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Five big takeaways from Day 19 of Trump's hush money trial

Former U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Todd Blanche, attorney for Trump, right, speak to members of the media before departing Manhattan criminal court in New York, U.S., on Monday, May 20, 2024. (Sarah Yenesel/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Prosecutors in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president rested their historic case after presenting more than 200 pieces of evidence and hearing from 20 witnesses, including Michael Cohen, who concluded nearly four full days on the stand on Monday.

The defense called its first two witnesses -- neither of whom were Donald Trump -- and set out to undermine Cohen's credibility. That responsibility fell in large part to Robert Costello, a onetime legal adviser to Cohen, who instead earned a sharp rebuke from Judge Merchan for allegedly violating his "courtroom decorum."

Costello will return to the stand Tuesday morning.

Trump is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement of a hush money payment that Cohen, his then-attorney, made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in order to boost Trump's electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election. The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

Here are five big takeaways from Day 19 of Trump's criminal hush money trial:

The state rests its case

Across four weeks of testimony, prosecutors told a story of of alleged sex, schemes, and lies related to the 2016 election -- presenting more than 200 pieces of evidence and calling 20 witnesses to the stand.

It was a historic case -- the first to target a former president of the United States -- and on Monday afternoon, the prosecution rested.

Jurors in recent weeks heard from Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress whose long-denied alleged affair with Trump underpinned the alleged illegal conduct; David Pecker, the tabloid executive who promised to "catch-and-kill" negative stories about Trump; and Michael Cohen, Trump's onetime attorney who arranged and executed the payments.

Michael Cohen concludes his testimony

Michael Cohen spent nearly four full days on the witness stand, where he described in chapter and verse how Donald Trump allegedly falsified business records to conceal payments to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

Cohen executed the payments to Daniels, and his testimony provided jurors with crucial narrative tissue. But his credibility -- or potential lack thereof -- could impact how jurors interpret the merits of the state's case.

On Monday, Cohen said he had "more than 20" conversations, in person or by phone, with Donald Trump in October 2016 about the Stormy Daniels payoff.

The state rested its case when he stepped off the witness stand.

'Are you staring me down?'

Robert Costello, a former attorney for Cohen, had spent less than 15 minutes on the witness stand when Judge Juan Merchan sustained a string of the state's objections. After one such interjection, Costello was heard muttering under his breath, "Jeez."

That extracurricular musing prompted Merchan to dismiss jurors and issue Costello a stern rebuke, ordering him to uphold "proper decorum in my courtroom."

"If you don't like my ruling, you don't say 'Jeez,' you don't say 'Strike it,' because I'm the only one who can strike testimony in the court," a visibly annoyed Merchan said. "If you don't like my ruling, you don't give me side-eye and you don't roll your eyes."

The matter appeared settled. But seconds later, Merchan barked: "Are you staring me down?"

With that, Merchan took the extraordinary step of clearing reporters from the courtroom. After a few minutes, reporters and jurors returned and Merchan resumed proceedings without addressing the matter.

Defense moves for long shot dismissal

Before proceedings concluded for the day, defense attorney Todd Blanche launched a long shot bid to have the case dismissed before it goes to jurors -- saying in a lengthy argument that "there is no evidence from any of the witnesses who testified of any criminal intent."

"How on earth is keeping a false story from the voters criminal?" Blanche asked, his voice slightly rising.

After Blanche accused Cohen of lying on the stand, Merchan quipped, "You think he's going to fool 12 New Yorkers into believing his lies?"

The judge said he would reserve his decision on the motion.

Trump probably won't take the stand

While Donald Trump's attorneys have yet to definitively rule out his appearance on the witness stand, the prospect seems increasingly unlikely.

Blanche indicated early Monday that he would call two witnesses to the stand, without identifying them by name. By the end of the day, he had called two witnesses -- a paralegal and Robert Costello.

Before court concluded, Judge Merchan asked attorneys for Trump whether they planned to call any additional witnesses.

"Not at this point, judge," said defense attorney Emil Bove.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Memorial Day weekend travel: The busiest days to fly and drive

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(NEW YORK) -- A record-breaking number of travelers are expected to hit the road and take to the skies this Memorial Day weekend.

Whether you're headed to the beach or to check out a new city, here's what you need to know:

The skies: The busiest days to fly

AAA data predicts 3.51 million people will travel by plane over the holiday weekend. This is a 4.8% jump from last year and marks the busiest Memorial Day weekend at U.S. airports since 2005.

United Airlines forecasts 2024 will be its busiest Memorial Day weekend ever, with over three million passengers expected to fly between Thursday, May 23, and Tuesday, May 28. United said May 23 will be its most crowded day, with nearly 520,000 passengers.

Delta expects nearly three million customers to fly during the Memorial Day period, from May 23 to May 27. The airline said this is a 5% increase from last year.

The busiest days to fly will be May 23, Friday, May 24, and Memorial Day itself, Monday, May 27, according to Hopper data.

The most packed airports are expected to be Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Denver International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, Hopper said.

According to AAA, the top domestic destinations are: Orlando, Florida; Seattle; New York City; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Denver; Anchorage, Alaska; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Miami; and Boston.

The roads: The best times to drive to avoid traffic

A record high of 38.4 million people are expected to travel by car over Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA. This is a 4% increase from last year.

Drivers heading out the door on May 23 or May 24 should leave before 11 a.m. or wait until the evening to avoid the worst traffic, according to transportation analytics company INRIX.

When you're driving home from vacation on May 26 or May 27, the worst time to be on the road is from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., INRIX said.

The cities with the highest rental car demands are Orlando, Denver, Atlanta, Boston and Las Vegas, according to Hertz.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Climber found dead after falling off highest peak in North America

NPS

(NEW YORK) -- A climber has died at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska after park rangers found a body at an elevation of over three miles, officials said.

The incident began to unfold on Monday when rangers were contacted by a concerned family member that had not heard from a climber for several days, according to a press release from the National Park Service.

“The climber had been regularly checking in with family via an InReach communication device during their attempted solo climb of Denali,” authorities said.

Park authorities were immediately sent to the upper mountain range on the West Buttress route due to concerns from the family member and mountaineering rangers were able to quickly locate the climber’s empty tent at the top of the 16,200-foot ridge, park officials said.

“Through interviews, rangers also determined the last known sighting of the climber. Another climbing team had witnessed them traversing from the 17,200 feet plateau to Denali Pass at 18,200 feet on Wednesday, May 15,” according to the National Park Service. “Rangers at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station were able to collect satellite location data from the climber’s InReach account and identified their probable location at 17,000 feet on Denali. The InReach data indicated the device had not changed location since Thursday, May 16, suggesting a fall from the Denali Pass traverse took place on that day.”

A National Park Service mountaineering patrol at the 17,200-foot-high camp was subsequently able to locate the probable fall location of the climber using a spotting scope on Monday morning once the weather began clearing on the upper mountain, officials said.

“The team proceeded to the site and confirmed that the climber was deceased. The ranger patrol then secured the climber in place and returned to high camp,” according to authorities. “Recovery efforts will be attempted when weather conditions allow. The identity of the fallen climber will be released once family has been notified.”

Since 1980, at least fourteen climbers have died in falls along the treacherous West Buttress route section, including this latest death.

“There are currently 352 climbers on Denali’s West Buttress Route, the majority of whom are much lower on the mountain this early in the climbing season,” according to park officials, who said that the climbing season typically begins in early May and ends in early July.

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Minors again found working at Alabama poultry plant where 16-year-old died, Department of Labor says

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(NEW YORK) -- Investigators allegedly again found minors working on the kill floor of a poultry plant owned by the company that was found responsible for the death of a teenager last year, according to court filings.

Department of Labor investigators said they discovered on May 1 "oppressive child labor" at the poultry plant in Alabama, "namely children working on the kill floor deboning poultry and cutting carcasses," after obtaining a civil search warrant.

"The children had been working at the facility for months," the filing said.

According to court documents, the company, Mar-Jac Poultry, denied knowing it had any employees who were under 18 years.

In a statement to ABC News, Mar-Jac said the minors were hired with documents "that showed they were over 18 years of age."

"Mar-Jac will continue to vigorously defend itself and expects to prevail in this matter," the company said. "Mar-Jac is committed to complying with all relevant law."

The Department of Labor is seeking a court order to stop the company from selling and shipping "poultry tainted by oppressive child labor" from the company's plant in Alabama, according to court filings.

Federal regulators had earlier this year called the July 2023 death of Duvan Perez, a 16-year-old who died while cleaning a poultry processing machine at a Mar-Jac facility, "a preventable, dangerous situation" that no worker should have been in, "let alone a child."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Mar-Jac Poultry with 14 serious and three "other than serious" violations and proposed $212,646 in penalties for Perez's death. The agency previously cited the company for an incident in 2021 in which an employee who was not a minor suffered fatal injuries while working.

Perez's mother filed in January a wrongful death lawsuit against Mar-Jac and two of its employees, along with the agency that hired Perez. The lawsuit alleges that Perez was killed due to Mar-Jac ignoring safety regulations. The suit claims the defendants "acted intentionally, willfully, wantonly, knowingly, with malice and/or were grossly negligent and in reckless disregard to the rights and the safety of the decedent and others similarly situated."

Court records reviewed by ABC News said the company's Hattiesburg plant was also sued twice in recent years by people who alleged they had sustained injuries at the plant. One of the lawsuits, filed in December 2022, is scheduled for a jury trial in August. In the other lawsuit, which was filed by a veterinarian for the Department of Agriculture who allegedly fell during an inspection, a jury found in favor of the defendant, Mar-Jac.

The Alabama plant was cited in December by OSHA for a serious violation after an employee was injured.

According to the Department of Labor, last year 5,800 children were employed in violation of child labor laws, representing an 88% increase since 2019. And of the 955 child labor cases that were investigated and closed by federal regulators in 2023, more than half involved minors employed in violation of hazardous occupation laws.

