Wednesday June 19th, 2024 12:56AM

The Latest | Witness testimony in Trump's hush money trial resumes with Costello on the stand

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Witness testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial could enter its final day on Tuesday with the defense expected to rest its case after calling just a handful of witnesses. Should the defense rest its case, Judge Juan M. Merchan has said he will send the jury home until closing arguments the day after Memorial Day.

Attorney Robert Costello returned to the stand Tuesday morning after a contentious period on the stand a day earlier, which briefly led to the judge clearing the courtroom after admonishing Costello for his behavior.

The defense’s calling of Costello as a witness was a source of discord for lawyers on both sides, with the prosecution arguing that he shouldn’t be allowed to testify at all. The judge ultimately permitted the defense to question him about two allegedly inconsistent statements in Cohen’s testimony and to “offer some rebuttal” to his testimony.

It remains unclear if Trump will testify.

Prosecutors rested their case Monday after star witness Michael Cohen concluded his testimony. Cohen spent nearly four full days on the witness stand, placing the former president directly at the center of the alleged scheme to stifle negative stories to fend off damage to his White House bid. Among other things, Cohen told jurors that Trump promised to reimburse him for the money he fronted and was regularly updated about efforts to silence women who alleged sexual encounters with him. Trump denies the women’s claims.

A ruling on the defense's motion to dismiss the case might also come on Tuesday.

The trial is in its 20th day.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

The case is the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president and the first of four prosecutions of Trump to reach a jury.

Currently:

— Trump campaign calls Cannes film ‘The Apprentice’ ‘blatantly false,’ vows legal action

— Trump’s social media account shares a campaign video with a headline about a ‘unified Reich’

— Trump hush money case: A timeline of key events

— Key players: Who’s who at Trump’s hush money criminal trial

— Hush money, catch and kill and more: A guide to unique terms used at Trump’s trial

Here's the latest:

CROSS-EXAMINATION OF COSTELLO CONCLUDES

Before finishing her cross-examination Tuesday morning, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger questioned Robert Costello’s true intent in maneuvering to represent Michael Cohen, citing a June 22, 2018, email in which the lawyer complained that Cohen was continuing to “slow play us and the president.”

Costello was in talks with Cohen to represent him in the wake of an April 2018 FBI raid on his apartment, office and hotel room, but Cohen has said he was wary of Costello’s ties to the White House and never hired him.

“Is he totally nuts?” Costello wrote in the email to his law partner, Jeffrey Citron

In the email, he asked what he should say to Cohen, using an expletive. “He’s playing with the most powerful man on the planet,” Costello wrote.

“That email certainly speaks for itself, doesn’t it, Mr. Costello?” Hoffinger asked Costello, mimicking the witness’ earlier answers that emails he turned over to the prosecutors’ office “speak for themselves.”

“Yes, it does,” Costello replied.

Hoffinger then asked if, at that point, Costello had “lost control of Michael Cohen for the president, did you not?”

“Absolutely not,” Costello bristled.

COSTELLO STRAIGHTENS UP ON THE STAND — SLIGHTLY

Defense witness Robert Costello was on Tuesday morning behaving better in the courtroom than he was the previous day when Judge Juan M. Merchan scolded him for speaking out of turn and rolling his eyes.

Still, Costello tried to tack on extra details to his answers to questions from the prosecution.

At one point, Costello told prosecutor Susan Hoffinger that there was additional context around an email regarding Rudy Giuliani, “which I would be delighted to tell you.”

“That’s alright. Let’s move on to the next one,” Hoffinger said.

Moments later, Hoffinger asked Costello if he felt like he was being played by Cohen, as he had written in another email. Costello said he did not.

“You want me to explain it?” Costello asked.

Again, Hoffinger told him that she did not. Costello huffed, adding: “Now you do want me to explain.”

PROSECUTORS CONFRONT COSTELLO WITH EMAILS HE SENT TO MICHAEL COHEN

As testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial began for the day, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger showed defense witness Robert Costello an August 2018 email in which former Trump attorney Michael Cohen told him and one of his partners to stop contacting him because “you do not and never have represented me” and another lawyer did.

Asked whether he was upset that Cohen hadn’t paid him, Costello said he was — and volunteered that he had replied to the message in an email that prosecutors didn’t show.

