to finish closing arguments this evening, sending the jury to deliberate. Once that happens, a verdict could be returned at any time.


Stay up to the minute with The Hill’s live blog here.


Read more:




President Biden’s campaign made a splash outside the courtroom in Manhattan Tuesday, in a sign that they might be looking to make Trump’s legal woes a central focus of their campaign.


As Trump’s defense team made their closing arguments, the Biden campaign held court with actor Robert De Niro and two officers that were present for the Jan. 6 riots.


Biden’s campaign has largely avoided running too close to Trump’s legal proceedings, hoping to avoid the appearance of meddling or impropriety.


Asked why they would hold a political event outside of the criminal trial on Tuesday, Biden’s communications director Michael Tyler said they’re following the news media.


“It’s easy to talk about the choice in this election when the entire news media is here day in and day out.”


Trump also had a lot of supporters on hand outside the courtroom.


The Hill’s Alex Gangitano and Lauren Sforza report that Trump’s backers taunted and heckled De Niro as he left the scene, taking digs at his acting career, such as “I haven’t seen a good movie from you in the last 20 years!”


Read more:

© AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite


Judge Aileen Cannon on Tuesday dismissed special counsel Jack Smith’s effort to keep Trump from making a false claim that the FBI wanted to assassinate him when it raided Mar-a-Lago as part of its classified documents case.


Smith’s team filed a motion asking Cannon to clarify whether Trump’s “intentionally false and inflammatory” statements violate his conditions for release.


But Cannon instead scolded the prosecution, saying they did not confer with the defense before filing the motion ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.


“The Court finds the Special Counsel’s pro forma ‘conferral’ to be wholly lacking in substance and professional courtesy.It should go without saying that meaningful conferral is not a perfunctory exercise. Sufficient time needs to be afforded to permit reasonable evaluation of the requested relief by opposing counsel and to allow for adequate follow-up discussion.”


Last week, Trump sent out a fundraising email that twisted legal wording in court documents to make it seem like the Justice Department had been authorized to shoot him during its search for documents.


Trump was not present for the search, and the legal documents contained boilerplate language saying that agents should only use deadly force if they face “imminent danger or death or serious physical injury.”


The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch has the full story here.



The Hill’s Laura Kelly reports from Jerusalem:


“An Israeli strike that set fire to a displaced persons camp in Rafah — killing an estimated 45 Palestinians and wounding another 200 — has fueled international outrage toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and further divided the country over his war efforts.”


Israel described the blast as a “tragic mishap” due to a secondary explosion that went off after the missile strike.


John Kirby, White House national security communications adviser, said Tuesday that Israel has not crossed the administration’s red line.


There should be no innocent life lost here as a result of this conflict. Israel of course has a right to go after Hamas and we understand this strike did kill two senior Hamas terrorists who are directly responsible for attacks against the Israel people. But…Israel must take every precaution possible to do more to protect innocent life.”


Read more:

“Why the public thinks the economy is in a recession,” by Merrill Matthews, resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation.


“Catty behavior in Congress is setting women back,” by Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.).


30 days until the first presidential debate.


48 days until the Republican National Convention.


83 days until the Democratic National Convention.


161 days until the 2024 general election.


237 days until Inauguration Day 2025.



  • President Biden and Vice President Harris make campaign stops in Philadelphia.

You’re all caught up! Stay with TheHill.com for the latest and recommend this newsletter to others: TheHill.com/Evening. See you tomorrow!

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.