Donald Trump’s hush money trial is ending. Here’s what you need to know

Donald Trump's
Donald Trump's lawyers argue his hush money gag order might limit him in a coming election debate.

Donald Trump's Donald Trump's lawyers argue his hush money gag order might limit him in a coming election debate. Photo: Getty

Closing arguments in Donald Trump’s hush money trial will begin this week and then 12 jurors will decide the fate of the former president.

The “hush money” trial, which sought to uncover whether the former president falsified business records to cover up a $US130,000 ($195,000) payment to silence adult entertainment star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

The trial started on April 15 and since then, 12 jurors heard testimony from 20 people, including Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen and Daniels.

Closing arguments from both the prosecution and the defence will take place in Manhattan on Tuesday and then the jury will have to come to an unanimous decision.

Here are some of the key moments from the trial, including testimonies the prosecution will likely focus on in the closing arguments.

pictured is Donald Trump

Former US President Donald Trump enters the courtroom in New York.

What the trial was all about

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in order to hide reimbursements to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Cohen claims the former president instructed him to buy Stormy Daniels’ silence in 2016, when she was shopping her story of a sexual encounter she had with Trump in 2006.

He denied anything ever happened.

Stormy Daniels takes the stand

On the stand at the criminal trial, Daniels described her 2006 encounter with Trump, testifying she tried not to think about the sex while it took place and feared it would become public.

She detailed the encounter, in which she alleged Trump did not wear a condom, the deal she made to keep her silent ahead of the 2016 election, and how her life descended into “chaos” after the arrangement became public knowledge in 2018.

Her testimony led Trump’s lawyers to ask for a mistrial, arguing that details she provided, such as him not wearing a condom, only served to inflame the jury.

Justice Juan Merchan denied that request but agreed that some of her testimony ran too far afield.

The alleged affair happened a year after the businessman-turned-politician married his current wife, Melania and Daniels claimed she asked him about her when she went to his hotel suite, only to find him wearing satin pyjamas.

“He said, ‘Don’t worry about that, we don’t even sleep in the same room’,” Daniels claimed, admitting she wanted to make money from her story and conceded she “hates” Trump.

Stormy Daniels says she had sex with Donald Trump. Photo: Getty

Trump ‘signed off on payment’

Also providing testimony was Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to violating federal campaign finance law by paying off Daniels under Trump’s direction.

Cohen alleged his former boss told him to “just do it” and figure out the best way to pay off Daniels.

He spoke about how there were several instances where Trump signed off on payments to quash sex scandals on his road to the White House.

Just before the 2016 election, Cohen learned that Daniels was shopping around her story and Trump’s campaign had already taken a hit due to the infamous Access Hollywood tape.

‘‘He [Trump] said to me, ‘This is a disaster, a total disaster. Women are going to hate me’,’’ Cohen testified.

‘‘‘Guys, they think it’s cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign’.’’

Prosecutors have said Trump paid back Cohen after the election and hid the reimbursements by recording them falsely as legal retainer fees in Trump’s real estate company’s records.

The secret recording

Digital evidence expert in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Douglas Daus, was among those who took to the stand during the trial.

On Cohen’s phone, there was a recording where he and Trump were heard devising a plan on paying off Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who alleges she had an affair with Trump.

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the press at the conclusion of the day's proceedings in his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City

A secret recording of Donald Trump and Michael Cohen was played during the trial.

“So, what do we got to pay for this? One fifty?” Trump is heard saying in the recording.

Cohen is also heard saying he needs to “open up a company” to “transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David”.

It would appear he was referencing David Pecker, the publisher of the National Inquirer, a publication that agreed to help boost Trump’s campaign and quash negative stories about him.

Trump’s multiple gag orders

Trump did not testify during the trial, but he was issued a number of gag orders.

Merchan enforced a gag order from preventing Trump from making statements about witnesses, jurors and those involved in the case.

The Republican nominee was fined more than $15,000 earlier this month for violating the order and he was warned he could be sent to jail if he violated it again.

Todd Blanche, Trump’s attorney, tried to fight the gag order, by arguing the former president should be able to defend himself online and to back up his argument presented a series of tweets from Cohen.

In a tweet, Cohen referred to Trump as “Von Shi-zInPantz”.

The former president was also accused of falling asleep during the trial, but insisted he was simply resting his “beautiful blue eyes”.

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