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Special counsel in Hunter Biden case plans to call his ex-wife, brother's widow as witnesses in upcoming trial

Hunter Biden attends the House Oversight and Accountability Committee markup titled "Resolution Recommending That The House Of Representatives Find Robert Hunter Biden In Contempt Of Congress," Jan. 10, 2024. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) -- In court papers filed ahead of a June 3 trial, special counsel David Weiss’ office suggested they would call multiple women who had relationships with Hunter Biden to testify in his felony gun case, including his ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, and the widow of his late brother Beau Biden, Hallie Biden.

The revelations emerged late Monday in a trial brief filed by the government. The 97-page document includes the law and evidence prosecutors plan to use to prove that Hunter Biden committed three felonies when he procured a firearm in 2018 while under the influence of drugs.

Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty.

The filing does not name Buhle or Hallie Biden. But the descriptions make their identities clear.

“Witness 1 was previously married to the defendant,” prosecutors wrote in the filing. “They divorced in April 2017, but through 2018 she would check his vehicle from time to time because she did not want their children in a vehicle with drugs.”

Prosecutors described Witness 3 as a woman who "was in a romantic relationship with the defendant in October 2018, and before and after."

"Witness 3 will also establish that the defendant possessed the gun and she discarded it in an outdoor trash receptacle at the Janssen’s Market in Wilmington, Delaware after removing it from his vehicle," prosecutors wrote.

ABC News has previously reported that Hallie Biden found the Cobra 38SPL revolver and discarded it in a garbage bin.

A third unidentified woman prosecutors plan to call "was previously in a romantic relationship" with Biden and "observed the defendant using crack cocaine frequently—every 20 minutes except when he slept."

Prosecutors in Weiss’ office also indicated that they intend to draw heavily from passages in Hunter Biden’s 2021 memoir, Beautiful Things, in which Biden addressed his addiction. They also plan to enter into evidence several messages that demonstrate his addiction at the time of his gun purchase, on Oct. 12, 2018.

The trial is scheduled to begin on June 3 in Wilmington, Delaware, before Judge Maryellen Noreika.

Earlier on Monday, Hunter Biden appealed Noreika’s denial of his motion to dismiss the charges. A panel of federal appellate judges has already turned down a similar effort. Noreika has repeatedly blocked Biden’s efforts to delay the trial.

Prosecutors say Biden lied on a federal form about his drug use when he obtained a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver in 2018, after he later acknowledged in his memoir, Beautiful Things, that he was addicted to drugs around that time. He owned the firearm for 11 days and never fired it, his attorneys have said.

Biden was indicted by special counsel Weiss last September.

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Man, 35, survives grizzly bear attack after encountering two of them at national park

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(NEW YORK) -- A 35-year-old man has been seriously injured in a grizzly bear attack after accidentally encountering two of them in Wyoming, officials said.

The sudden attack occurred on Sunday afternoon, when the Teton Interagency Dispatch received a report of a 35-year-old male visitor from Massachusetts being “seriously injured” by a bear in the area of the Signal Mountain Summit Road, according to a press release by the National Park Service on Monday detailing the attack.

“Grand Teton National Park rangers and Teton County Search and Rescue personnel responded to the scene to provide emergency medical care and air lifted the patient via helicopter to an awaiting ambulance where he was transported to St. John’s Hospital,” officials said.

Based on initial reports from the injured visitor and preliminary information conducted as part of an ongoing investigation of the site, law enforcement rangers and park biologists believe the incident was a “surprise encounter with two grizzly bears, with one of the bears contacting and injuring the visitor.”

Park officials did not disclose the circumstances around the incident or how the man was able to defend himself but did say that the unnamed victim who was injured is in stable condition and is expected to fully recover.

As a result of the weekend attack, the Signal Mountain Summit Road and Signal Mountain Trail are currently closed to all public entry.

Park officials took the opportunity to remind people on how to prevent human-bear conflicts in the wild.

“Never leave your food unattended unless it is properly secured,” authorities said. “Keep a clean camp and adhere to all food storage orders. Store all attractants, including coolers, cooking gear, pet food, and toiletries, inside a bear-resistant food locker (i.e. bear box) or a hard-sided vehicle with the windows rolled up.”

Park officials also reminded people to properly store garbage until you can deposit it into a bear-resistant dumpster and not to eat or cook in your tent, “and never keep food or other scented items in your tent.”

Said the National Park Service: “If you see a bear, please give it space. Always stay at least 100 yards away.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump trial: Drama sweeps courtroom as defense tries to get case tossed

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(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City, where he is facing felony charges related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It marks the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

May 20, 5:56 PM
Trump says he's surprised judge cleared courtroom

Donald Trump, exiting the courtroom, commented on the chaotic scene this afternoon when Judge Juan Merchan cleared the courtroom so he could admonish defense witness Robert Costello.

"A totally conflicted judge who just did something that nobody's ever seen -- and the press is not happy -- I don't imagine they just got thrown out of the courthouse. Nobody's ever seen anything quite like it," Trump said.

Trump also said he was unhappy that the judge decided to limit the testimony of the defense's expert witness on election law.

"We're not allowed to put it in an expert witness," Trump said. "Nobody's ever heard of it before. You know, election law is very complicated, actually."

May 20, 5:02 PM
Judge says he'll reserve his decision on motion to dismiss

Responding to the defense's motion to dismiss the case, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo Colangelo argued that Trump, at a minimum, can be found responsible for the actions of his accomplices if he set the action into motion.

"At minimum a rational jury can conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that they all contained false information," Colangelo said of the business records that recorded Michael Cohen's hush money repayment as legal expenses.

Trump, at the defense table, jotted down notes as Colangelo spoke.

"The trial evidence overwhelmingly supports each element of the offense," Colangelo argued.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche pushed the theory that Trump has argued since the first days of the trial: How else would Trump describe a payment to his lawyer other than a legal expense?

"It's hard to imagine what book -- how was this supposed to be booked by Ms. Tarasoff," Blanche asked about Trump Organization accounts payable supervisor Deborah Tarasoff.

Judge Merchan said he will reserve his decision on the motion.

Court was then concluded for the day.

May 20, 4:52 PM
Defense moves for dismissal of case

The defense made a motion for the dismissal of the case, with defense attorney Todd Blanche telling Judge Merchan, "There's absolutely no evidence the filings were false, the business records were false."

When the invoices for Cohen's payment were sent to the Trump Organization there's no evidence they were entered improperly, Blanche said. "At the start, there is absolutely no false business filings. They're accurate business filings," he said.

Trump looked directly at Blanche as the attorney addressed Merchan.

"There's no evidence that there's any intent to defraud by Mr. Trump in connection to these filings," Blanche argued.

"There are no other crimes," defense attorney Todd Blanche argued about the legal standard in the case -- that Trump falsified business records in furtherance of another crime. "There is no evidence that any one was thinking about a campaign finance charge in 2016 when this payment was made to Ms. Daniels."

"The prosecutors have talked in their opening statement and in papers about some sort of conspiracy to influence the election but as the court knows there has to be something illegal about this effort," Blanche said. "There's no evidence from any of the witnesses who testified of any criminal intent."

"There is no way that the court should let this case go to jury relying on Mr. Cohen's testimony," Blanche said "Without Mr. Cohen, there is no case."

Judge Merchan asked if Blanche was calling for him to rule that Cohen's testimony is "not credible as a matter of law."

"Absolutely, that's exactly what we're calling on the court to do," Blanche replied. "He testified, and he lied under oath -- in this courtroom."

May 20, 4:43 PM
Defense says it has no additional witnesses 'at this point'

Asked by Judge Merchan if they have any additional witnesses, defense attorneys responded, "Not at this point."

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger said she has no more than 45 minutes of cross-examination left when court resumes tomorrow.

The defense will have then some redirect.

May 20, 4:37 PM
'He was putting on quite a show,' Costello says of Cohen

Under cross-examination from prosecutor Susan Hoffinger, Michael Cohen's former attorney Robert Costello testified that he first met with Cohen at the urging of Jeffrey Citron, who scheduled the April 2018 meeting at the Regency Hotel.

Costello -- who has represented Leona Helmsley and George Steinbrenner in the past -- acknowledged that representing Cohen would have generated positive publicity for his law firm. But Costello said he did not have positive feelings about landing Cohen as a client.

"I didn't want him as a client with the firm," Costello said, pushing back on prosecutors' assertions that landing Cohen would have been a big win.

Jurors briefly saw an email where Costello's son congratulated him for landing Cohen as a client.

"Wow. That's big news. Congrats Dad. I hope this leads to a lot of good things coming your way," Costello's son wrote.

Asked about the FBI's raid on Cohen's office and hotel room, Costello said, "I wouldn't use the term raid -- they executed a search warrant."

"He was suicidal that day and acting very manic," Costello said about Cohen's behavior after the FBI searched on his hotel and office.

""You thought he was being a drama queen, didn't you?" Hoffinger asked.

"He was putting on quite a show and he explained to us that two nights before he was on the roof of the Regency Hotel and he was going to jump off and kill himself because he couldn't handle the pressure," Costello said.

Testimony subsequently concluded for the day, with Costello scheduled to return to the stand tomorrow.

May 20, 4:24 PM
Costello testifies that he never pressured Cohen

After Judge Merchan brought the jury back to the courtroom, defense attorney Emil Bove resumed his direct examination. The judge did not reference his admonition of Robert Costello.

Costello testified that Cohen instructed him to contact Rudy Giuliani on June 7, 2018. Jurors saw phone records showing that Cohen and Costello spoke for 46 minutes that day.

Jurors saw another email between Cohen and Costello in June 2018.

"Please remember if you want or need to communicate something, please let me know and I will see that it gets done," Costello wrote.

"Did you ever put any pressure on Michael Cohen to do anything?" Bove asked.

"No," Costello answered.

"Did you ever pressure him to interact with Rudy Giuliani in a certain way?" Bove asked.

"Not at all," Costello said.

Costello added that Cohen never paid his legal bills to Costello's firm.

Costello's direct examination then concluded.

May 20, 4:13 PM
Judge blasts defense witness: 'Don't give me side-eye'

Attempting to rebuff the idea that Michael Cohen's then-attorney Robert Costello was asserting pressure on Cohen not to flip on Trump, Costello testified that Cohen was also trying to get information from him -- a backchannel that went both ways.

