Trump trial: the former president does not testify because the defense rests

  • By Madeline Halpert and Kayla Epstein
  • BBC News, in court

Image source, Jane Rosenberg

Screenshot, Former US President Donald Trump watches Robert Costello’s interrogation

Donald Trump will not testify at his historic criminal trial, after his defense team dismissed his case on Tuesday.

It will be up to his lawyers to speak for him when they make their closing statements next week.

Although Trump decided not to testify, he spoke at length to reporters waiting outside the courtroom.

“I think a great case was made. There is no crime,” Trump said just before the afternoon session.

It is not unusual for those accused of crimes to choose not to take the stand, legal experts say.

Testifying under oath would have exposed Trump to aggressive questioning by prosecutors, as well as other elements of his record, including unfavorable verdicts in his recent civil trials.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, to which he has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors say he falsified reimbursement records to his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who had paid $130,000 (£102,000) to maintain his silence to an adult film star before the 2016 election. They allege he did so to commit u conceal a second crime.

Before ending the case, his lawyers called only two witnesses, after a parade of 20 prosecution witnesses.

Judge Juan Merchán dismissed the jury mid-morning and told them to return Tuesday for closing statements from both prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers.

He then oversaw a flurry of business to prepare the jury to begin deliberations, dedicating the afternoon to a highly technical but crucial hearing to determine how he will instruct the jury before sending it to deliberate.

Both sides made suggestions about how the judge will tell the jury to apply the law and use the evidence in this case.

Many of the lawyers’ arguments were very technical. In one example, there was a debate about referring to former Trump lawyer Cohen’s past “crime,” or, as there were more than one, “crimes.” Cohen was a key prosecution witness.

BBC News reporters are in a Manhattan courtroom covering the historic first criminal trial of a former US president. You’ll find their updates and analysis on the BBC News website and app, as well as on TV, radio and podcasts.

Emil Bove, Trump’s lawyer, successfully argued that the judge should address bias with the jury, given his client’s controversial reputation.

However, he failed in his attempt to have Judge Merchan order the jury to agree on what second crime Trump allegedly tried to commit or conceal by falsifying business records.

Prosecutors have limited themselves to three possible crimes, but do not have to specify which one they believe Trump committed or concealed. They have presented a broad theory of voter fraud to jurors, but have kept the details relatively vague.

Bove acknowledged that the request was unorthodox, but believed that the judge could use his discretion. “What you’re asking me to do is change the law, and I’m not going to do that,” Judge Merchan told him.

A moment of levity came when Judge Mechan decided to remove from the instructions the complicated word “eleemosinary”, used here as legal jargon for charities.

He told the court he had read it hundreds of times and never knew how to pronounce it.

“Does anyone want to try it?” she asked, drawing laughter from the courtroom.

These arguments will come into play Tuesday, when Judge Merchan can deliver his detailed instructions to the jury and send them to deliberate.

Then, the 12 regular New Yorkers will enter a highly guarded room where they will decide whether to find Trump guilty or not guilty on each of the 34 charges.

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