Defense Rests in Trump Hush Money Trial without Former US President's Testimony

Defense Rests in Trump Hush Money Trial without Former US President's Testimony

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Lawyers for Donald Trump rested their case Tuesday without calling him to testify in the first criminal trial of a former US president — and after a defense witness got into a heated back and forth with one of the prosecutors.

Trump had said before the trial in New York City that he would "absolutely" testify. “I’m testifying. I tell the truth. I mean, all I can do is tell the truth. And the truth is that there is no case,” he said April 12, though he had since softened his stance. His lawyer Alina Habba, who represented him in his civil trials but not the criminal case, told Fox News on Monday that Trump "wants to testify. ... He's absolutely ready to tell the truth," NBC News reported.

Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. was in court for the proceedings and said afterward that his father, who is charged with falsifying business records related to a hush money payment to an adult film star, had done the right thing by not taking the stand. “Why would you justify this insanity? Look at the clowns that they put on there. You don’t subject yourself to that nonsense,” he said.

Jurors won’t hear closing arguments until May 28 because of conflicts with jurors’ schedules and the Memorial Day holiday.

Robert Costello, a lawyer who has clashed with Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen — and whom the judge overseeing the hush money case scolded for disrespectful behavior on the witness stand — was the final witness in the trial, which began testimony on April 22.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger continued her cross-examination of Costello by asking about his first meeting with Cohen in April 2018, when a panicked Cohen was considering hiring him after federal prosecutors had executed search warrants at his home and office and seized his phones. Hoffinger asked whether Costello touted his ties to Trump ally Rudy Giuliani during the meeting, when they discussed Costello's possibly representing Cohen. Costello replied that wasn't true.

Hoffinger then showed him an email he sent Cohen two days after their initial meeting. “I am sure you saw the news that Rudy is joining the Trump legal team. I told you that my relationship with Rudy could be very very useful to you,” the email said.

He sent Cohen another email later that read: “I spoke with Rudy, very very positive, you are 'loved.' If you want to call me I will give you the details.” He also told Cohen, “Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places.”

Asked by Hoffinger whether "friends" was a reference to Trump, Costello acknowledged it was. Costello got visibly frustrated as Hoffinger didn't allow him to elaborate on some of his answers. “As you said yesterday, the email speaks for itself, correct?” Hoffinger said. “Sometimes,” Costello responded.

Hoffinger then asked Costello about an email in which he appeared to be pushing Cohen not to listen to calls for him to cooperate, which Costello denied. She asked him whether he thought Cohen was "playing" him and Trump, and he said he didn't. She then showed an email Costello sent to another lawyer, in which he wrote: "What should I say to this a------? He is playing with the most powerful man on the planet.”

State Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the case, dressed down Costello over his facial expressions and snide remarks on the witness stand in Manhattan on Monday. Merchan was so incensed by Costello's behavior that he asked the jury to leave and then ordered the courtroom cleared of journalists and the public before he reprimanded Costello.

"I'm putting you on notice that your conduct is contemptuous. If you try to stare me down one more time, I will remove you from the stand" and strike his testimony from the record, Merchan said.

Costello was one of two witnesses the defense called Monday after prosecutors rested their case. The other was a paralegal who works for Trump attorney Todd Blanche, who testified about phone calls between Costello and Cohen in 2018.

Costello testified that Cohen told him that Trump had been unaware of the $130,000 hush money payment he made to adult film actor Stormy Daniels in the closing weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen testified during his four days on the witness stand that he'd lied to Costello because he didn't trust him.

Cohen and Costello have taken repeated public jabs at each other in the years since then. “If they want to go after Donald Trump and they have solid evidence, so be it. But Michael Cohen is far from solid evidence,” Costello told reporters after he testified before the grand jury in the case last year. “He is totally unreliable,” Costello said at the time.

At the end of court Monday, Trump attorney Emil Bove told Merchan that the defense had no other witnesses after Costello but that that was subject to change. Asked before the trial started whether he would take the stand in his own defense, Trump said he "absolutely" would, but that answer has softened in the weeks since then, with Trump saying he'd testify "if necessary."

Cohen was the final witness called by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office and prosecutors' 20th witness overall. Under questioning from Blanche, Cohen acknowledged Monday that he'd swindled Trump and his company out of $30,000.

Asked whether he “stole from the Trump Organization,” Cohen said, “Yes, sir.”

On cross-examination, Cohen said he'd done so because he was “angry” that Trump had slashed his annual bonus in 2016. “It was almost like self-help,” he said.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the 34 counts of falsifying business records related to the Daniels payment.

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