Trump's trial continues after judge admonishes key defense witness

Photo: EPA/EFE / Justin Lane

After five weeks of hearings, 19 prosecution witnesses, reams of documents and incriminating testimony, the prosecution wrapped up its case in the Donald Trump trial yesterday, handing the baton to the defense ahead of closing arguments expected next week.

Trump's lawyers immediately set about undermining key testimony against the former president, who is accused of concealing money paid to Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their relationship that could have jeopardized his successful bid for the White House in 2016.

The payment itself was not illegal, but according to prosecutors, Trump manipulated documents when reimbursing the amount to attorney Michael Cohen to hide the real reason for the transaction, making the payments illegal campaign finance.

His lawyers called attorney Robert Costello, who previously advised the prosecution's main witness, Michael Cohen, a former attorney, before falling out with him in an attempt to discredit him.

But his appearance on the witness stand got off to a bad start as his dismissive tone angered Judge Juan Mercan. Costello continued to answer questions, ignoring the fact that Merchan had accepted the prosecution's objection to the questions.

The judge told Costello, a former federal prosecutor, that he was not allowed to continue to answer after the judge accepted the prosecutor's objection, to which Costello just rolled his eyes.

The judge ordered the jury out of the courtroom to admonish Costello, and as he continued to be displeased with the witness's demeanor, he briefly removed both the media and the audience from the courtroom. He threatened to remove Costello from the witness stand if he did not change his behavior.

In a statement to reporters afterward, Trump called the episode "an incredible show," labeling the proceedings a "show trial" and the judge a "tyrant." Closing arguments are expected next week. It is unlikely, but there is still a possibility that Trump, as the first former president of the United States in history, will take the stand as a witness in a criminal trial.

Experts doubt he will do so, as it would expose him to unnecessary legal risks and cross-examination by prosecutors, but his lawyer, Todd Blanch, has not ruled out the possibility, although Trump's lawyers have previously said they do not plan to call any other witnesses after Costello.

Yesterday, Blanche wrapped up the third day of high-profile hearings of prosecutor Cohen's witnesses. Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, said last week that he informed Trump of the $130.000 paid to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about the alleged affair before the 2016 presidential election.

Trump's lawyers have portrayed Cohen as a convicted felon and liar, recalling his time in prison for tax fraud and lying to Congress. Blanche also questioned Cohen's loyalty to Trump and then to the prosecution, seeking to show jurors that Cohen was selfish and willing to do anything to achieve his goals.

Trump complained to reporters yesterday that his campaign for another term in the White House has been hampered by the weeks-long trial, which he must attend every day, and that he is "not allowed to have anything to do with politics." "It's very unfair," Trump said.

Calling the case politicized, leading Republicans have stood behind him for days as he made statements to reporters outside the courtroom. If found guilty, he could face jail time.

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