"Cohen was trying to get information from Rudy Giuliani?" defense attorney Emil Bove asked.

"That's correct," Costello said.

Following another objection, Costello let out an audible breath. Judge Merchan then sent the jury out of the courtroom.

"I'd like to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom," he admonished Costello. "If you don't like my ruling, you don't give me side-eye and you don't roll your eyes. Do you understand that?"

Costello said he understood.

Then Merchan abruptly said: "Are you staring me down?"

A furious Merchan then ordered the entire courtroom cleared out.

After a resolution was reached, everyone returned to the courtroom.

May 20, 4:04 PM
Costello says Cohen said Trump knew nothing of Daniels payment

Michael Cohen's former attorney, Robert Costello, testified that in their initial meeting on April 17, 2018, Cohen said Trump did not know about the payment to Stormy Daniels.

"Michael Cohen said numerous times that President Trump knew nothing about those payments, that he did this on his own, and he said that numerous times," Costello testified.

"Jeez," Costello muttered when Judge Merchan sustained an objection following another question.

The judge had earlier instructed Costello to wait until an objection was resolved before answering the question.

May 20, 3:57 PM
Costello testifies Cohen told him he had nothing on Trump

Defense witness Robert Costello, who for a time was Michael Cohen's attorney, introduced details of his first meeting with Cohen, saying they first met at the Regency Hotel in Manhattan on April 17, 2018, with attorney Jeffrey Citron.

Cohen "was absolutely manic" during the first meeting, Costello said. The FBI had just raided his home and office.

“I really want you to explain what my options are. What’s my escape route?” Costello said Cohen told him.

Cohen said, "My life is shattered, my family's life is shattered," Costello testified.

Costello said he told Cohen, “This entire legal problem he was facing would be resolved by the end of the week if he had truthful information about Donald Trump and cooperated with the Southern District of New York.”

Costello said that Cohen on multiple occasions said, “I swear to god Bob, I don’t have anything on Donald Trump.”

"Did the topic of Stormy Daniels come up?" defense attorney Emil Bove asked Costello.

Costello said it did, with Cohen telling him, "I don’t understand why they’re trying to put me in jail for some f------ NDAs."

May 20, 3:48 PM
Judge agrees to allow limited testimony from Costello

Judge Merchan, after returning to the bench, agrees to give defense attorney Emil Bove "some latitude" to explore with witness Robert Costello the pressure campaign that Michael Cohen spoke.

"I’m not going to allow this to become a trial within a trial ... that's not the purpose of this trial, and I'm not going to let it become that," the judge said.

The defense called Robert Costello to the stand.

May 20, 3:45 PM
Attorney argue over Costello testifying

In a sidebar, Trump's attorney told Judge Merchan want to use ex-Cohen attorney Robert Costello to push back on Cohen's claims that he was worried about speaking to Costello because he was worried it would get back to Trump.

"That's not Mr. Costello's recollection," defense attorney Emil Bove said. "To rebut the government's pressure campaign theory -- that's why this evidence is admissible."

Bove told Merchan that Costello would testify that Cohen told him that Trump had no awareness of the Stormy Daniels' hush money payment.

Earlier today, Cohen testified that he lied to Costello about Trump's awareness because he did not trust Costello.

"The whole purpose was to make Mr. Trump sound threatening," Bove said.

"I don't think so," Merchan responded.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger argued that defense lawyers did not include Costello on their witness list or provide the exhibits related to his testimony.

"Rebutting the pressure campaign should have been part of their direct case," Hoffinger said.

Merchan called a brief recess to consider the arguments but ordered the parties to remain in the courtroom.

May 20, 3:39 PM
Prosecution seeks to limit Costello's testimony

The prosecution objected to the defense calling Robert Costello, Michael Cohen's former attorney to the stand.

Out of earshot of the jury, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Judge Merchan to omit Costello or limit his testimony to two questions.

"I think there's very limited testimony that's permissible here if at all" Hoffinger said.

The defense said it wants to use Costello to rebut Cohen's testimony about a "pressure campaign" carried out against him not to flip on Trump after Cohen made Stormy Daniels payment.

Costello, a longtime Trump ally, testified before the grand jury in March 2023 as an exculpatory witness at the request of Trump’s attorneys.

May 20, 3:30 PM
Defense calls ex-Cohen attorney Robert Costello

On cross-examination, prosecutor Becky Mangold quizzed defense witness Daniel Sitko about the technical process for putting together the summary chart from cell phone records.

The defense attempted to show through the call summary that Cohen and his then-attorney Robert Costello spoke 75 times. On cross-examination, the defense paralegal conceded it wasn't quite that many.

After Sitko stepped off the witness stand, the defense called Robert Costello himself.

May 20, 3:25 PM
Defense witness introduces evidence regarding phone calls

The defense called Daniel Sitco, a paralegal for defense attrney Todd Blanche.

Sitko introduced a summary chart of phone calls between Michael Cohen, his one-time attorney Robert Costello, and the law firm of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron.

May 20, 3:14 PM
Prosecution rests its case

Defense attorney Todd Blanche, on redirect examination, asked Michael Cohen about the photograph of Trump and bodyguard Keith Schiller together on Oct. 24, 2016, at 7:57 p.m.

"Your testimony is still, just so I understand, is in that 90 seconds you spoke to Mr. Schiller about the problem you were having with the 14-year-old, got him to agree to take care of it," and also had time to talk to speak about Daniels to Trump.

Cohen stood by his testimony.

Cohen also testified again that his $420,000 payment in 2017 was a reimbursement, not a payment for legal services.

"It was a reimbursement -- it wasn't a payment for your services?" Blanche asked.

"Correct," Cohen said.

Blanche attempted to cast doubt on that claim by highlighting Trump's frugality.

"Did he overpay for things regularly?" Blanche asked.

"No, sir," Cohen said.

Cohen then concluded his testimony and the state rested its case.

"Your honor, the People rest," Steinglass said.

May 20, 3:04 PM
Prosecutors play recording of Cohen discussing payment

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger, with Michael Cohen back on the stand, played an Oct. 16, 2017, recording that Cohen secretly made of a conversation with Stormy Daniels' then-attorney Keith Davidson regardin the Stormy Daniels payment.

"What would you do if you were me?" Cohen is heard asking on the recording.

"Ugh. I can't even -- I don't even know. ... I can't even imagine," says Davidson.

"I mean, would you write a book, would you break away from the entire Trump, you know, we'll call it doctrine, you know, would you go completely rouge, would you join with Bannon, you know. What -- I mean any -- any thoughts?" Cohen asks.

"Because it's not just me that's now being affected. It is my entire family. It's, you know -- and the --- there's no -- nobody is thinking about Michael. You understand? And despite what like -- for example, you know, what the earlier conversation, you know, and who else would do that for somebody, who else?" he says on the recording.

" I did [it], because I care about that guy and I wasn't going to play pennywise, pound foolish," COhen says, to which Davidson replied, "Right."

"And I'm sitting there and I'm saying to myself, what about me?" says Cohen. "And I can't --- I can't even tell you how many times he said to me, you know, 'I hate the fact that we did it.' And my comment to him was, "But every person that you've spoken to told you it was the right move."

Asked by Hoffinger about the recording, Cohen said, "I was referring to the payment that I made to Keith Davidson that I made on behalf of Mr. Trump."

"How has telling the truth about what you did with Mr. Trump affected you?" Hoffinger asked.

"My entire life has been turned upside down. I lost my law license, my businesses, my financial security, which I was fortunate early to be able to obtain. My family's happiness is paramount," said Cohen.

May 20, 2:53 PM
Cohen says he spoke 'more than 20' times with Trump about Daniels

Michael Cohen returned to the stand and prosecutors displayed an image of Trump and bodyguard Keith Schiller on Oct. 24, 2016, the night of the phone call Cohen said he had with Trump to finalize the Stormy Daniels deal.

Before showing the image to the jury, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger read a stipulation that the photo came from a video that ended at 7:57 p.m. on that date.

Under additional questioning, Cohen said he had "more than 20" conversations, in person or by phone, with Donald Trump in October 2016 about the Stormy Daniels payoff.

"Do you have any doubt in your mind that Mr. Trump gave you the final signoff [on the Stormy Daniels payment]?" Hoffinger asked.

"No doubt," Cohen said.

"Would you have paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 had Trump not signed off?" Hoffinger asked.

"No ma'am," Cohen said.

"Why not?" Hoffinger asked.

"Because I wanted to ensure I would get my funds back," Cohen said.

May 20, 2:46 PM
Lawyers agree to admit photo under Cohen's testimony

Prosecutors reached a compromise with defense counsel that prevents the need to recall C-SPAN executive Robert Browning to testify.

The state has called Michael Cohen back to the stand to introduce their desired photo evidence through Cohen's testimony.

May 20, 2:41 PM
Defense could present case or wait for tomorrow

Judge Merchan offered to break early today and resume tomorrow morning when C-SPAN executive Robert Browning arrives to testify.

He also gave the defense the option begin presenting its case today.

Defense counsel and Trump huddled over the question.

May 20, 2:35 PM
Attorneys continue to argue over admission of photo

After Judge Merchan ruled that he would not admit a photo that prosecutors said showed Trump and his bodyguard Keith Schiller together on Oct. 24, 2016 -- the night of the phone call Michael Cohen said he had with Trump to finalize the Stormy Daniels deal -- prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said he respected Merchan's ruling, but criticized the defense for objecting to the evidence despite not contesting that Schiller and Trump are both in the photo together.

"I am not sure why we are jumping through all these hoops," Steinglass said.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche said it would be "patently unfair" to allow prosecutors to recall C-SPAN executive Robert Browning to testify about the photo after the defense has presented witnesses.

"That's not the way a trial is supposed to work, judge," Blanche said.

The judge ordered prosecutors to check with Browning -- who previously traveled from Louisiana to testify -- to see if he can be here by 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.

Mangold subsequently reported that Browning would be able to make it.

"They are booking travel right now," Mangold said.

