May 21, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Defense rests without Trump testimony in hush money case

Former President Trump appears in court during his trial on May 20 in New York City. Photo: Steven Hirsch-Pool/Getty Images

Former President Trump's defense team rested its case Tuesday without calling him to testify in his ongoing New York hush money criminal trial.

The big picture: Final arguments are scheduled for next week, after which the former president's fate will be in the hands of the jury.

  • Trump, who has denied wrongdoing, was 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.

State of play: Trump's legal team rested their case after calling Robert Costello, an attorney who once advised Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen.

  • That followed several days of testimony from Cohen who detailed Trump's plan to pay Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about the alleged encounter.
  • The defense team tried to undermine Cohen's credibility by painting him as disobedient and obsessed with Trump.

Catch up quick: Trump had repeatedly said he intended to testify in the trial only to falsely claim a gag order that prevented him from attacking witnesses and jurors also barred him from testifying.

  • Judge Juan Merchan quickly clarified that nothing in the gag order would prevent Trump from taking the stand in his own defense.
  • Had he testified, that would have opened Trump up to potentially devastating cross examination that could have damaged his credibility as he seeks reelection.

Zoom out: Throughout the trial, Trump's lawyers unsuccessfully filed a flurry of legal requests in pursuit of aggressive tactics to keep their client happy while trying to win over public opinion.

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