Trump lawyer tells hush money trial jury he’s innocent, ‘cannot convict’ based on Michael Cohen testimony

NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s defense lawyer asked a Manhattan jury not to convict his client based on the words of Michael Cohen as closing arguments commenced Tuesday at the former president’s hush money trial.

“You should want and expect more than the testimony of Michael Cohen,” Todd Blanche said as he began his summation, rattling off other witnesses who took the stand against his client, including adult film star Stormy Daniels and her former attorney Keith Davidson, who he then accused of extortion.

“You cannot convict President Trump — you cannot convict President Trump of any crime … on the words of Michael Cohen,” Blanche said.

“President Trump is innocent. He did not commit any crimes, and the DA has not met their burden of proof. Period.”

After a weeklong hiatus, both sides will spend the day in Manhattan Supreme Court court making their final pleas to the panel of New Yorkers, who will soon return to the jury room to decide the outcome of the historic case.

By New York law, Trump’s side is presenting their summation first, which the GOP frontrunner blasted as a conspiracy in a string of Memorial Day Truth Social posts.

After jurors hear final arguments from both sides, Justice Juan Merchan will instruct them on the law and how to deliberate the case.

Trump walked into court at 9:25 a.m. — for the first time, joined by both of his older sons, Eric and Don Jr., his youngest daughter, Tiffany Trump, an army of lawyers, and various allies and campaign staffers. District Attorney Alvin Bragg was also present in the courtroom.

“We have a judge who’s conflicted,” Trump said outside the courtroom, possibly inching close to a potential violation of his gag order. “You know what the conflict is, so do I, but I can’t say it because I’m under a gag order which is another unconstitutional thing.”

What to know

Trump, 77, has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records, each tied to his alleged reimbursement to Michael Cohen for paying off porn star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election — logged in the books as payment for legal fees, not repayment for hush money.

Prosecutors allege the payments capped a scheme first devised by Trump, Cohen, and former tabloid publisher David Pecker in August 2015 at Trump Tower to hide information from the electorate that could influence Trump’s chances.

Pecker was the first of 20 witnesses who testified for the prosecution during its monthlong case, testifying that he agreed to be the Trump campaign’s “eyes and ears” by identifying negative stories that could hurt his electoral prospects to be bought and buried, running positive stories about Trump, and hit jobs targeting his competitors.

The defense called two witnesses, a paralegal and veteran New York City defense attorney Bob Costello, who accused Cohen of lying about Trump knowing he paid off Daniels. Prosecutors, on cross-examination, sought to establish the lawyer and longtime associate of Rudy Giuliani was part of a pressure campaign to stop Cohen from flipping on Trump.

The charges against Trump carry up to four years in prison or a sentence of probation and mark the first brought against a U.S. president. He faces the prospect of becoming the first person to lead the nation to be convicted of a crime while positioned as the presumed Republican nominee for president in this year’s election.