May 20, 2:28 PM
Judge rules against admitting prosecution's photo evidence

Judge Merchan has ruled that he will not admit into evidence two still images prosecutors want to introduce that purportedly show Trump and his bodyguard Keith Schiller together on Oct. 24, 2016, the night of the phone call Michael Cohen said he had with Trump to finalize the Stormy Daniels deal.

Prosecutors want to introduce screenshots from a C-SPAN video showing Trump and Schiller together at that time.

Merchan said the images are relevant but said prosecutors could not overcome a hearsay objection.

Prosecutor Becky Mangold told Merchan that they just reached out to C-SPAN executive Robert Browning, who testified earlier, to ask him to return to court "as soon as reasonably possible" to introduce the images as evidence.

Mangold said she would update Merchan about Browning's status by the end of the day.

May 20, 2:18 PM
Proceedings resume following lunch break

Judge Juan Merchan and all parties are back in the courtroom following the lunch break.

The judge is preparing to rule on the admission of the photograph requested by prosecutors prior to the break.

May 20, 12:58 PM
Prosecutors seek to introduce photo from time of phone call

Judge Merchan dismissed the jury for the lunch break, after which prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked permission to show the jury a photo of Donald Trump and Keith Schiller together on Oct. 24, 2016, at 7:57 p.m.

Prosecutors hope to introduce the evidence to counter the defense suggestion that Cohen lied about the purpose of an Oct. 24, 2016, phone call to Schiller.

"It shows that they were together," Steinglass said of the photo.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche pushed back on the request, arguing the photo is inadmissible and that testimony about the time and date of it would be hearsay. Blanche added that the fact that Trump and Schiller were together on Oct. 24 is not in dispute; rather, defense lawyers have hammered at the substance of Cohen's call with Schiller.

"I have significant evidence that he lied under oath," Blanche said about Cohen's testimony about the phone call.

Judge Merchan said he would discuss the issue further after lunch.

May 20, 12:51 PM
Prosecutors press Cohen on legality of Daniels' NDA

On redirect examination, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Michael Cohen about his testimony on cross-examination that nondisclosure agreements are perfectly legal and that the contract with Stormy Daniels was also legal.

Hoffinger sought to emphasize how out of the ordinary this particular NDA was.

"Under the circumstances of this NDA with Stormy Daniels -- was that perfectly legal under those circumstances?" Hoffinger asked, referring to efforts to affect the 2016 election.

"No ma'am," Cohen said.

May 20, 12:43 PM
Cohen testifies about fake AI cases

On redirect examination, Michael Cohen offered some context about how he claims he inadvertently provided some fake case law to the court during a recent bid to end his supervised release.

"I went onto Google Bard which is an AI search engine," Cohen said. "It gave me a plethora of cases that appeared to me to be legitimate. They certainly looked legitimate and there were facts behind it and supported what we were going to put in the upcoming motion."

"I was just trying to be helpful," Cohen added.

But when Cohen showed the cases to his current lawyer, she noticed they were "not legitimate."

At her recommendation, Cohen said he notified the court about the fake cases.

May 20, 12:36 PM
Cohen says he has nothing at stake as a witness

Michael Cohen testified under redirect examination that he had nothing at stake in the outcome of Trump's criminal trial.

"Are you actually on trial here?" Hoffinger asked.

"No ma'am," Cohen said.

"Are you a witness here?" Hoffinger asked.

"I am," Cohen said.

"Are you charged with any crimes here?" Hoffinger asked.

"No ma'am," Cohen said.

While Cohen was subpoenaed to testify at this trial, he described his outlook about the trial as markedly different from his participation and plea in a 2018 federal investigation.

"My life was on the line. My liberty. I was the defendant in the case," Cohen said.

May 20, 12:20 PM
Cohen tells why he took an additional $30K in reimbursement

On redirect examination, Michael Cohen provided some background on the $30,000 he said he stole from the Trump Organization by overcharging them for work he did with Red Finch -- funds that were paid to him as part of the Stormy Daniels reimbursement payment.

"Red Finch is a technology company that I had asked to assist in a CNBC poll, and the poll was regarding the most famous businessmen in, like, the last century," Cohen said, speaking to the jury. "Mr. Trump's name was on that list and at the beginning of this poll he was polling toward the very bottom. It upset him, so he had me come to his office and he provided me with a sheet of paper."

"I reached out to Red Finch who told me he was able to create an algorithm to ensure that Mr. Trump would rise and rise significantly in this poll. We talked about what number Mr. Trump wanted to finish," Cohen said.

The jury sat in rapt attention as Cohen spoke.

Eventually Trump came in No. 9 but he declined to pay Red Finch because CNBC didn't bother following through with the poll, Cohen said. Cohen ended up paying them -- in a brown paper bag in cash, he said.

"You felt some pressure to make some payment to your friend? Hoffinger asked.

"Yes," Cohen responded.

Asked why he did it, Cohen said, "Well for a long time I had been telling him about the $50,000. ... I was angered because of the reduction in the bonus, and so I just felt it was almost like self help."

"I wasn't going to let him have the benefit this way as well," Cohen said, admitting that it was wrong.

May 20, 12:10 PM
On redirect, prosecutors address 2016 phone call

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger begun her redirect examination of Michael Cohen by attempting to rehabilitate Cohen's testimony about the phone call he said he had with Donald Trump on Oct. 24, 2016.

"Is it possible that other matters may have been discussed on those calls, but you are sure the Stormy Daniels matter was discussed?" Hoffinger asked.

"Yes," Cohen said.

Cohen told jurors that even if he was busy with other matters at the time, he was sure he communicated with Trump about the Stormy Daniels' payment.

Jurors seem fully engaged, several taking notes.

Hoffinger also asked about today's questions by defense attorney Todd Blanche suggesting Cohen was too busy to remember much of anything in 2016.

"Were you too busy in 2016 to finalize the Stormy Daniels payoff with Mr. Trump?" Hoffinger asked.

"No ma'am," Cohen responded.

"Were you too busy to get his approval to make that payment?" Blanche asked.

"No ma'am," Cohen said.

May 20, 12:04 PM
Defense concludes Cohen's cross-examination

"Your testimony remains ... that notwithstanding everything you've said over the years, you have specific recollection of having conversations on the phone with then candidate Donald J. Trump about the Stormy Daniels matter, correct?" defense attorney Todd Blanche asked Michael Cohen as he wrapped up his questioning.

"Yes sir," he replied.

"No doubt in your mind?" Blanche asked.

"No sir," said Cohen.

"No further questions," Blanche said, ending his cross-examination.

May 20, 12:01 PM
Cohen pressed on his financial interest in the case

"Do you have a financial interest in the outcome of this case?" defense attorney Todd Blanche asked Michael Cohen.

"Yes sir," said Cohen, before clarifying.

"I talk about it on my podcast, i talk about it on TikTok, and they make money, and that's how I was viewing your question. Whether he is ultimately determined innocent or guilty is not going to affect whether i speak about it or not."

As Cohen answered, Trump looked on, facing Cohen directly.

Subsequently, Cohen said, "It's better if he's not, for me, because it gives me more to talk about in the future."

The answer drew some laughs in the overflow room.

May 20, 11:48 AM
Cohen says he's considered running for Congress

When cross-examination resumed following the mid-morning break, Michael Cohen testified that he is considering a run for Congress.

"Going after President Trump, that's your name recognition?" defense attorney Todd Blanche asked.

"My name recognition is because of the journey I've been on." Cohen answered. "It is affiliated to Mr. Trump -- yes -- not because of Mr. Trump."

"Your journey includes near-daily attacks on President Trump?" Blanche asked.

Eventually Cohen conceded, "Yes sir."

May 20, 11:29 AM
Cohen says he asked for Giuliani's help in getting payment

Michael Cohen told jurors that he requested that his then-attorney Robert Costello reach out to Rudy Giuliani to get help paying for his own defense lawyers after Cohen's office and hotel room were raided by the FBI in 2018.

"The payment was not being made in accordance with the invoices," Cohen said about his own legal bills, which were initially covered by the Trump Organization after the FBI raid that resulted in part from Cohen's involvement in the Stormy Daniels arrangement.

Cohen said he asked Costello to tell Giuliani to communicate the payment issue to Trump.

"I expressed to him that the nonpayment was becoming an issue," Cohen said. "To, yes, let Mr. Giuliani know to pass it along to Mr. Trump that it is becoming an issue."

Cohen confirmed that he received approximately $4 million from his consulting work between 2017 and 2018.

Court was subsequently recessed for the mid-morning break.

May 20, 11:13 AM
Defense presses Cohen on his communication with Costello

Testifying about Robert Costello, Michael Cohen's attorney for a period until Cohen ended the association, Cohen initially said he spoke with Costello approximately a dozen times over the phone in 2018.

When defense attorney Todd Blanche suggested they actually spoke on the phone 75 times, Cohen responded, "It seems excessive but possible."

Blanche suggested that some of their phone calls lasted more than 30 minutes. According to Blanche, Cohen and Costello spoke for a total of nine hours over the course of a few months in 2018.

May 20, 11:08 AM
Cohen says he asked Robert Costello to ask Giuliani for info

Last week, Michael Cohen testified that he did not trust Robert Costello to be his lawyer because he worried any information shared with him would get to Rudy Giuliani and then get to Trump.

But Cohen testified today that he took advantage of that back channel -- including asking Costello to ask Giuliani to try to learn more about the origins of the federal investigation that led to the search of Cohen's office and hotel room.

“I spoke with the person you asked me to and he said he would find out exactly how the matter ended up in the SDNY and in particular who in Main Justice approved this,” Costello wrote in an email to Cohen on April 23, 2018.

Cohen confirmed the “person” mentioned above was Rudy Giuliani.

May 20, 10:58 AM
Cohen details consulting work he did in 2017

Defense attorney Todd Blanche asked Cohen about the large sums of money he made through his consulting work with other companies in 2017 -- an apparent effort to legitimize the money Cohen made from Trump as the being the result of legal work.

Cohen testified he was paid $600,000 by AT&T in 2017, communicating with them just 20 times.

