Trump unlikely to testify in hush-money trial; Robert Costello to return to stand after judge reprimands him – live

Trump unlikely to testify in hush-money trial; Robert Costello to return to stand after judge reprimands him – live

Trump unlikely to testify in his own defense

Donald Trump is almost certain not to testify in his own defense, based on his lawyers’ comments in court.

Legal experts have widely suggested Trump testifying would almost certainly be a mistake, given his track record of making self-incriminating comments.

After Robert Costello is finished, the defense is likely to rest their case, although calendar issues may mean the judge adjourns trial until 28 May, when the jury could start deliberations.

Key events

Trump trial key takeaways from Monday

Donald Trump’s criminal hush-money trial entered its 19th day on Monday in Manhattan with what has become a routine procession, with a phalanx of supporters that included his son, Eric, Kash Patel and the law professor Alan Dershowitz, a former leader of the New York Hells Angels chapter, and a disgraced former NYPD commissioner.

Here are some key takeaways from the day’s proceedings:

1. Michael Cohen’s testimony concluded: Cohen, who took the stand on Monday, 13 May and was the prosecution’s most important witness, saw his cross-examination, and re-direct, end this afternoon. Indeed, prosecutors said that Trump, Cohen and tabloid honcho David Pecker plotted in summer 2015 to keep negative press about the then-candidate under wraps – so as not to derail his presidential campaign.

During his direct testimony, Cohen told jurors that Trump instructed him to fix Stormy Daniels’ account of an extramarital liaison in 2006 and personally signed checks that reimbursed him for the $130,000 hush-money payment. Trump’s lead attorney, Todd Blanche, struggled to hit Cohen with “gotcha” moments, and the closest he arguably came was in offering an alternative explanation about why the ex-president’s longtime confidant would receive $420,000 in payments for a $130,000 cost.

2. Cohen regained his footing on re-direct: After cross wrapped, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger had an opportunity to question Cohen again. She tried to undermine Blanche’s suggestion that Cohen’s cooperation against Trump was out of self-interest. She asked what had happened to him since he started speaking out and, ultimately, cooperating with law enforcement. “My entire life has been turned upside down as a direct result, I lost my law license, my businesses, my financial security,” Cohen said. “Would you have paid Stormy Daniels if Mr Trump had not signed off?” Hoffinger pressed. He said: “No ma’am”, and, when asked why not, he explained: “Because, I wanted to ensure that I’d get my funds back.”

3. Robert Costello claimed Cohen cleared Trump in conversations: Costello was a defense lawyer with whom Cohen met after federal authorities raided his hotel room and apartment. Cohen told jurors that he was leery of Costello, who had described a close relationship with Trump ally Rudy Giuliani. Cohen said he didn’t trust Costello, concerned that anything he said would get to Giuliani and thus, Trump.

Costello said he met Cohen on 17 April 2018, at the hotel where he was staying. “I explained to Michael Cohen that this entire legal problem he was facing would be resolved by the end of the week if he had truthful information about Donald Trump and cooperated with the southern district of New York,” Costello told jurors. Cohen allegedly claimed: “I swear to god, Bob, I don’t have anything on Donald Trump.

4. Costello prompted near-chaos in court: Despite Costello’s comments on Cohen, he wasn’t exactly a great witness for the defense because of his courtroom composure. He said “jeez” at one point and instructed that something be stricken – which is something only a judge can do. Judge Juan Merchan directed the jury to leave at one point during his testimony and then told Costello: “So when there’s a witness on the stand and you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say ‘jeez,’ and you don’t say ‘strike it’. Because I’m the only one who can strike … ” Merchan said. It devolved further. “You don’t roll your eyes, do you understand that? Do you understand that? Are you staring me down right now?” Merchan said.

Donald Trump’s motorcade has arrived at the Manhattan courthouse.

Trump on way to court

Fran Lawther

Donald Trump has left Trump Tower to attend the latest day in court. Proceedings are due to start at 9.30am ET, with prosecutor Susan Hoffinger continuing to question Robert Costello.

Both the prosecution and the defense have signaled they do not expect to need much longer before wrapping up their cases.

Earlier on Monday, the prosecution attempted to undercut the Trump team’s contention that Michael Cohen lied whenever it suited his needs, such as when he lied to a federal judge in 2018 that he was not pressured into pleading guilty to tax evasion – which he later disavowed.

The prosecution suggested that lying to the judge in 2018 was not comparable to lying on the stand in Trump’s trial, as Trump’s lawyers have argued, because unlike in 2018 the current case does not involve Cohen or his wife facing potential jail time.

“Is this different?” prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Cohen, referencing the 2018 incident.

“The other one, it was, my life was on the line … my liberty,” Cohen said.

I was the defendant in that case, and here I’m just a non-party subpoenaed witness.

