Donald Trump’s lawyer urged jurors at his hush money trial on Tuesday to set aside their personal views while considering whether he should be the first U.S. president to be convicted of a crime.

“This isn’t a referendum on your views of President Trump,” Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said while wrapping up his closing argument in the trial of the businessman-turned-politician who is the 2024 Republican candidate for president.

“If you focus just on that evidence you heard in this courtroom, this is a very, very quick and easy not guilty verdict,” he said.

A short time later, after the jury was dismissed for lunch, the judge overseeing the case chastised Blanche for telling jurors that the evidence was not sufficient to send Trump to prison.

Jurors are only tasked with assessing guilt or innocence, while judges determine punishment of those found guilty. Justice Juan Merchan said he would instruct the jury that Blanche’s statement was out of line.

“That statement was outrageous, Mr. Blanche,” he said.

The jury could begin deliberations as soon as Wednesday.

In his closing argument, Blanche cast Trump, 77, as a victim of blackmail by porn star Stormy Daniels and argued that prosecutors had failed to prove he covered up a $130,000 payment to buy her silence in the final days of the 2016 election about an alleged sexual encounter a decade earlier.

Blanche said Daniels had been trying to extort Trump by threatening to go public with her story as he battled a string of unflattering stories of sexual misconduct.

“She was trying to use the 2016 election as leverage to try and get paid,” Blanche told the 12 jurors who will decide whether to convict Trump, the U.S. president from 2017-2021, of falsifying documents to cover up the Daniels payment.

Trump denies wrongdoing and says he never had sex with Daniels.

Blanche urged jurors to look past the salacious details and focus on the paperwork at the heart of the case.

He said Trump did not know that his fixer Michael Cohen paid the hush money to Daniels, and said prosecutors had failed to prove that Trump falsified documents when he reimbursed Cohen after the election.

Prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office say the Daniels payment amounted to an improper campaign contribution because it kept voters from learning about an alleged affair that could have swayed their decisionmaking.

Later on Tuesday, prosecutors will sum up the witnesses and evidence they have presented during the six-week trial. They must prove Trump is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the level of certainty required by U.S. law.

A conviction will not prevent Trump from trying to take back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election. Nor will it prevent him from taking office if he wins. Opinion polls show the two men locked in a tight race.

Outside the courtroom, prominent Biden supporters warned that Trump would erode democracy and encourage political violence if reelected. “If he gets in, I can tell you right now he will never leave,” actor Robert De Niro said while pro-Trump demonstrators chanted in the background.


Blanche told jurors they could not trust Cohen, who testified that as Trump’s fixer he paid Daniels out of his own pocket and worked out a plan with Trump to be reimbursed through payments disguised as legal fees.

Blanche reminded them that Cohen had previously admitted to lying under oath, and said Cohen had lied again during the trial when he testified that he had spoken with Trump about paying off Daniels before the election.

“He is literally the greatest liar of all time,” Blanche said.

He said there was no evidence that Trump knew anything about how those payments were characterized in his company’s ledger. Prosecutors must prove that Trump knowingly broke the law.

The charges brought against Trump are misdemeanors on their own but prosecutors elevated them to felonies on the grounds that Trump was trying to cover up another crime – that of promoting a candidacy for political office by unlawful means.

Those “unlawful means,” prosecutors will argue, include excessive campaign contributions, tax violations, and other business records-related crimes.

If found guilty, Trump faces up to four years in prison, although imprisonment is unlikely for a first-time felon convicted of such a crime.

Blanche said prosecutors had not proven that there had been any underlying crime to cover up.

Trump faces three other criminal prosecutions as well, but none is likely to go to trial before the election.

Separate cases in Washington and Georgia accuse him of illegally trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat, while another case in Florida charges him with mishandling classified information after he left office in 2021.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all of the cases and says they are an effort by Biden’s Democratic allies to hobble his presidential bid.