"And there's nothing wrong with that?" Blanche asked.

"I don't believe so," Cohen said.

Cohen said he was paid $100,000 per month from Novartis, $100,000 per month from an aerospace company, and $150,000 a month from a bank.

Cohen was also paid $50,000 by a company in 2017 to help restart a nuclear power plant formerly run by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

On direct examination, Cohen had testified he did less than 10 hours of work or Trump in 2017 -- an attempt by prosecutors to cast doubt on the fact that the payments Cohen received were for any legitimate legal work.

Blanche appears to be trying to rebut those assertions by painting Trump's payments as just another one of Cohen's lucrative consulting jobs, in which he made hundreds of thousands of dollars while doing little work for his clients.

May 20, 10:49 AM
Defense says Cohen's repayment was for legitimate legal expense

Throughout his cross-examination this morning, defense attorney Todd Blanche has attempted to legitimize the repayment arrangement between Trump and Cohen in 2017.

Prosecutors have argued that Trump falsified business records by describing a reimbursement for the Stormy Daniels payment and other expenses as payment for legal services pursuant to a retainer agreement, even though Cohen never had a retainer agreement with Trump.

Blanche emphasized all the legal work that Cohen did for Trump and his family in 2017. He also showed the jury an email from Allen Weisselberg, where he requested Cohen to "please prepare the agreement we discussed so we can pay you monthly."

Amid frequent objections, Blanche has referenced the "agreement" mentioned above as a "retainer agreement," though Cohen never had a formal retainer agreement with Trump.

Pursuant to the "agreement," Cohen said he received nine checks directly from Trump in 2017.

"That would have been nine checks -- 35,000 a piece," Cohen said.

May 20, 10:35 AM
Defense asks Cohen about taking job as president's attorney

Defense attorney Todd Blanche entered another email into evidence, and it was displayed on the courtroom monitors.

It's Cohen's good-bye email to the Trump Organization on Jan. 27, 2017, announcing he will be "personal attorney to potus." "I cannot express how difficult it is for me to write this farewell e-mail," it begins.

In the email, Cohen said he is starting "a new journey," and that he is "truly excited" to begin new position as personal attorney to Trump as president. He reminisced about first taking the job there and moving into Ivanka's old office.

Blanche asked Cohen about his effort to spread the word about his new role as Trump's personal attorney.

"You told everybody that was happening, correct?" Blanche said.

"Not everybody, but I certainly was proud of the role and I announced it," Cohen said.

"You told TMZ?" Blanche asked.

"Yes, sir," Cohen said.

"You told the New York Times?" Blanche asked.

"Yes, sir," Cohen said.

"You actually gave them a little scoop on it?" Blanche asked.

"Yes, sir," Cohen said.

"You went on TV and told Sean Hannity about it?" Blanche asked.

"Yes, sir," Cohen said.

May 20, 10:29 AM
Jury sees chummy email between Cohen, Weisselberg

Jurors saw a chummy email between Michael Cohen and then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg in January 2017 in which Cohen and Weisselberg discussed the Stormy Daniels repayment arrangement.

"Thank you. You never stopped on [sic] for a bro hug," Weisselberg wrote to Cohen.

"Anyway please prepare the agreement we discussed so we can pay you monthly."

Trump, at the defense table, hunched forward and examined the email as it was displayed on his monitor.

May 20, 10:21 AM
Cohen admits he stole from Trump through his reimbursement

Michael Cohen admitted that he stole $30,000 from the Trump Organization when, as part of his reimbursement for the Stormy Daniels reimbursement, he requested $50,000 for a reimbursement for IT services, when Cohen had actually paid $20,000 for the services.

"You stole from the Trump Organization, correct?" defense attorney Todd Blanche asked.

"Yes, sir," Cohen said.

Blanche hammered Cohen, asking if he ever repaid the Trump Organization or "Did you ever have to plead guilty to larceny?"

"No sir," Cohen said.

At the defense table, Trump shook his head and pursed his lips.

Cohen remained calm during this questioning when Blanche raised voiced, almost shouting at Cohen.

May 20, 10:12 AM
Defense seeks to cast doubt on other alleged phone calls

After suggesting last week that Michael Cohen lied about the purpose of a phone call to Trump's security guard Keith Schiller on Oct. 24, 2016, defense attorney Todd Blanche sought to cast doubt on another instance of Cohen's testimony where he said he spoke to Trump about the Stormy Daniels deal -- specifically on two calls that occurred during the 8 a.m. hour on Oct. 26, 2016.

Blanche asked Cohen about what else Trump did that day, including the opening ceremony for one of his buildings in Washington, D.C., and a national television interview, which Cohen said he didn't remember.

"My recollection is that I was speaking to him about Stormy Daniels because that's what he tasked me to take care of," Cohen said.

May 20, 10:02 AM
Defense presses Cohen on how busy he was in 2016

In addition to handling numerous business issues during October 2016, Cohen testified that he tried to help his taxi medallion business partner with his marital problems.

"I tried to assist in bringing them back together as well as talking to him about potential lawyers," Cohen said.

Through this line of cross-examination, defense attorney Blanche is suggesting that Cohen was a very busy man in October 2016 -- potentially casting doubt on his extensive role in the Daniels hush money payment.

May 20, 9:52 AM
Defense suggests Cohen had distractions dealing with Daniels

Defense attorney Todd Blanche suggested that Michael Cohen was juggling multiple other issues in October 2016, at the same time he was arranging the Stormy Daniels hush money payment.

Cohen testified that was resolving issues with his taxi medallion business, handling a loan for one of his investment properties, assisting with the National Diversity Coalition, and helping Tiffany Trump deal with an instance of extortion.

"You agree with me, right, that you had a lot going on both in your personal life and with President Trump in those first two weeks of October?" Blanche asked.

"Yes sir," Cohen said.

Blanche also reminded jurors that Cohen was dealing with harassing phone calls at the time -- referencing his line of questioning last week when he suggested Cohen lied about the purpose of a phone call to Trump's security guard Keith Schiller on Oct. 24, 2016.

May 20, 9:43 AM
Cohen asked about communication with reporters

Defense attorney Todd Blanche opened today's questioning by asked Cohen about his communication with reporters.

"Since that time [when your last testimony ended], how many reporters have you talked to?" Blanche asked.

Cohen said he's spoken to reporters "who called to say hello, to see how I'm doing," but that he didn't talk about the case.

"Didn't speak at all about your testimony last week?" Blanche asked.

"Correct," Cohen responded.

As Cohen resumed his testimony, jurors appeared attentive, with several taking notes. Trump sat slouched at his chair with his eyes closed.

May 20, 9:38 AM
Michael Cohen retakes witness stand

Following the break, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen has entered the courtroom.

He took his seat in the witness box to resume his cross-examination as Trump looked on.

May 20, 9:24 AM
Attorneys conference at bench on discovery issue

Defense attorney Todd Blanche asked to approach the bench about an ongoing discovery issue.

Both legal teams leaned in as Blanche spoke to the judge.

With the sidebar completed, the judge called for a ten-minute break.

May 20, 9:09 AM
Judge won't let defense expand expert witness' testimony

Judge Merchan denied a request from defense lawyers to broaden the scope of testimony from their expert witness Bradley Smith, who is an expert on campaign finance regulations.

On Thursday, defense lawyers asked Merchan to allow Smith to testify about various terms related to federal campaign finance laws. Merchan denied the request, citing long standing precedent prohibiting witness testimony about the law.

"An expert is not permitted to present or interpret the law," Merchan said.

Merchan also expressed concerns about Smith's testimony prompting a "battle of the experts" between Smith and an expert called by prosecutors, which Merchan said would confuse the jury.

Merchan said that Smith could still testify, as long as he follows the limits imposed in his pretrial ruling on the case's motions in limine.

"The court will monitor this testimony closely to ensure full compliance," Merchan said in a pretrial ruling. "Any deviation from this ruling could result in sanction up to and including striking the expert's entire testimony."

May 20, 8:59 AM
Judge rejects defense request to admit email as evidence

Judge Merchan has begun hearing arguments about the admissibility of some defense exhibits, including an email communication between Michael Cohen and his one-time attorney Bob Costello's law partner Jeffrey Citron.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche argued that the exhibit could be used to impeach Cohen's testimony.

Judge Merchan said he will not allow the email into evidence. Prosecutors argued that the email was hearsay and cannot fairly offer a window into Cohen's state of mind.

"There is another layer there of hearsay," Merchan said about the email. "I don't see any probative value for impeachment purposes here at all."

May 20, 8:53 AM
Judge says summations will likely happen next Tuesday

"Good morning Mr. Trump," Judge Juan Merchan said as he gaveled in the proceedings.

"It's become apparent that we are not going to be able to sum up tomorrow," the judge said after taking the bench.

Merchan said it's more likely summations will take place next Tuesday, after procedural matters and the Memorial Day break.

"Either have a long break now or a long break then, and unfortunately the calendar is what it is," the judge said.

May 20, 8:41 AM
Trump, prosecutors enter courtroom

Prosecutors have entered the courtroom for Day 19 of the trial.

Trump has arrived with his entourage.

Before entering, the former president addressed reporters but ignored their questions about whether he'll testify in the trial.

May 20, 6:00 AM
Prosecution expected to rest its case Monday morning

Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen returns to the witness stand Monday morning for the final time before prosecutors rest their case against the former president in his criminal hush money trial.

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case later Monday morning.

Defense attorneys have not yet declared who they plan to call to testify -- including whether Trump will testify in his own defense.

Cohen, the prosecution's last major witness, is scheduled to complete his cross-examination by Trump's defense team Monday morning.

Proceedings are scheduled to get underway at 8:45 a.m. ET with arguments over the admission of additional exhibits, after which the jury is expected back in court at 9:30 a.m.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Nevada abortion rights group says it has enough signatures on petition for ballot measure

George Rose/Getty Images

(LAS VEGAS) -- Nevada abortion rights supporters said Monday they have enough signatures on a petition to qualify for a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state's constitution.

Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom, the organization behind the petition, said it has collected more than 200,000 signatures from voters in all 17 counties, double the 102,362 threshold required to qualify for the November 2024 election.

