Judge to Defense Witness: 'Are You Staring Me Down?'

Prosecution rested its case Monday
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2024 4:34 PM CDT
Trump Prosecution Rests Its Case
Donald Trump returns after a lunch break during his at Manhattan Criminal court, Monday, May 20, 2024, in New York.   (Michael M. Santiago/Pool Photo via AP)

The prosecution rested its case against Donald Trump on Monday after four days of testimony from Michael Cohen, and the defense began calling its witnesses. Earlier Monday, Cohen admitted that he had stolen money from the Trump Organization.

  • After Trump attorney Todd Blanche finished his cross-examination of Trump's former lawyer, prosecutors questioned him again, with Susan Hoffinger pushing back at the defense strategy of trying to undermine his credibility, the AP reports. "I know you might feel like you're on trial here after cross-examination, but are you actually on trial here?" she asked. "No ma'am," Cohen replied.
  • NBC News reports that in response to questions from prosecutors, Cohen said his life was "turned upside down" after he spoke out against Trump. He said that he has faced attacks and that it has been very "painful" for him and his family.

  • The first witness for the defense was Daniel Sitko, a paralegal for Blanche, CNN reports. He said records show there were 75 calls before Cohen and attorney Robert Costello, the defense's second witness. On cross-examination, he said that the calls were from the law firm's general line and that there was no way to tell who was on them.
  • Costello, a former federal prosecutor, spoke with Cohen after he came under pressure from investigators in 2018, CBS News reports. He testified that Cohen was "suicidal" when they first met, 10 days after the FBI raided his home and offices.
  • "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, per the AP.
  • Costello repeatedly sighed, rolled his eyes, and said "Jeez" after objections to his testimony were sustained. Judge Juan Merchan asked the jury to step out and told Costello he wanted to discuss "proper decorum," CNN reports. "If you don't like my ruling, you don't say 'Jeez,'" the judge said. "You don't give me side eye, and you don't roll your eyes." After Costello glared at the judge, Merchan asked, "Are you staring me down?"
  • Trump's lawyers signaled that they will rest their case Tuesday morning, the New York Times reports. Blanche argued that the case should be dismissed—a standard move at this stage—and Merchan said he would rule on the request Tuesday morning.
(More Trump hush-money trial stories.)

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