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Trump hush money trial to continue Tuesday with witness for the defense

Questioning of Cohen has wrapped up, but the defense has questions remaining for at least one witness.
Michael Cohen Trump hush money case
Posted at 10:27 AM, May 20, 2024

Former President Donald Trump's criminal trial will continue on Tuesday with more testimony from Robert Costello, a witness for the defense who is expected to discuss the credibility of testimony from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

Before Costello was called as a witness on Monday, the defense suggested that it may rest its case, which would have moved the trial toward its jury deliberation phase.

Instead, Costello's testimony began Monday after the defense concluded its questioning of Cohen.

Costello reportedly tried to be Cohen's attorney and is a close confidant of Rudy Giuliani, who has also served as Trump's attorney.

Costello testified that he met Cohen in 2018 at a hotel with one of his partners.

Amid objections from the prosecution, Costello spoke about a time they were in a conference room and Cohen was saying that his life was "shattered," believing he was going to be put in jail for the non-disclosure agreements for porn star Stormy Daniels. Costello claimed Cohen said numerous times that the former president knew nothing about his dealing with Daniels, who alleged an affair with Trump.

At one point during Costello's testimony, Judge Juan Merchan cleared the courtroom and seemingly scolded Costello. Merchan accused Costello of not having proper decorum.

“I’m the only one that can strike," Merchan said. "If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t give me side-eye.”

After the jury was dismissed for the day, lawyers for Trump requested that the case be prevented from going to the jury and that the charges be thrown out. They said the jury could not rely on Cohen's testimony.

Judge Merchan asked defense attorney Todd Blanche if 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?"

Former President Donald Trump sits for an interview.

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On Monday the Trump legal defense once again attacked Cohen's credibility. During questioning, Blanche got Cohen to admit that he stole from Trump's business. The admission came during a line of questioning about payment to a polling firm that would show Trump gaining support.

There was an estimate that the polling would cost $50,000, but it ended up only being $20,000. Cohen, who apparently fronted the money, was reportedly paid the full $50,000 in addition to extra money to cover taxes.

The prosecution asked why Cohen didn't reveal the amount he paid to the polling firm. He testified that the money he got from the transaction was "self-help," noting that it was wrong.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records to hide reimbursements to Cohen for paying Daniels, Playboy model Karen McDougal, and a former doorman at Trump Tower. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleges Trump did it in an attempt to conceal an "illegal scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election" by trying to cover up extramarital affairs.

Trump has described the nature of the payments to Cohen as "a legal expense."