The amendment would give individuals "a fundamental right to abortion performed or administered by a qualified health care practitioner until fetal viability, or when needed to protect the life or health of the pregnant patient, without interference from the state or its political subdivisions."

The Nevada Secretary of State's office will need to validate the signatures on the petition for the ballot measure before the proposed amendment is certified.


The group had also been pursuing a second broader measure that would grant all residents the right to make decisions regarding "all matters relating to pregnancy" including abortion, abortion care, birth control, vasectomies, tubal litigation and infertility care.

In November 2023, a lower court blocked the petition from moving forward, ruling that it is misleading and violated the single subject rule, which requires an initiative petition proposing a constitutional amendment to contain a single subject.

However, in April 2024, the state Supreme Court reversed the decision, arguing the terms all fell under the umbrella of "reproductive rights."

"[A]ll the medical procedures considered in the initiative petition concern reproduction. To assert that they could not all be addressed together because they are separate procedures is improper," the opinion read.

Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom said it currently plans to pursue the narrower measure.

In Nevada, abortions are permitted at 24 weeks' gestation or later, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that studies sexual and reproductive rights.


Additionally, Nevada law protects anyone entering or exiting abortion clinics from harassment and physical harm. In 2023, an interstate shield law was also passed, protecting abortion providers from investigations by other states.


Abortion rights advocates say codifying protections in the state constitution will build upon existing protections and make it harder for them to be overturned as the national landscape of abortion access changes.

President Joe Biden has vowed to defend women's reproductive rights and fight for legal access to abortion on the national level.

"As anti-abortion extremists continue to attack our fundamental rights -- from abortion to birth control to fertility treatments -- this decision recognizes that reproductive freedom includes all reproductive health care," a statement released by Reproductive Freedom for All Nevada, a group that is part of the ballot campaign, said last month.

Nevadans For Reproductive Freedom did not immediately reply to ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Prosecutors in Trump's hush money trial rest their case after 20 witnesses, over 200 exhibits

Mark Peterson-Pool/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- After calling 20 witnesses and showing jurors over 200 pieces of evidence, prosecutors in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial have rested their case against the former president.

Across four weeks of testimony, prosecutors have laid out their case against Trump by telling a story of sex, schemes and lies related to the 2016 election.

The Manhattan district attorney's case against the former president begins in 2006, when adult film actress Stormy Daniels alleges she had sex with Trump at a golf tournament in California, which Trump denies.

Ten years later, after the real estate mogul and reality-television star became the Republican presidential nominee, Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen said he purchased the rights to kill Daniel's story -- at the direction of Trump himself -- to avert a political catastrophe just days from the 2016 election.

Prosecutors allege that Trump falsified business records in 2017 when he repaid Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Daniels, labeling the payment as a legal expense pursuant to a retainer agreement. Trump had pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.

"I was paying a lawyer and I marked it down as a legal expense," Trump told reporters during the first week of the trial. "Legal expense -- that's what you're supposed to call it."

Trump's attorneys were expected to present a brief defense case before the jury hears closing statements and begins deliberating.

Paying for silence
To start building their case, prosecutors began with former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, whom they allege engaged in a conspiracy with Trump and Cohen to hide information from voters. Pecker and Cohen are not charged in this case.

"They asked me what can I do and what my magazines could do to help the campaign," Pecker testified about a meeting with Cohen and Trump in August 2015 where he agreed to serve as the "eyes and ears" of Trump's presidential campaign.

In addition to publishing negative stories about Trump's opponents and flattering stories about Trump himself, Pecker said he agreed to be on the lookout for negative stories about Trump related to women.

"If I hear anything negative about yourself or if I hear anything about women selling stories ... I would notify Michael Cohen and then he would be able to have them killed in another magazine or have them not be published," Pecker testified.

Though Pecker said he never previously purchased stories with the explicit purpose of killing them for Trump, he did exactly that twice during the 2016 campaign. His company paid $30,000 for the rights to a false story that Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock, and $150,000 to purchase the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal's allegations of a months-long affair with Trump, which Trump denies.

Pecker testified that he made both payments to help honor his agreement with Trump and help his campaign; however, Pecker pushed back when Cohen asked for his help making a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels in October 2016 in exchange for her silence.

"I said, we already paid $30,000 to the doorman, we paid $150,000 to Karen McDougal, and I am not a bank. I am not paying out any further disbursements among us," Pecker testified.

Corroborating Cohen
Prosecutors ended their case by calling Cohen, Trump's former attorney who orchestrated the catch-and-kill scheme with Pecker and made the $130,000 payment to Daniels.

Cohen testified that he was acting on Trump's orders when he worked to kill negative stories about his boss, and that he kept Trump apprised of every step along the way, telling jurors "everything required Mr. Trump's sign-off."

"He said to me, 'This is a disaster, total disaster. Women are going to hate me,'" Cohen testified about Trump's response to Daniels' allegations in October 2016. "'Guys may think it's cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign."'

Cohen told jurors about multiple phone calls and in-person meetings with Trump where they set a plan to purchase Daniels' story for $130,000 in the days before the election on the promise that Trump would repay Cohen the following year.

Cohen said he initially attempted to delay the payment to Daniels' lawyer Keith Davidson, who testified that Cohen nearly derailed the deal with his constant excuses and delays.

"I thought he was trying to kick the can down the road until after the election," Davidson testified, telling jurors that Cohen ultimately opted to make the payment out of his own pocket.

Donald Trump's former White House communications director Hope Hicks testified that Trump told her in 2018 that that he preferred the story not come out before the election and that Cohen made the payment "out of the kindness of his own heart" -- a contention Hicks said she doubted because Cohen was "the kind of person who seeks credit."

"I think Mr. Trump's opinion was it was better to be dealing with it now, and that it would have been bad to have that story come out before the election," Hicks testified.

Prosecutors acknowledged to jurors that witnesses like Cohen -- who pleaded guilty to federal crimes and has admitted to lying under oath -- come with "baggage," so Cohen's testimony was accompanied by emails, phone records, text messages to corroborate his account.

Cohen said he decided to plead guilty and flip on Trump in 2018 after the FBI raided his office and hotel room -- despite what prosecutors allege was a "pressure campaign" by Trump to discourage Cohen's cooperation with authorities.

"I regret doing things for him that I should not have -- lying, bullying people in order to effectuate a goal," testified Cohen, who said he repeatedly lied for Trump to maintain his loyalty to him, including lying during an appearance before Congress that resulted in prison time.

Following the paper trail
Between dramatic testimony from witnesses like Stormy Daniels and Hope Hicks, prosecutors called witnesses to focus on the paper trial of documents that form the basis for the 34 criminal counts in the case.

Cohen told jurors that he and then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg met with Trump just days before his Inauguration, where they laid out a plan for Cohen to be repaid for the Daniels payment through twelve $35,000 payments for legal services.

"He approved it, and he also said, 'This is going to be one heck of a ride in D.C.,'" Cohen testified about Trump during the meeting.

Former Trump Organization Controller Jeffrey McConney told jurors that he met with Weisselberg to confirm the repayment plan, showing jurors handwritten notes memorializing the meeting.

McConney said he received the invoices from Cohen -- for monthly payments for legal services pursuant to a retainer agreement -- which he approved and sent to Trump Organization accounts payable supervisor Deborah Tarasoff.

Tarasoff testified that she processed the invoices and generated checks, which she then passed to Trump Organization junior bookkeeper Rebecca Manochio.

Manochio said that she then mailed the checks in a manila folder to the White House, where Trump's executive assistant Madeleine Westerhout received the checks, handed them to Trump for his signature, then mailed them back to Trump Tower in New York.

Witnesses offered differing descriptions of Trump's approach to signing checks; Tarasoff said he would normally review the invoices and sometimes reject checks, while Westerhout said Trump often signed checks automatically.

In total, the jury saw each of the allegedly falsified documents, including 11 checks -- nine of which were signed by Trump -- 11 invoices from Cohen, and 12 vouchers generated by the Trump Organization.

Trump's own words
Though Trump might not testify during the trial, jurors heard from the former president as prosecutors highlighted quotes from his books and statements made during his campaign rallies.

Prosecutors played a video from an Oct. 22, 2016, campaign rally to demonstrate that Trump was worried about the impact of allegations from women harming his presidential campaign -- the same concern prosecutors say motivated Trump to buy Daniels' silence.

"These are all horrible lies, all fabrications, and we can't let them change the most important election in our lifetime. If 5% of the people think it's true and maybe 10% think, we don't win," Trump said.

Prosecutors also introduced quotes from three of Trump's books to advance their arguments about Trump's conduct.

Quotes about Trump's frugality -- including one quote to "always question invoices" -- emphasized that Trump took a hands-on approach to managing expenses, while quotes about his emphasis on loyalty helped advance prosecutors' arguments about Trump's "pressure campaign" against some witnesses in the case.

"My motto is always get even. When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades," Trump wrote in one book.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


UCLA class using AI to have a more engaged classroom

ABC News

(LOS ANGELES) -- Students enrolled in Prof. Daniel Nathanson's business class at UCLA do not take tests or pore over books. They are not immersed in the usual 40-page case studies that often dictate the curriculum.

Instead, Nathanson has help from an AI tool to enhance interaction in his classroom. The tool gets students through real-life business scenarios in small groups, offers individualized quizzes, and leads group discussions on big business concepts.

Nathanson, the first college professor to use the Breakout Learning AI tool, says the software is used both to prevent students from using generative AI to cheat, and is incorporated into the lesson to ensure the students' comprehension of the material.

"It enabled me to say where they need a level set, where they are and adjust my lecture to meet their needs," Nathanson said of the learning tool, which is now used at more than 100 universities, including Yale, Cornell and MIT.

Nathanson says he plugs in what he wants the AI to teach the students.

When asked, none of the students thought AI's grading was better than that of humans. Nathanson also doesn't use the scores from AI when calculating final grades, but only as a way to assess their comprehension of the course material.

The business scenarios, voiced by actors, bring to life the experiences of corporate leaders like former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who died in 2020, and his team, making the learning experience truly immersive and relevant.

