Trump hush money trial nears finish line

The hush money trial against former US President Donald Trump is apparently nearing the finish line. Judge Juan Merchan said on Monday in court in New York that it had become clear “that we will not be able to conclude tomorrow.” The closing arguments in the trial could therefore take place early next week.

It is still unclear whether Trump himself will speak in court. Most experts think this is unlikely, as it would expose him to too great a risk. Trump's defense attorney Todd Blanche did not rule it out, however.

On Monday, the defense was scheduled to conclude its cross-examination of the main witness against Trump, his former lawyer Michael Cohen. The defense has been trying for several days of the trial to portray Cohen as a liar and a convicted criminal. After that, the defense can call its witnesses. So far, only one expert on campaign finance is scheduled to testify.

In the first criminal trial in history against a former US president, Trump is accused of using falsified business documents to cover up hush money paid to former porn actress Stormy Daniels, thereby secretly interfering in the presidential election. The payment was used to force the former porn actress to keep quiet about an alleged sex affair that she says she had with the real estate mogul in 2006. Trump denies any sexual contact with the woman.

Cohen transferred $130,000 (about €120,000 in today's value) to Stormy Daniels. According to the indictment, he was later reimbursed for the money by Trump when he was already president. The reimbursements to Cohen were therefore falsely declared as legal fees. Trump's defense attorneys do not dispute the hush money – but they do dispute that their client was aware of the payment.

Trump describes the New York trial and the three other criminal charges brought against him as politically motivated maneuvers to prevent him from returning to the White House. The 77-year-old right-wing populist wants to run against incumbent Joe Biden in the presidential election in November, whom he lost in the 2020 election.