Wednesday Briefing: Closing arguments in Trump’s criminal trial

Plus, Israel continues its Rafah offensive
Morning Briefing: Asia Pacific Edition

May 29, 2024

Good morning. We’re covering closing arguments in Donald Trump’s trial and Election Day in South Africa.

Plus, the wizard of jeans.

Donald Trump sitting in a New York courtroom.
Donald Trump sitting in a courtroom during his trial in New York yesterday.  Pool photo by Steven Hirsch

Closing arguments in Trump’s criminal trial

The prosecution and defense made their closing arguments to the jury yesterday in the first criminal prosecution of an American president. Here are live updates.

The prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass, said Donald Trump engaged in a fraud against the American people on the eve of the 2016 election by silencing a porn star’s account of a sexual encounter with him. He said the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels was part of a conspiracy that “could very well be what got President Trump elected.”

Steinglass, who had not yet finished his remarks at our publication time, wove a sweeping story of how Trump, with help from Michael Cohen, his former fixer, and the tabloid The National Enquirer, sought to bury negative news stories before the election. “This was overt election fraud,” he said, “an act in furtherance of the conspiracy to promote Mr. Trump’s election by unlawful means.”

Earlier in the day, Todd Blanche, Trump’s lawyer, spent hours attacking the credibility of Cohen, calling him “the G.L.O.A.T.,” or the “greatest liar of all time.”

Blanche’s calculus is simple: If the jurors do not believe Cohen, that may constitute reasonable doubt, which could make it impossible to convict his client. Blanche at one point called Cohen “the human embodiment of reasonable doubt, literally.”

As soon as Wednesday, the judge, Juan Merchan, will instruct jurors on the relevant law before they begin deliberations. The jury could take anywhere from hours to weeks to reach a verdict. If convicted, Trump faces up to four years in prison.

Palestinians with piles of personal belongings.
Palestinians prepared to leave areas of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, amid renewed Israeli strikes. Haitham Imad/EPA, via Shutterstock

Israel keeps up its assault in Rafah

Israel’s military said its troops were pressing on with their ground assault in the Rafah area yesterday, despite international outrage over a deadly airstrike on a camp on Sunday, which ignited a fire that killed 45 people. Here’s the latest.

The Israeli military’s chief spokesman claimed that the bombs Israel had used in the attack were too small to have caused a fire of that size.

Separately, Gazan officials also said that 21 people were killed yesterday in strikes on an area of tents housing displaced people in Al-Mawasi, a designated safe zone near Rafah. The Israeli military, which said it was engaging in close-quarters combat in the area, denied it had carried out any attacks inside the zone.

Displaced Palestinians were fleeing parts of Rafah yesterday, prompted by what residents said was a night of heavy bombardment.

Aid: The temporary pier that the U.S. built to deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza broke apart in rough seas.

People including children walking past election posters.
Election posters in Tembisa, east of Johannesburg, South Africa. Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

A pivotal election in South Africa

Thirty years ago, South Africans cast their ballots in the country’s first free and fair election. Today, as they head to the polls, the African National Congress may lose its outright majority for the first time since then. Here’s what to know.

A new generation of voters do not have the lived experience of apartheid, and they blame the A.N.C. for joblessness, rampant crime and an economy blighted by electricity blackouts. Voter turnout fell below 50 percent for the first time in 2021. We spoke with many young people across the country who plan to sit out the election.

In depth: For the Times Magazine, John Eligon, our Johannesburg bureau chief, looked at the slow decline of Nelson Mandela’s party.

MORE TOP NEWS

Protesters in the streets, some carrying the flags of Georgia, the E.U. and Ukraine.
A pro-Western crowd protested outside Georgia’s Parliament in Tbilisi yesterday. Giorgi Arjevanidze/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Business and tech

Climate

Elections

MORNING READ

A close-up view of a long black insect.
John Francis Peters for The New York Times

The feisty, rambunctious Lord Howe Island stick insect has been called “the world’s rarest invertebrate,” driven nearly to extinction by invasive species off the coast of Australia. An intensive conservation program is bringing the bug back, highlighting the possibilities and challenges of conserving invertebrate animals.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

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ARTS AND IDEAS

Benjamin Talley Smith poses in a pile of jeans. Only his head and hands are visible.
Benjamin Talley Smith likes to call himself the denim whisperer. Nori Rasmussen for The New York Times

The wizard of jeans

In the world of fashion, Benjamin Talley Smith is the man behind the denim curtain, his name passed from brand to brand, designer to designer, like a secret password.

The global jeans market is expected to reach $121.50 billion by 2030. There is pretty much no brand that doesn’t dream of jeans, and Mr. Smith has worked between the jeans behemoths and the global luxury groups. Khaite’s Danielle jeans are named in honor of his wife, Danielle Robinson.

Denim is a language of its own, reports my colleague Vanessa Friedman, The Times’s chief fashion critic, full of phrases like “whiskers,” “ghost patches,” “chevrons” and “the magic triangle,” — referring to the optimum placement of back pockets.

Get it all just right, and it will “make your butt look really good,” Smith said.

RECOMMENDATIONS

A skillet of stir-fried noodles with peppers and scallions.
Johnny Miller for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Vivian Lui.

Cook: These stir-fried noodles build nuanced flavor into a quick weeknight meal.

Exercise: Here’s a high-intensity, low-impact workout that’s easy on your joints.

Read: “Cunning Folk” is a richly detailed history of magical practitioners in medieval England.

Play: Spelling Bee, the Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku. Find all our games here.

That’s it for today. See you tomorrow. — Whet

Correction: Yesterday’s newsletter misstated the date when Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House. It was in the 1970s, not in 1970.

We welcome your feedback. Send us your suggestions at briefing@nytimes.com.

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