Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Trump rests hush-money case without taking the stand

Trump didn't respond on Tuesday to reporters' questions about why he didn't testify in his own defense.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Just after 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Donald Trump rested his case at his New York criminal trial after roughly four weeks of testimony. The former president never took the witness stand.

“Mr. Trump, why won’t you testify?” reporters shouted to Trump as he exited the courtroom on Tuesday.

Trump didn’t respond.

The jury will now get a weeklong break — New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan explained that he doesn’t like to break up summations and jury instructions over a long weekend — and when they return next Tuesday, counsel will deliver summations before handing the case over to the 12 Manhattan jurors.

After the defense rested, Donald Trump Jr. gave a brief press conference outside of the courthouse.

Flanked by a Republican entourage of pro-Trump lawmakers, the former president’s eldest son called the trial a “farce” and panned prosecutors for eliciting testimony from “arguably the least credible witnesses in the history of, I don’t know, witnesses.”

“The star witness in this case was a what? A nine-times convicted liar and an admitted thief,” Donald Trump Jr. said, referencing his dad’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen. “The other one happens to be a porn star. Not exactly the ultimate form of jurisprudence here.”

A few dozen Trump supporters chanted and waved flags outside of the courthouse, as several anti-Trump protestors shouted “lock him up.”

Trump’s attorneys rested their defense case Tuesday after testimony from their second and final witness, pro-Trump lawyer Robert Costello. Costello previously took the stand on Monday, when he claimed to have had Cohen’s best interests at heart, "exclusively," when he gave him legal guidance after Cohen’s home was raided by FBI agents in 2018.

But 2018 emails prosecutors showed during Tuesday’s cross-examination suggested otherwise.

“Our issue is to get Cohen on the right page without giving him the appearance that we are following instructions from … the president,” Costello wrote to a peer.

“What should I say to this asshole?” Costello wrote in another email, referring to Cohen. "He is playing with the most powerful man on the planet.”

These emails seemed to support prosecutors’ theory that Costello was part of Trump’s “pressure campaign” to keep Cohen from cooperating with prosecutors. Costello held firm that he “exclusively” had Cohen’s interests in mind.

Costello drew the judge’s ire during his testimony on Monday when he repeatedly muttered his frustrations with Merchan’s rulings into the microphone. Eventually, Merchan cleared the courtroom and chided Costello in private.

Trump is standing trial on 34 counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors claim he illegally conspired with Cohen to cover up stories potentially harmful to his 2016 presidential campaign, then fudged records to bury the scheme.

In a charging conference Tuesday afternoon, the court ironed out precisely how these charges would be laid out to the jury. For roughly two and a half hours, counsel sparred over the specific vocabulary that will be used to instruct the jury next week. Merchan took a particular interest in one word: eleemosynary, which means pertaining to charity.

The judge joked that he said the word “100 times and I still can't get it right.”

“Why do we even have it?” Merchan exclaimed, drawing laughs from both sides.

Not all of the conference was so lighthearted, though. Merchan grew impatient with Trump’s lawyer Emil Bove after he requested an instruction stating that Trump was relying on advice from Cohen, his lawyer during the time of the charged scheme.

Merchan saw it as an attempt by Trump to revive his request for a modified advice-of-counsel defense, which the judge shot down months ago before trial started.

“My answer hasn’t changed,” Merchan said. “Honestly, I find it disingenuous for you to make this argument at this point… I’m telling you my ruling is the jury will not hear that instruction from the bench, nor are you permitted to make that argument.”

The case will be turned over to the jury after closing arguments, set to take place next Tuesday. Trial will be dark until then.

Read daily transcripts of the Trump hush-money criminal trial here. Note there is a delay of several days before new transcripts are posted.

Follow @Uebey
Categories / Criminal, National, Politics, Trials

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.