"We want to lift up the idea of small group discussion as the primary format for learning," said Ramit Varma, who, along with Steven Walters, founded Breakout Learning. "We've been learning in small group formats for thousands of years."

Breakout Learning transcribes the spoken words and then runs it through OpenAI, which generates a summary and matches it against a grading rubric to determine an individual engagement score and two group performance scores.

The company's website emphasizes using AI for grading and facilitating conversations, claiming it can simplify the former.

In one experiment, educators and the owners of Breakout Learning went through the course with the students during a test to evaluate the grading system. One student, Georgia, was engaged, collaborative and considerate of her colleagues. It seemed clear that she would rank among the highest scores.

However, she ranked near the lowest.

"That particular student scored the highest in group; what they saw was an engagement score, which was actually a misfire in the software that actually is not the actual metric that we use to measure quality," Walters said.

Breakout Learning stated that after observing the session with the students, they completely removed this specific scoring system. They are now focusing solely on comprehension scores rather than engagement.

While questions linger about using AI as a grading tool, the students still support the program.

"Thus far into its development, probably a B+," Georgia said, grading the software. "There's always room for improvement. AI again is very new. We're just seeing the beginnings of something great."

A USC professor agrees with the students and believe that in the next decade UCLA won't be an anomaly. They think most classrooms in America will use some form of artificial intelligence. Other educators, however, believe AI needs to be thoroughly tested before being used as a main teaching tool in classrooms.

"If I'm a student, and I'm like, 'well, computers just going to grade me,' then am I going to put forth 100% of my effort?" said USC Associate Professor Stephen Aguilar. "Or am I going to use some other AI to basically talk to their AI so it just becomes an AI talking to AI? And I think that that's one of the dangers of doing too quickly without really understanding or figuring out what our values are relative to new AI technologies."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


As 3 states recover from 13 tornadoes, more severe weather on the way

Cécile Clocheret via Getty Image

(NEW YORK) -- As emergency crews in three states began mopping up and assessing damage from a series of tornadoes on Sunday, more severe weather is being forecast for a large swath of the Midwest.

More than 230 severe storms were reported on Sunday, including 13 twisters confirmed by the National Weather Service that struck in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

There were no immediate reports of deaths, but several people were injured in the storms and more than 30 structures were destroyed or damaged, officials said.

A large funnel cloud touched down Sunday in Yukon, Oklahoma, near Oklahoma City, causing major damage to several buildings and ripping the roof off at least one home.

Two people were hospitalized after being injured in a tornado that destroyed their home in Hydro, Oklahoma, about 63 miles west of Oklahoma City, according to the Blaine County Sheriff's office. A nursing home was also damaged in Hydro, according to a statement Monday from the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

In Custer City, Oklahoma, about 90 miles west of Oklahoma City, a twister knocked down powerlines, destroyed several buildings and picked up trailers, tossing them around like toys, officials said. At least 10 homes were damaged in Custer City and Hydro, according to emergency management officials.

At least 20 structures were damaged in Canadian County in suburban Oklahoma City, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

More than 5,700 homes and businesses remained without electricity on Monday, most of them in Custer and Tulsa counties, officials said.

Severe weather from at least four tornadoes in Kansas caused widespread power outages and destroyed several buildings.

Russell, Kansas, about 150 miles northwest of Wichita reported "significant" damage from a strong storm that hit Sunday.

"At least three structures have been leveled," the City of Russell said in a Facebook post, adding that crews were working Monday to restore electricity to several areas of the city.

A tornado also touched down in eastern Colorado near Fleming on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. Residents also posted photos on Facebook of baseball-size hail near Fleming.

More severe weather is expected through Wednesday in Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Potentially damaging winds and large hail, especially in Nebraska and Colorado, are forecast for Monday.

Severe weather is expected once again on Tuesday from Oklahoma to Michigan, including the Oklahoma City area, Kansas City, Missouri, Des Moines, Iowa, Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Green Bay, Wisconsin and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Severe weather is forecast to spread from to Texas and Ohio, with large hail expected for Dallas.

Hot weather is also expected Monday for Texas, where temperatures are forecast to reach 98 in Amarillo and 104 degrees in Del Rio. On Tuesday, potential record heat is expected to spread into the Midwest, with St. Louis expecting a high of 93 degrees.

Later this week, hot weather is expected to reach the Northeast, where Binghamton, New York, is forecast to hit a record high of 86 on Wednesday and New York City could see 80-degree weather.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


10 Million Names helps Linsey Davis discover her family history

Terri Lynn Martin/ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- “ABC News Live” Anchor Linsey Davis is accustomed to seeking the truth and reporting it.

That instinct for fact-finding transcended recently to Davis’ personal family history, with a genealogist from the 10 Million Names Project helping the Emmy-winning journalist track down an ancestor born in the early 1800s.

ABC News has partnered with the 10 Million Names Project, which aims to break down the genealogical "brick wall" that makes it difficult for Black Americans to retrieve ancestral documents and history, including names, from before 1870. The project seeks to identify every individual enslaved before 1865 in the present-day United States.

10 Million Names genealogist Kenyatta Berry revealed to Davis that her great-great-great paternal grandfather was the first in her family to register to vote, and very likely among the first Black Americans to cast a ballot.

"Like many African Americans, I don't have any information about my family ancestry going back more than a few generations," Davis said. "It's one of the many tragic legacies of slavery: not knowing the full details of our roots."

Davis headed to Georgia, where her great-great-great-grandfather, Tobe Murray, was born. She first visited the Georgia Archives in Morrow County, which maintains a massive collection of the state's most important historical documents.

Murray, Davis' great-great-great-grandfather, was born in 1829 and was likely formerly enslaved. Several historic registration records kept at the archives showed Davis proof that Murray registered to vote under dangerously difficult circumstances.

Davis was able to hold the same book that Murray touched in June of 1867 and saw where he wrote an "X" to mark his signature to register to vote, since he most likely couldn’t read or write.

Murray marked his name with an "X” after a clerk wrote his name in cursive, according to an expert at the Georgia Archives.

Following Emancipation in 1863, most free Black Americans lived among hostile white communities, according to historians. They were denied education and fair wages and lived primarily in rural poverty, facing constant threats of violence.

However, in 1867, it was not unusual for Murray to be registered to vote, since Congress had passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867, allowing Black men in Southern states to vote and hold office for the first time.

As Davis and Professor Susan O'Donovan dug deeper, they discovered that Murray was most likely a farmer and still a registered voter in 1898, more than 30 years after he first registered.

"I really didn't think at that time that quite often a Black male, especially someone if we believe he was enslaved, would then have the wherewithal to say, ‘you know what, I'm going to go forward and get my rights and act on this’ and carry it out in the midst of, you know, all of the brainwashing that that went on at the time, that you're a second-class citizen or less now," Davis said.

The Union victory in the Civil War led to the freedom of about four million enslaved people. However, challenges persisted during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War, and freed Black people in the South faced uncertainty.

White Southerners regained control and enforced laws, known as the Black Codes, to restrict the activities of freed Black people and ensure their availability as a labor force.

The 15th Amendment, adopted in 1870, prohibited denying voting rights based on race, color or previous servitude. During Reconstruction, Black Americans were elected to Southern state governments and the U.S. Congress.

Newspaper articles from the 1870s displayed the language and tone mostly white editors used at the time when writing about elections and political campaigns.

"The Negroes voted solidly, blindly, and in full force behind the Independent candidates," an early Morgan County newspaper wrote. "They were organized better, voted more unanimously and with more determination than ever since they have been given the ballot."

Persistent and overtly-racist voter suppression tactics continued in Georgia and throughout the South in the following decades, according to historians.

La'Neice Littleton, a historian at the Atlanta History Center, says that despite suppression, the Black community has been fighting for the sacred right to vote generation after generation.

"Time changes, but attitudes don't," Littleton said "...and so we see a consistent fight on the part of Black citizens to organize, mobilize, strategize, and exercise their right to vote and participate in democracy."

Times have certainly changed since 1867. In fact, according to Georgia state registration files, there were almost 1.7 million new voters in the lead-up to the 2020 elections.

During her trip, Davis met up with young canvassers of the New Georgia Project in Georgia, where voting-rights activists continue to be a formidable force, working to encourage voting in November's election.

New Georgia Project CEO Kendra Cotton and the young and inspired team went door to door, reminding fellow citizens that voting is a right, a privilege and a duty. It's an opportunity to be counted as equal Americans.

"We want our voters showing up and making their voices heard, because we fundamentally believe that the best way to get good progressive policy in the state is not to beg for it from folks who don't share your values, but it's to vote in people who already do," Cotton said.

Davis said her visit to Georgia meant a lot to her. She learned about a missing part of her own history, saw the struggle her great-great-great-grandfather had to go through, and realized that even though things are better today, the job is not finished.

"I didn't actually think I would be emotional about it," Davis said. "But being with this kind of living document that I can only imagine, you know, what Tobe had to endure and I can't help but feel pride."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ship that destroyed Baltimore bridge expected to be refloated, moved Monday

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

(BALTIMORE) -- The battered cargo ship that's been partially blocking the entrance to one of America's busiest ports for two months is expected to be refloated and moved into port on Monday, officials said.

The Dali, a 984-foot container ship traveling under a Singaporean flag, crashed in March into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland. The crash disrupted marine traffic at the seaport, which is among the largest in the Mid-Atlantic.

"Optimum conditions call for the transit of the DALI to commence at high tide, predicted to be Monday at 5:24 a.m.," officials said in a statement on Sunday. "The vessel will be prepared at 2 a.m., allowing it to catch the peak high tide for a controlled transit."

Officials said they expected to spend about 18 hours getting the ship ready to refloat. The process, which began on Sunday, included removing some anchors and mooring lines that had been attached to the ship after the crash.

Officials were also expecting to remove some or all of the 1.25 million gallons of water that had been pumped into the Dali to ballast the Dali during the bridge removal, according to a plan released by the Key Bridge Response 2024 Unified Command on Sunday.

Up to five tugboats were expected to help move the ship about 2.5 miles to the local marine terminal, officials said. That trip is expected to take about 3 hours, officials said.

