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Trump accused of trying to ‘hoodwink’ voters with election conspiracy fueling hush money scheme

Donald Trump’s “catch and kill” scheme to buy up stories about his alleged sex scandals launched a conspiracy to corruptly influence the 2016 presidential election, what Manhattan prosecutors called his attempt to “hoodwink” voters with his fraudulent scheme to keep politically crushing stories away from the public.

“It was the subversion of democracy,” according to Manhattan District Attorney Joshua Steinglass, who delivered an epic closing statement to jurors in the former president’s hush money trial on Tuesday.

Mr Trump sought to rob voters of the truth, “to manipulate and defraud the voters, to pull the wool over their eyes in a coordinated fashion,” according to Mr Steinglass.

Over five hours, Mr Steinglass traced the timeline of Mr Trump’s campaign to suppress damaging information by threading the dozens of pieces of evidence and witness testimony presented to jurors over the last five weeks into a damning narrative of his alleged fraud.

A meeting at Trump Tower in August 2015 with Mr Trump, tabloid publisher David Pecker, and Mr Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen is “the prism through which you should analyze” the evidence against the former president, who is accused of falsifying business records as part of a months-long scheme to corruptly influence the 2016 election.

“Three rich and powerful men in Trump Tower, trying to become more rich and powerful by controlling the flow of information to influence voters,” Mr Steinglass said.

A courtroom sketch depicts Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass delivering closing arguments in Donald Trump’s hush money trial on May 28 as the former president looks on.
A courtroom sketch depicts Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass delivering closing arguments in Donald Trump’s hush money trial on May 28 as the former president looks on. (REUTERS)

According to trial testimony, Mr Pecker agreed to be the “eyes and ears” of Mr Trump’s campaign and identify and then buy up stories about Mr Trump to prevent them from being published – an arrangement that is not by itself illegal, but one that gave Mr Trump’s campaign a powerful vehicle to prevent negative stories from reaching the public.

“The value of this corrupt bargain cannot be overstated,” Mr Steinglass added. “It turned out to be one of the most valuable contributions anyone has ever made to the Trump campaign.”

That fateful agreement “could very well be what got Mr Trump elected,” he said.

Donald Trump leave a Manhattan courtroom where attorneys delivered closing arguments in his hush money trial on May 28.
Donald Trump leave a Manhattan courtroom where attorneys delivered closing arguments in his hush money trial on May 28. (EPA)

Mr Trump is accused of directing Cohen to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 just weeks before Election Day to buy her silence about her story about having sex with Mr Trump 10 years earlier. That arrangement resulted from Mr Trump’s connection to Mr Pecker, who had testified that he told Cohen to handle the payment himself, rather than use his publishing arm as a discrete means to buy the rights to her story.

Then-President Trump reimbursed Cohen throughout 2017. Jurors have seen a paper trial of invoices, ledger entries, pay stubs and checks with his Sharpie-inked signature labeling his payments as “legal expenses” for work that prosecutors say was never performed that year, and for a “retainer” that prosecutors say never existed.

We may never know whether Mr Trump’s attempt to “hoodwink voters had worked,” and whether he “actually succeeded in tipping the scale,” Mr Steinglass said, “but the reimbursements to Cohen were cloaked in false business records.”

“You cannot lie in your business records, and this is what this case is really about: Cheating,” Mr Steinglass said. “The conspiracy to promote or prevent an election, may be the why, but the lies in the defendant’s business records are the what.”

Rather than pay Ms Daniels directly himself, Mr Trump and his allies “used his own business records as the vehicle, because he didn’t want anyone to find out about his conspiracy to corrupt the election,” according to Mr Steinglass.

“Everything that Trump and his cohorts did in this case were cloaked in lies,” he added. “The name of the game was concealment. … All roads lead inescapably to the man who benefited most.”

He thanks jurors for sticking through this exhaustive and lengthy summation, noting that “we only get one shot at this.”

This is a developing story


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