Judge scolds Trump witness for bad behavior

The judge in Donald Trump’s hush money trial cleared the courtroom of reporters today and then threatened to remove the defense witness from the trial entirely because of his behavior on the stand, a court transcript later showed.

Judge Juan Merchán told Robert Costello, a former federal prosecutor, that his conduct was “contemptuous at this time.”

Costello repeatedly aggravated Merchan in his testimony by making comments under his breath and continuing to speak after objections were accepted, a signal for witnesses to stop talking.

At one point, Costello commented “God” when an objection interrupted him. He also called the entire exercise “ridiculous.”

“I warn you that your behavior is derogatory,” Merchán said, according to the transcript of the conversation that occurred when the press was outside the room. “If you try to stare at me one more time, I’ll take you off the stand.”

Costello did not return a message seeking comment.

“The fact that I had to clear the courtroom and that court officials, including the captain, had great difficulty clearing the courtroom, and that there were discussions back and forth between the press and the press lawyers , explains why I had “To begin with, clear the courtroom,” Merchan told Costello “And the thing is, sir, your conduct is contemptuous right now.”

When he called the press again, Costello’s testimony continued and will resume tomorrow.

The defense is using it in an effort to attack the credibility of Trump lawyer-turned-adversary Michael Cohen.

Donald Trump speaks to the media outside Manhattan Criminal Court in New York.

Trump’s lawyers also pressured Merchan to block the case from reaching the jury and to dismiss the charges after prosecutors concluded their presentation of evidence.

He did not immediately comment on the request, which came at the end of a heated day that also saw the prosecution’s star witness admitting to stealing tens of thousands of dollars from Trump’s company.

After jurors retired for the day, defense attorney Todd Blanche told the judge that prosecutors had not proven their case and he should dismiss it immediately. Blanche pleaded with the judge “not to allow this case to go to the jury based on Mr. Cohen’s testimony.”

The judge did not seem moved by the argument.

“You said your lies are irrefutable,” the judge responded. “But you think he’s going to trick 12 New Yorkers into believing this lie?”

Cohen was the latest witness, at least for now, for prosecutors, who are trying to show that Trump sought to bury unflattering stories about himself and then falsified internal business records to cover them up as part of a scheme to illegally influence the presidential election. of 2016. The defense has painted Cohen as a media-obsessed liar who is on a revenge mission aimed at bringing down Trump.

Michael Cohen leaves his apartment building on his way to Manhattan Criminal Court in New York.

The defense called Costello because of his role as an antagonist and critic of Cohen in the years since their professional relationship broke down spectacularly.

Costello had offered to represent Cohen shortly after the lawyer’s hotel room, office and home were raided and when Cohen was faced with the decision of whether to remain defiant in the face of a criminal investigation or cooperate with authorities in hopes of obtaining more lenient treatment.

Costello testified that Cohen told him that Trump “didn’t know anything” about paying hush money to porn actor Stormy Daniels at the center of the case.

“Michael Cohen said on numerous occasions that President Trump knew nothing about those payments, that he did it on his own, and he repeated it on numerous occasions,” Costello told the jury.

Trump attorney Emil Bove told the judge that the defense does not plan to call any other witnesses after Costello, although they may still call campaign finance expert Bradley Smith for limited testimony.

They haven’t definitively said Trump won’t testify, but it was the clearest indication yet that he would waive his right to take the stand in his own defense.