May 20, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Judge rebukes witness in Trump N.Y. trial: "Are you staring me down?"

Former U.S. President Donald Trump appears in court with attorneys Todd Blanche (L) and Emil Bove (R) during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 20, 2024 in New York City.

Former President Trump with attorneys Todd Blanche (left) and Emil Bove at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 20. Photo: Steven Hirsch-Pool/Getty Images

The judge overseeing former President Trump's New York hush money trial admonished defense witness Robert Costello Monday for his reactions while on the stand.

Why it matters: It was one of the most dramatic moments of the ongoing Trump criminal trial, which is now in its sixth week, and led the judge to temporarily clear the courtroom.

  • "I want to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom," Judge Juan Merchan said to Costello, per the New York Times. Costello, a lawyer, was once Michael Cohen's legal adviser.
  • "If you don't like my ruling, you don't say 'jeez,' and you don't say 'strike it,' because I'm the only one who can strike testimony in court," Merchan said.
  • "You don't give me side-eye and you don't roll your eyes," he said, per NBC News.

Driving the news: Merchan asked Costello: "Are you staring me down?" before clearing the courtroom, per CNN.

Zoom out: The tense moment came after Cohen finished a days-long testimony in the ongoing New York trial.

  • Merchan suggested earlier Monday that closing arguments in the case take place on May 28, as the first-ever criminal trial of a former president nears its conclusion.
  • The prosecution rested its case on Monday.

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