Trump rests his brief, tumultuous hush-money defense without testifying. Prosecutors turned his key witness against him.

  • Donald Trump will not testify at his New York criminal hush-money trial.

  • The former president faces 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records.

  • He has relentlessly attacked the case against him as a political “witch hunt” and “sham.”

Donald Trump did not take the witness stand in his own defense at his historic New York trial on criminal charges related to a hush-money payment made to a porn star.

The GOP frontrunner’s plans were made clear on Tuesday morning, as his lead attorney, Todd Blanche, told the judge that they were done presenting their brief, volatile, and ultimately backfiring defense case.

“Your honor, the defense remains,” Blanche told New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan just after 10 am

Trump’s final decision follows weeks of speculation. Last Thursday, Blanche told the judge that the defense team still needed time to “think through” whether Trump would take the stand.

The first-ever criminal trial of a former American president is now nearing its end after several weeks of witness testimony.

Without any testimony from Trump, the trial is on track to wrap up as soon as next week. The judge told oaths that the trial would take a long break, accounting for a long Memorial Day weekend, and return for closing arguments on Tuesday before receiving jury instructions on Wednesday morning and beginning their deliberations.

Before resting their case, Trump’s attorneys finished up testimony from Robert Costello, a lawyer whose misbehavior on the stand during Monday’s testimony nearly got him kicked out of the case.

The judge threatened to hold Costello in contempt, kick him out of the courtroom, and strike his testimony from the trial after he repeatedly ignored and even heckled the judge’s instructions.

“Jeez,” Costello had muttered at one point after being told not to answer an improper question posed by Trump attorney Emil Bove. “Ridiculous,” Costello also muttered.

Costello had a legal dalliance with the prosecution’s key witness, Michael Cohenin 2018. Cohen feared Costello was a “backchannel” to Trump, who he believed was orchestrating a “pressure campaign” while in the White House to prevent Cohen from cooperating with prosecutors

On cross-examination Tuesday morning, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger suggested the pressure campaign was still going. She pointed out that Costello, at the invitation of Republican legislators, criticized the case at a hearing before the US House of Representatives just last week — while Cohen was in the middle of his trial testimony.

“Intimidate Michael Cohen?” Costello scoffed. “Ridiculous. No.”

Trump has relentlessly attacked the case brought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office as a political “witch hunt,” “scam,” and “sham.”

Nearly every morning and afternoon since the trial opened on April 15, the former president has smoked to the press gathered in the hallway of the 15th-floor downtown Manhattan courtroom that there was “no crime” and that the charges against him should have never been filed. brought.

Trump, while in the courtroom hallway, has also repeatedly slammed Merchan, the judge presiding over the case, as “totally conflicted” and “corrupt.”

In some of those hallway appearances earlier in the trial, Trump has told reporters that he planned to testify. But in more recent weeks, as more witnesses testified against him, Trump has ignored questions from pool reporters in the hallway asking if he would still take the witness stand.

As he left court Tuesday morning, he clenched his left fist and raised it, but he didn’t respond to reporters’ questions.

Trump’s legal team put only 2 witnesses on the stand

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has charged Trump with 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors allege Trump illegally disguised records reimbursing his attorney-turned-nemesis Cohen for a $130,000 hush-money payment made to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election.

The prosecution called 20 witnesses to testify during the trial. Trump’s defense attorneys put only two witnesses on the stand in his defense.

One, Costello, is a criminal defense lawyer who met with Cohen in 2018. At the time, Cohen was in his own legal trouble after being the subject of an FBI raid. He later pleaded guilty to an array of crimes, including violating campaign finance laws by making the hush-money payment.

Costello backed up arguments from Trump’s lawyers that Cohen — not Trump — drove the scheme to silence Daniels. He told swearers that Cohen told him that Trump didn’t know anything about the payments. Cohen, for his part, testified earlier that he did n’t trust Costello and misled him, viewing him as a “backchannel” to Trump because of his closeness to Trump and Rudy Giuliani.

During his testimony in court Monday afternoon, Costello acted dismissively toward the judge’s rulings, heavily sighing and audibly muttering disapproval when Merchan upheld objections from prosecutors against questions from Trump’s attorney Emil Bove. At one point, Merchan ordered the removal of journalists from the courtroom and dressed down Costello, threatening to hold him in contempt.

“If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t give me side-eye, and you don’t roll your eyes,” Merchan told Costello before he cleared the room.

Judge Juan Merchan, left, punishes witness Robert Costello about his “decorum” in the courtroom in Manhattan criminal court.Elizabeth Williams via AP

Trump’s lawyers also called Daniel Sitko, a paralegal working for lead defense attorney Todd Blanche, to serve as a custodial witness so that jurors could see records of phone calls between Costello and Cohen.

The Trump team had also intended to call former Federal Elections Commissioner Brad Smith to the booth, where he would serve as a pricey expert witness racking up $1,200 an hour to testify about campaign finance law. But on Monday, Merchan ruled that Smith’s planned testimony would have little relevance, meaning that, as the judge, he’s the final arbiter of how the law should be applied.

On social media Monday night, Smith called Merchan “biased” and the trial “a farce.” He told The Washington Examiner that he would have testified about past applications of campaign finance law, and that he did not believe that a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels to silence her ahead of the 2016 election using a non-disclosure agreement amounted to a campaign expense .

“My personal belief is that clearly paying hush money, or paying for a nondisclosure agreement, does not constitute a campaign expense,” he said.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony from both Daniels and Cohen, key witnesses for the prosecution.

Cohen wrapped up his testimony on Monday. He told jurors how Trump approved of his payment to Daniels, and knew he was reimbursing Cohen for the hush money in 2017.

Much of Cohen’s most damning testimony came when he quoted what he described as Trump’s own words.

Trump”wasn’t thinking about Melania — this was all about the campaign,” Cohen told swearers.

This story has been updated.

Read the original article on Business Insider