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Tags: donald trump | hush money | trial | prosecution | michael cohen | witness | testimony

Defense Presses Judge to Dismiss Trump Case After Prosecution Rests

Monday, 20 May 2024 05:27 PM EDT

Donald Trump's New York criminal trial entered its final stretch with the prosecution resting its case late Monday afternoon following the conclusion of star witness Michael Cohen's testimony. The defense moved for a speedy dismissal, saying the evidence was nonexistent.

Cohen concluded his testimony after nearly four full days on the witness stand. He looked in Trump's direction as he walked out of the courtroom before a court officer directed him down the aisle.

In his testimony, Cohen placed the former president directly at the center of the alleged scheme to stifle negative stories to fend off damage to his White House bid. Among other things, Cohen told jurors that Trump promised to reimburse him for the money he fronted and was constantly updated about efforts to silence women who alleged sexual encounters with him. Trump denies the women's claims.

Defense attorneys had resumed cross-examination of Cohen with a series of questions about his business dealings and other activities in the lead-up to the payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels. They further dug into Cohen's sources of income in the years since Trump originally took office.

The defense called two witnesses on Monday — attorney Robert Costello and paralegal Daniel Sitko.

It remains unclear whether Trump will testify.

Merchan said earlier in the day that closing arguments could take place the Tuesday after Memorial Day.

The trial is in its 19th day.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

The case is the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president and the first of four prosecutions of Trump to reach a jury.

Here's the latest:

The judge in Donald Trump's money trial on Monday said he would issue a decision on the defense's motion to dismiss the case at a later day.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche had beseeched Judge Juan M. Merchan to "not let this case go to the jury relying on Mr. Cohen's testimony," arguing that Michael Cohen had not only lied repeatedly under oath in the past but again while testifying in this trial.

But Merchan appeared unmoved by the argument, asking Blanche whether he believed that "as a matter of law, this person's so not worthy of belief that it shouldn't even be considered by the jury?"

Blanche said that he did.

"You said his lies are irrefutable," the judge replied. "But you think he's going to fool 12 New Yorkers into believing this lie?"

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo shot back that "the trial evidence overwhelmingly supports each element" of the alleged offenses, and the case should proceed to the jury.

Colangelo argued that the jury has seen "overwhelming" evidence that the records of the payments to Cohen were falsely categorized as payments for legal services instead of reimbursement and that there was ample evidence that the alleged fudging was done to deceive people — including the voting public and government regulators.

'Absolutely no evidence ...'

Following the adjournment of court on Monday, the defense in Donald Trump's hush money trial asked Judge Juan M. Merchan for an order dismissing the case immediately.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche argued: "There's absolutely no evidence that the filings were false. The business records were not false. There's no disputing that Mr. Cohen provided legal services for President Trump in 2017."

Blanche further argued that prosecutors have failed to prove their case and there's no evidence of falsified business records or an intent to defraud.

Blanche underscored that Trump was in the White House while Michael Cohen was being repaid, far removed from the Trump Organization offices where his invoices and checks were being processed. Trump signed the checks in the White House, but he was doing so because Cohen was performing legitimate legal services for him as his personal attorney, Blanche argued.

Donald Trump's hush money trial has adjourned for the day, following the conclusion of the defense's questioning of witness Robert Costello.

Costello will return to the witness stand on Tuesday.

After the fireworks over Robert Costello's testimony, Trump lawyer Emil Bove tried to get at one of the main reasons he said he called the attorney to the stand: to rebut any suggestion from prosecutors that Costello was part of an effort to arm-twist Michael Cohen to stay loyal to Donald Trump.

"Mr. Costello, did you ever put any pressure on Michael to do anything?" Bove asked.

"No," Costello testified. He said he considered Cohen a client and had only his interests, not Trump's, in mind during their interactions.

Trump appeared alert and engaged, his attention focused on the witness box, during Costello's testimony. When his attorneys finished their questions, he wrote a note on a piece of paper in front of him.

Judge Juan M. Merchan on Monday afternoon briefly closed the courtroom where Donald Trump's criminal trial is being held, forcing reporters into the hallway after he admonished witness Robert Costello for his behavior.

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

At one point, frustrated as he was again cut off by a sustained objection, Costello remarked, "Jeez."

"I'm sorry? I'm sorry?" a peeved Merchan asked.

"Strike it, I'm —." Costello replied, cutting himself off.

At another point, he called the whole exercise, "ridiculous."

After excusing the jury, Merchan told the witness: "Mr. Costello, I want to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom. When there's a witness on the stand, 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? Clear the courtroom, right now. Clear the courtroom," the judge said.

For several minutes, there were no reporters in the courtroom or video access to the proceedings in the overflow room.

Jurors and reporters returned a short time later.

Robert Costello testified on Monday that in a meeting shortly after federal authorities searched Michael Cohen's home, office and hotel room in April 2018, a "manic" Cohen asked about an "escape route" from his legal problems.

"He kept on pacing back and forth, left and right," Costello said. "He said 'My life is shattered, my family's life is shattered. I don't know what's going to happen.'"

Costello said he told Cohen the matter could be resolved quickly "if he had truthful information about Donald Trump and he cooperated."

"I swear to God, Bob, I don't have anything on Donald Trump," Cohen replied, according to Costello.

Costello added that Cohen had lamented to him, "I don't understand why they're trying to put me in jail" over nondisclosure agreements, and disclosed that he'd arranged one with Stormy Daniels.

But, Costello said, Cohen told him Trump "knew nothing" about the hush money paid to the porn actor.

"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," Costello testified.

Robert Costello, a former federal prosecutor in New York, is relevant to Donald Trump's case due to his role as a Michael Cohen antagonist and critic in the years since their professional relationship splintered.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Donald Trump's New York criminal trial entered its final stretch with the prosecution resting its case late Monday afternoon following the conclusion of star witness Michael Cohen's testimony.
donald trump, hush money, trial, prosecution, michael cohen, witness, testimony, defense
Monday, 20 May 2024 05:27 PM
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