Crews had last week done a controlled demolition of much of the remains of the Francis Key Scott Bridge, which had been turned into a tangle of steel girders that rested on the seafloor and rose out of the water.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What are the potential outcomes of Trump's hush money trial?

Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- With former President Donald Trump's Manhattan criminal trial well underway, experts said there are several potential outcomes and disagree whether the prosecution has proven its case yet.

The prosecution is expected to rest after former Trump fixer Michael Cohen's testimony concludes Monday, then it will be the defense's turn to make its case before the jury.

Trump, who has denied the charges in the cases, and his defense team have not revealed whether he will testify in his own defense, but one expert said the former president may want to take the case into his own hands.

"It's been my experience in white-collar cases that even though defense attorneys try and keep their client off the stand -- because it more often than not hurts them rather than helps them -- I'm not sure he can help himself," Chris Timmons, a former prosecutor and ABC News legal contributor, said in an interview.

"He is somebody who likes to be in control. I think he is probably feeling like he's lost control," Timmons said.

The defense left the door open on Thursday for Trump to testify.

"There's always a time in the case where the case is won or lost. I think in this particular case, if the former president testifies, it will be that time. A lot will be riding on that cross examination," Timmons said.

"It would be interesting to see if he actually stuck to the questions that were asked of him, or if he'd get off script," Timmons said.

Could Trump be convicted?

Despite the prosecution presenting a strong case of factual evidence their case has not yet proven the technical elements of the crime Trump is charged with, another expert told ABC News.

"They're missing elements in the prosecution's case that they would have to establish in order to convict them," Gregory Germain, an attorney and law professor at Syracuse University, told ABC News.

The prosecution needs to prove Trump falsified business records in furtherance of a separate crime, Germain explained.

Whether Trump is convicted of the charges will likely rest heavily on the guidance the judge will give the jury on how to reach a verdict.

"If the judge skirts over the difficult legal issues of the case and oversimplifies what they have to find, then I think the jury will probably find him guilty," Germain said.

"My fear is that the judge will gloss over the legal issues and just say to the jury: do you believe that Trump falsified business records in order to hide information from the public during an election? And he's likely guilty of that, but I don't think that constitutes a crime," Germain said.

But even so, with two corporate lawyers on the jury, it could be hard for them to overlook the legal elements missing from the case, according to Germain.

For a conviction, the prosecution needs to prove to the jury that Trump knew he allegedly falsified the records and that it was being done for political reasons -- to keep the public from knowing that he made a hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels -- Timmons said.

"It's a little bit of a technical charge and so the jury may struggle with that," Timmons said.

But, the prosecution has made a strong case in proving the facts, Timmons said.

"For conviction, at least as far as their evidence is concerned, it looks like they've proven what they needed to prove," Timmons said. "I don't think the defense has scored a ton of points on cross examination so far."

Directed Verdict

Before presenting their case, the defense will also have the opportunity to make a motion for a directed verdict -- when a judge agrees with the defense that the prosecution has not provided enough evidence for a conviction and says there is no need for a jury to decide.

The defense would likely argue that elements of the crime have not been proven and ask the judge to dismiss the case. If denied, the defense could make the motion again after presenting their arguments, and claim they have disproved the prosecution's case, Germain said.

It is unlikely the judge would grant a directed verdict, Timmons and Germain agreed.

"In this particular case, I think there's been sufficient evidence to get the case to the jury," Timmons said.

The judge has already denied previous motions to dismiss the case and it's unlikely he would allow a directed verdict, Germain said.

A mistrial

A mistrial, when a judge determines that a case is inconclusive and dismisses it, could potentially be declared if the jury is unable to reach a verdict, Timmons said.

"I'm curious to see how long the jury's out. That's always an interesting thing to see. Particularly, if they're having trouble reaching a decision, when does the judge then decide that there's been enough time for the jury to have been out that they declare a mistrial and a hung jury?" Timmons said.

"I'd be concerned about the hung jury in this case," Timmons said. "One of the jurors who made it onto the jury said that he got his news from two different sources, one of which being Trump's Truth Social. So I think he's going to be more likely to want to believe anything that the president says."

But, judges don't like granting mistrials, especially in long cases. In this case, a lot of time was spent in proceedings, including selecting a jury, Timmons said.

"I don't see it getting mistried as a result of anything that any of the parties have done or anything the lawyers have done," Timmons said.

The closest the case has come to a mistrial was when Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, testified in graphic detail about her alleged sexual encounter with Trump -- but even then the judge said it was close to the line but did not warrant a mistrial, according to Timmons. Trump has denied having sex with Daniels.

Possible appeal

If found guilty, it is likely that Trump would appeal the decision, but that could take years, Germain said.

"Unless the court expedited it, it wouldn't be resolved before the election. And I don't think they would expedite it if it was just a conviction in which he didn't go to jail," Germain said.

If he is sentenced to jail, it is likely an expedited schedule would be set to see whether he should be released from jail, Germain said.

"For nonviolent, first time offenders like Trump, you would almost never get jail time. So it would be extraordinary and contrary to the guidelines to sentence Trump to prison, even if he is convicted of these charges," Germain said.

During an appeal, it is likely the appellate court could see that there are major legal elements missing from the prosecution's case, Germain said.

Timmons disagreed.

"I haven't seen anything that jumped out at me as an appellate issue. Maybe the detail that stormy Daniels went into with regard to the alleged sex that she had with him that might be Court of Appeals might decide that that's a little too salacious and may have caused the verdict to come back guilty. But it's really hard to win an appeal in criminal court," Timmons said.

Potential for an acquittal

Despite believing the allegations are true, Germain said the prosecution hasn't proven the technical elements of the crime.

"If the judge clearly sets forth the legal elements that have to be proven in this case, I think he'll be acquitted," Germain said.

Timmons believes that even though the prosecution has made a strong case, there is always a chance that a jury would still find Trump not guilty.

"Even if the state or the people prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury could still decide that they just don't like the case for some reason, and decide to acquit. I've had that happen before when I was a prosecutor," Timmons said.

"I had one case, that was one of the best cases I've ever tried come back as a not guilty verdict because the jurors just didn't like the case. So that can in particularly when you're dealing with high profile individuals, that can happen," Timmons said.

The technical nature of the case could also make it hard for the jury to convict Trump, Timmons said.

The prosecution resting a large part of their case on Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen's testimony could also pose a problem for the jury.

"One issue that they'll probably play up is that a lot of the people's case rests on Michael Cohen and he's somebody who is willing to lie and has done so in the past," Timmons said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Prosecutors expected to rest their case in Trump hush money trial

Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen will return to the witness stand for the final time before prosecutors rest their case against the former president in Trump's criminal hush money case Monday.

Cohen last week described Trump as being deeply involved in a scheme to hide information from voters ahead of the 2016 election, but a stinging line of cross-examination may have damaged Cohen's overall credibility with the jury.

Trump is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement of a hush money payment that Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in order to boost Trump's electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election. The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

Prosecutors could rest their case by lunchtime Monday, and defense attorneys have not yet declared who they plan to call to testify -- including whether Trump will testify in his own defense.

Defense lawyers have suggested they might call Bradley Smith -- an expert on federal campaign finance laws -- and have left the door open to call rebuttal witnesses.

Judge Juan Merchan asked both sides to be prepared to deliver closing arguments as early as Tuesday morning.

During his cross-examination of Cohen on Thursday, defense attorney Todd Blanche accused him of lying about an alleged phone call with Trump related to the Stormy Daniels' hush money payment.

Cohen testified that on Oct. 24, 2016, he placed a phone call to Trump's security guard Keith Schiller, who passed the phone to Trump so he and Cohen could "discuss the Stormy Daniels matter and the resolution of it."

On Thursday, Blanche presented evidence to suggest that Cohen lied about the purpose of the phone call, arguing that Cohen actually called to complain to Schiller about a teenage prank caller.

Jurors saw text messages between Cohen and the prank caller from the same day as the alleged phone call between Cohen and Trump.

"This number has just been sent to secret service for your ongoing and continuous harassment to both my cell as well as to the organizations main line," Cohen texted the teenager.

"It wasn't me," the 14-year-old prank caller replied. "My friend told me to call."

Jurors also saw text messages between Cohen and Schiller ahead of their phone call at 8:02 p.m.

"Who can I speak to regarding harassing calls to my cell and office. The dope forgot to block his call on one of them," Cohen texted Schiller.

"Call me," Schiller texted Cohen at 8:02 p.m..

When confronted with the alleged inconsistency, Cohen stood by his initial testimony, arguing he spoke to Trump about the hush-money payment in addition to talking to Schiller about the prank caller.

"That was a lie, you did not talk to President Trump on that night, you talked to Keith Schiller about what we just went through; you can admit it?" Blanche confronted Cohen while raising his voice.

"No, sir, I can't. I am not certain that is accurate," Cohen responded.

While the cross-examination may have broadly damaged Cohen's credibility, the specific phone call emphasized by Blanche was just one of many conversations between Cohen and Trump related to the Daniels' payoff. Cohen testified that he had multiple other phone calls and in-person meetings with Trump -- in both Trump Tower and the Oval Office -- where Cohen claimed they discussed how to approach Stormy Daniels' allegations, the plan for Cohen to make the payment, and the scheme to reimburse Cohen in 2017.

Trump, for his part, has repeatedly signaled his willingness to testify during the trial.

"I would have no problem testifying," Trump told ABC News on March 25. "I didn't do anything wrong."

"I would testify, absolutely," Trump said on April 12. "It's a scam. It's a scam. That's not a trial. That's not a trial. That's a scam."

However, Trump appeared to back away from the idea earlier this month, falsely telling reporters that the limited gag order in the case -- which prohibits extrajudicial statements about witnesses and jurors -- prevents him from testifying.

The next day in court, Judge Juan Merchan directly addressed Trump to clarify that he has an "absolute right" to testify and that the gag order does not apply to his statements in court.

"I want to stress, Mr. Trump, that you have an absolute right to testify at trial, if that is what you decide to do after consultation with your attorneys," Merchan said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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