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Defense Rests in Trump’s NY Hush Money Trial Without Testimony from Former President

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By: Serach Nissim

On Monday afternoon, the Manhattan district attorney’s office rested its case against former President Donald J. Trump. As reported by the NY Times, the prosecution’s case came to a close after 15 days of testimony from 20 witnesses. Next, the defense began on Monday afternoon to briefly make its case, after which the jury will take up the task of making a decision in the criminal trial. The judge, Justice Juan M. Merchan, announced Monday that closing arguments will be delayed until after the holiday weekend, on May 28.

Former President Trump faces felony charges in relation to the alleged reimbursement of a $130,000 hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who says she had relations with Mr. Trump in Lake Tahoe, Nev., in 2006. He is charged, in the NYC case, with falsifying 34 business records in connection to that alleged hush money. It is the first time in history that a former US president is tried on criminal charges. Mr. Trump, 77, has denied the charges and has said he did not have an encounter with Ms. Daniels. If convicted, Trump could potentially face prison or probation.

The last three days of the prosecution’s case included a heated cross-examination of star witness, Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer and personal lawyer. The defense then began its case on Monday, continuing to do its best to sully Mr. Cohen’s testimony, making his words less credible for the jurors.

Per the Times, on Monday afternoon the defense called up their first witness —Robert Costello, a former legal adviser to Mr. Cohen, who said that in 2018 Mr. Cohen told him that Mr. Trump “knew nothing” about payments to Ms. Daniels. After a handful of objections by the prosecution lawyers, however, Mr. Costello said “jeez,” awaking the ire of the judge.

Justice Merchan sent the jury out of the courtroom and admonished Mr. Costello for not displaying “proper decorum” and for giving him “side-eye.” He then cleared the entire courtroom of onlookers, and according to a transcript, told Mr. Costello that his conduct was “contemptuous” and said, “If you try to stare me down one more time I will remove you from the stand.” He also warned the defense lawyers, “I will strike his testimony, do you hear me?”

On Tuesday, the defense called up Costello again, per AP News. After brief testimony, the defense rested its case on Tuesday, without the Republican Presidential candidate taking the stand. Mr. Trump had formerly indicated that he would like to take the witness stand, but he was not required to do so and it would have been an unexpected move. The defense’s strategy throughout the case was to attack the credibility of the prosecution witnesses, rather than to establish Mr. Trump’s innocence. This is because the burden of proof in a criminal case lies with the prosecution. “They have no case,” Trump said Tuesday morning. “There’s no crime.”

On Tuesday, the jurors were sent home for a week, and will be expected back after Memorial weekend for closing statements. Also, on Tuesday afternoon, the attorneys and the judge met in the courtroom to discuss how the judge will instruct jurors to make their deliberations.

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