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Fran Lawther

Trump will once again be joined in the courtroom by political allies, according to CNN. Among those expected at the Manhattan criminal court today are Trump’s son Don Jr; Sebastian Gorka, a former aide to Trump and an ex-editor at the rightwing website Breitbart; and Trump’s former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker, who was a prominent critic of the Mueller investigation into Russian election interference in 2016.

CNN has a list of all the people expected to join Trump in court today:

  • Donald Trump Jr

  • Former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker

  • Former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi

  • Republican senator Eric Schmitt

  • Republican representative Daniel Webster

  • Republican representative Dan Meuser

  • Republican representative Ronny Jackson

  • Republican representative Troy Nehls

  • Republican representative Dale Strong

  • Republican representative Maria Salazar

  • Former leader of a New York Hells Angels Chapter Chuck Zito

  • Sebastian Gorka

  • Joe Piscopo

  • Bill White

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Judge threatened to strike Costello’s entire testimony, transcripts show

Fran Lawther

The Washington Post has more details on the courtroom chaos caused by Costello on Monday. After the judge, Juan Merchan, removed the media from the courtroom, he told Costello his “conduct is contemptuous”, court transcripts show.

He also told Costello he would remove him as a witness if he did not change his behavior. “If you try to stare me down one more time, I will remove you from the stand. I will strike this entire testimony; do you understand me?”

Trump’s attorney Emil Bove answered for Costello, saying: “Yes Judge. I understand.”

Costello then tried to make a comment, to which Merchan replied: “No. No. This is not a conversation.”

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Trump unlikely to testify in his own defense

Donald Trump is almost certain not to testify in his own defense, based on his lawyers’ comments in court.

Legal experts have widely suggested Trump testifying would almost certainly be a mistake, given his track record of making self-incriminating comments.

After Robert Costello is finished, the defense is likely to rest their case, although calendar issues may mean the judge adjourns trial until 28 May, when the jury could start deliberations.

Yesterday’s testimony from Robert Costello was in direct conflict with Michael Cohen’s recollection of the extent of Donald Trump’s involvement and knowledge in the hush-money scheme, including that he had told Trump he was going ahead with paying hush money to Stormy Daniels on a call in October 2016.

Costello, who almost came to represent Cohen after Cohen was charged by federal prosecutors with tax evasion in 2018, testified that he advised Cohen to cooperate with federal prosecutors in that case and offer any information he had on Trump.

Cohen lamented: “I swear to God, Bob, I don’t have anything on Donald Trump,” and that Trump “knew nothing” about the hush-money payments, Costello recalled.

He said:

Michael Cohen said numerous times that President Trump knew nothing about those payments, that he did this on his own, and he repeated that numerous times.

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Cohen testified that hush-money payment violated election law

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former fixer, testified on Monday that he knew the hush-money payment to the adult film star Stormy Daniels violated federal election law – even though he claimed otherwise in 2018.

The implication of Cohen’s testimony was that Trump, by extension, must also have believed to some extent that the hush-money payment violated the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Cohen’s evidence marked an important moment as Trump’s criminal trial hurtles to a conclusion, since it was the closest the prosecution has come to tie Trump to the alleged falsification of business records with an intent to commit a second crime, including the federal campaign contributions law.

“Is that a truthful sentence,” asked the prosecutor Susan Hoffinger, referring to a letter Cohen had sent to the Federal Elections Commission stating that the $130,000 payment was done in his personal capacity and therefore not a campaign contribution or expenditure.

“No, ma’am,” Cohen replied.

Michael Cohen is questioned during Trump’s criminal trial on 20 May 2024 in this courtroom sketch. Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of felony falsification of business records. Prosecutors must prove Trump authorized what he knew to be hush-money repayments to be falsely labeled as “legal expenses” in the Trump Organization’s records, with an intent to commit a second, election crime.

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Defense witness Robert Costello to resume testimony after judge reprimands him

Good morning. A defense witness called by Donald Trump’s legal team will return to the stand this morning a day after he was reprimanded by the presiding judge, Juan Merchan, for his behavior.

Merchan briefly closed the courtroom on Monday afternoon and forced reporters out after he admonished Robert Costello, a lawyer close to Trump’s associates who almost came to represent Michael Cohen after he was charged by federal prosecutors with tax evasion in 2018. Costello muttered under his breath “ridiculous” and “jeez” and sighed loudly when the judge sustained the prosecution’s objections. Addressing Costello, Merchan said:

If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say ‘jeez’ … You don’t give me side eye, and you don’t roll your eyes … Are you staring me down right now?

Costello took the stand on Monday afternoon after prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office rested their case following Michael Cohen’s testimony. Cohen, whose $130,000 hush-money payment to the adult film star Stormy Daniels is at the heart of the criminal case against Trump, testified that he knew the payment violated federal election law.

We’re at the courthouse again today. Stay with us.

Trump’s criminal hush-money trial: what to know

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