Pleadings concluded: It is now the jury's turn in the historic trial against Trump

The closing arguments in the historic hush money trial against former US President Donald Trump have ended – now it is the jury's turn. In their closing arguments, the prosecution spoke of clear evidence of the defendant's intention to commit fraud, while the defense demanded that Trump be acquitted for lack of evidence. The closing arguments were concluded within a day, so the jury is expected to retire on Wednesday to deliberate on whether Trump is guilty or innocent.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass accused 77-year-old Trump on Tuesday of participating in a “conspiracy and cover-up” before the 2016 election. In the first criminal trial in history against a former US president, the prosecutor urged the twelve jurors to use their “common sense” and find Trump guilty. “The defendant's intent to defraud could not be clearer,” he said in his five-hour plea.

Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche denied the accusations made by the prosecution. “President Trump is innocent,” said Blanche. There was “no intent to defraud and no conspiracy” to influence the election, he emphasized in his three-hour presentation. The consequence “of the lack of evidence” must be a “very quick and easy acquittal,” Trump's lawyer appealed to the jury.

The deliberations of the jury can last several days, and the jury must reach its decision unanimously. If they cannot reach an agreement, the case will fail.

In the case of a school sentence, the judge would determine the sentence at a later date. A prison sentence is possible, but experts are more likely to expect a suspended sentence or a fine.

The likely Republican presidential candidate is accused of falsifying business documents to cover up a hush money payment to former porn actress Stormy Daniels. The payment was made before the 2016 election to persuade Stormy Daniels to conceal an alleged sex affair she claims to have had with Trump, which Trump denies.

The hush money of $130,000 (about €120,000 today) was transferred by Trump's then-lawyer Michael Cohen. He testified as a key witness for the prosecution in the trial and stated that he had paid the hush money with Trump's consent. Cohen was later reimbursed the money by the Trump corporation; according to the prosecution, the repayments were falsely declared as legal fees.

In his closing argument, Trump's defense attorney focused on Cohen, whom he denied credibility. Cohen was driven by “real hatred” for his former boss and had told a series of “lies” on the witness stand. Blanche also pointed out that Cohen had to serve a prison sentence for, among other things, giving false testimony under oath before the US Congress.

Prosecutor Steinglass countered that the case was not about Cohen, but about Trump. It was about Trump making false entries in business records – with the intention of “covering up his own election violations.” Trump is charged with 34 counts of document falsification.

The public prosecutor also sees an illegal interference in the 2016 election, since the suppression of Stormy Daniels' sex story withheld relevant information from the electorate.

Democracy is based on the principle that voters “have accurate information about the candidates,” argued Steinglass. Blanche, on the other hand, said that an election campaign always wants to highlight “the positive aspects of a candidate.” This is “not a crime.”

The outcome of the trial could have an impact on the November election, in which Trump wants to run again for the Republicans. The right-wing populist describes the proceedings as a political maneuver designed to undermine his election campaign against President Joe Biden.

It is expected that Trump would immediately appeal if convicted. However, a conviction would by no means end his presidential campaign – not even a prison sentence. The US Constitution does not prohibit running for president from prison and holding office while incarcerated. Conversely, Trump would certainly celebrate an acquittal or even a failed trial as a great triumph.

Trump is facing criminal charges in three other cases. Two of them involve his massive attempts to retroactively overturn his 2020 election defeat to Biden, and the third involves his taking secret government documents to his private residence in the state of Florida. However, it is completely unclear when the trials in these cases could begin.