May 20, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump appears unlikely to testify as defense indicates they could rest case Monday

Trump at trial

Donald Trump appears in Manhattan Criminal Court on May 16. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Pool/Getty Images

Former President Trump appears unlikely to testify in his ongoing New York criminal trial after floating the possibility for days.

Why it matters: Trump's team indicated Monday that they are poised to soon rest their case in Trump's hush money trial, saying, "There's a likelihood that we will rest" the case on Monday.

  • Trump attorney Todd Blanche said that the defense has one witness prepared to testify and "another short witness," per ABC News.

The big picture: Trump, who has pushed his attorneys to be more aggressive during trial, had said from the outset that he would "probably" testify in his own defense.

  • But legal experts said that testifying could open him up to a potentially brutal cross examination that could undermine his credibility.
  • Trump has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with a $130,000 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels over an alleged sexual encounter. He has denied wrongdoing.

Zoom in: During the trial, Trump has repeatedly falsely claimed that a gag order that prevents him from commenting on witnesses and jurors also prevents him from testifying.

  • "Well, I'm not allowed to testify. I'm under a gag order, I guess. I can't testify," Trump told pool reporters on May 2.
  • Judge Juan Merchan made clear that the gag order in no way prevents Trump from taking the stand.
  • As recently as May 16, Blanche said no decision had been made as to whether Trump would take the stand, according to CNN.

Catch up quick: Over several days of testimony, Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen recounted how Trump approved of a plan to pay Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged encounter with Trump and about the plan to reimburse Cohen for fronting the payment.

  • During cross-examination, the defense sought to undermine Cohen's credibility by painting him as disobedient and obsessed with Trump.

State of play: Trump has been accompanied by a revolving door of allies throughout the five weeks of trial.

Go deeper: Trump's N.Y. criminal trial: Who has testified and who hasn't

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