Hoffinger went a step further and confronted Costello with emails he sent to Cohen in which he repeatedly dangled his close ties to Trump-ally Rudy Giuliani in the aftermath of the FBI raid on Cohen’s property.

In one email, Costello told Cohen: “Sleep well tonight. You have friends in high places,” and relayed that there were “some very positive comments about you from the White House.”

Costello testified Tuesday that “friends in high places definitely refers to President Trump.”

Hoffinger also showed Costello an email he sent to his law partner noting that Giuliani was joining Trump’s legal team.

“All the more reason for Cohen to hire me, because of my connection to Giuliani, which I mentioned in our meeting,” Costello wrote to law partner Jeffrey Citron in the April 19, 2018, email.

Cohen says he never hired Costello.

WITNESS TESTIMONY SET TO RESUME

Attorney Robert Costello has returned to the witness stand in Donald Trump's hush money trial to resume his testimony. The defense witness turned to Judge Juan M. Merchan and spoke to him briefly as they waited for the jury to file in.

Costello's words were inaudible to reporters. The judge acknowledged him, however, and nodded. The vibe in the courtroom was more cordial than it was during the drama that disrupted proceedings on Monday.

While waiting for the jury, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass asked the judge to poll jurors on their availability to work next Wednesday, a typical off day for the trial.

According to the judge, closing arguments will be held next Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day, so he may want jurors to work Wednesday to receive instructions on the law or start deliberating.

TRUMP ARRIVES IN COURT

Donald Trump has arrived at the courthouse in lower Manhattan for the 20th day of his hush money trial.

Before court, the former president said, “We’ll be doing something in the morning and then probably coming back in the afternoon. And we’ll be resting pretty quickly.”

He added, however, “I won’t be resting. I don’t rest.

WHO WILL BE IN COURT WITH TRUMP?

Donald Trump will be joined Tuesday by an entourage including actor Joe Piscopo as well as his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker and former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, according to his campaign.

He’ll also be accompanied by members of Congress including Sen. Eric Schmitt and Reps. Ronny Jackson, Troy Nehls and Maria Salazar.

RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS WAITING IN THE WINGS

As witness testimony resumes in Donald Trump's criminal trial on Tuesday, a ruling on the defense's motion to dismiss the case is waiting in the wings.

Defense attorneys asked Judge Juan M. Merchan to dismiss the case on Monday after court adjourned for the day, arguing that prosecutors had failed to prove their case and there was no evidence of falsified business records or an intent to defraud.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo shot back that “the trial evidence overwhelmingly supports each element” of the alleged offenses, and the case should proceed to the jury.

Colangelo argued that the jury has seen “overwhelming” evidence that the records of the payments to Michael Cohen were falsely categorized as payments for legal services instead of reimbursement and that there was ample evidence that the alleged fudging was done to deceive people — including the voting public and government regulators.

Merchan did not indicate when exactly he would make a decision on the motion.

COSTELLO TO RETURN TO THE STAND

Attorney Robert Costello will return to the witness stand on Tuesday as Donald Trump's hush money trial enters its 20th day.

Costello's testimony was a source of discord on Monday between attorneys on both sides, with prosecutors arguing that he should not be allowed to testify at all.

Before the attorney took the stand, Judge Juan M. Merchan ruled that he would allow the defense to question him about two allegedly inconsistent statements in Michael Cohen’s testimony and to “offer some rebuttal” to his testimony.

Costello, a former federal prosecutor in New York, is relevant to Donald Trump’s hush money case due to his role as a Michael Cohen antagonist and critic in the years since their professional relationship splintered.

The attorney had offered to represent Cohen soon after the lawyer’s hotel room, office and home were raided by the FBI in 2018 and as he faced a decision about whether to remain defiant in the face of a criminal investigation or to cooperate with investigators in hopes of securing more lenient treatment.

Costello was invited last year to appear before the grand jury that indicted Trump after asserting that he had information that undermined Cohen’s credibility.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS COULD BE THE TUESDAY AFTER MEMORIAL DAY

Closing arguments in Donald Trump's criminal trial could take place the day after Memorial Day.

Judge Juan M. Merchan said Monday that when the defense rests its case, he will send the jury home until closing arguments on the day after Memorial Day. Should that happen, jurors will spend a full week away from the trial.

Merchan cited scheduling issues in giving the May 28 date.

The defense is expected to rest its case on Tuesday after calling just a handfull of witnesses, including attorney Robert Costello.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News
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