"Documents don't lie": Prosecutors close by telling jurors they don't have to trust Michael Cohen

Joshua Steinglass followed up Todd Blanche's closing argument by shifting the spotlight to the defendant himself

Published May 28, 2024 4:03PM (EDT)

Participants seen holding signs outside the New York Criminal Court. (Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Participants seen holding signs outside the New York Criminal Court. (Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

On Tuesday afternoon, Manhattan prosecutor Joshua Steinglass presents the state's closing argument against former President Donald Trump, seeking to reframe the case after two hours of defense arguments that it all relies on the credibility of one Michael Cohen.

Steinglass began by arguing that that the case is not in fact about Trump’s former fixer. “That’s a deflection,” Steinglass told the jury, CNN reported. “It’s about Mr. Trump and whether he should be held accountable for making false business entries in his own business records,” he continued, and "whether he and his staff did that to cover up election interference.”

The prosecutor reminded the jury of the testimony from David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer, and his stated belief that Trump had an affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump has denied the affair but, Steinglass noted, Pecker testified that the former president had described her as a "nice girl," indicating that he knew her.

Steinglass called Pecker's testimony "powerful evidence of the defendant’s involvement, wholly apart from Cohen."

The prosecution also went through the interactions between National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard, Michael Cohen, and celebrity lawyer Keith Davidson's interactions. Howard, as an editor at the National Enquirer, worked with Cohen to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels, who had been represented by Davidson.

 "Howard tells Cohen Davidson rejected their offer. Howard tells Cohen that he implored Davidson to get it done. They agree on the broad strokes of the deal," Steinglass said. 

He then read out a text message from Davidson joking that the two should get him an ambassadorship to the Isle of Man for all of his work on getting the deal done.

"Why is the joke funny? The joke is funny because it's a palpable recognition of what they're doing. They're helping Mr. Trump get elected," Steinglass explained.

The former president has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records. And while the charges against him stem from his reimbursement payments to Cohen, who paid off adult movie star Daniels, Steinglass reminded the jury that Cohen’s “significance in this case is that he provides context and color to the documents, the phone records.”

In fact, each criminal charge Trump faces is directly related to a specific entry among the business records of his organization. Steinglass said jurors should see Cohen as "like a tour guide through the physical evidence," and that while his own credibility has been questioned, "those documents don't lie and they don't forget."

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