Skip to content

The Latest | Defense lawyers in Trump's hush money trial ask the judge to dismiss the case

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump's hush money trial entered its final stretch with the prosecution resting its case late Monday afternoon following the conclusion of star witness Michael Cohen 's testimony.
Reporters wait after being made to briefly leave the courtroom during the ongoing trial of former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court, Monday, May 20, 2024 in New York. Mr. Trump is charged with falsifying 34 business records in an attempt to cover up a payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. (Pool photo by Dave Sanders for The New York Times)

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump's hush money trial entered its final stretch with the prosecution resting its case late Monday afternoon following the conclusion of star witness Michael Cohen 's testimony.

Cohen concluded his testimony after nearly four full days on the witness stand. He looked in Trump’s direction as he walked out of the courtroom before a court officer directed him down the aisle.

In his testimony, Cohen placed the former president directly at the center of the alleged scheme to stifle negative stories to fend off damage to his White House bid. Among other things, Cohen told jurors that Trump promised to reimburse him for the money he fronted and was constantly updated about efforts to silence women who alleged sexual encounters with him. Trump denies the women’s claims.

Defense attorneys had resumed cross-examination of Cohen with a series of questions about his business dealings and other activities in the lead-up to the payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels. They further dug into Cohen's sources of income in the years since Trump originally took office.

The defense called two witnesses on Monday — attorney Robert Costello and paralegal Daniel Sitko.

It remains unclear whether Trump will testify.

Merchan said earlier in the day that closing arguments could take place the Tuesday after Memorial Day.

The trial is in its 19th day.

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

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


— What we’ve learned so far in the Trump hush money trial and what to watch for as it wraps up

— Trump receives NRA endorsement as he vows to protect gun rights

— Trump hush money case: A timeline of key events

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

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

Here's the latest:


Speaking to reporters after his hush money trial adjourned for the day, Donald Trump called the judge in the case a “tyrant” — mentioning Judge Juan M. Merchan's chastising of defense witness Robert Costello, whom he called “highly respected.”

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Trump said.

The former president said he hoped his lawyers’ move to dismiss the case succeeds “because this trial is a disaster for our country.”

Trump, carrying a legal notepad and printed pieces of paper, read statements that supporters such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made about the case, while also noting that he had to be careful of what he quoted because of the gag order.

He also quoted recent remarks by filmmaker Oliver Stone, adding: “Haven’t heard his name mentioned in awhile.”

Trump also claimed he’s not allowed to “have an expert witness,” but his legal team is allowed to call campaign finance expert, Bradley A. Smith. Merchan has limited what Smith can talk about.

The former president nevertheless declared that he thought the trial was going “very well.”

“There were no crimes. We did nothing wrong. And I want to get back to campaigning,” Trump said.


Once the defense in Donald Trump's hush money trial rests its case, Judge Juan M. Merchan says he plans to send the jury home until closing arguments the day after Memorial Day.

If the defense rests on Tuesday, as expected, that will mean the jury will be away from the trial for a full week.

As the day was winding down Monday, Trump lawyer Emil Bove advised Merchan that the defense isn’t planning on calling any other witnesses after Robert Costello, though they may still call campaign finance expert Bradley A. Smith for limited testimony.

They haven’t definitively said Trump won’t testify, but that’s the clearest indication yet that he’ll waive his right to take the stand in his own defense.


The judge in Donald Trump's money trial on Monday said he would issue a decision on the defense's motion to dismiss the case at a later day.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche had beseeched Judge Juan M. Merchan to “not let this case go to the jury relying on Mr. Cohen’s testimony,” arguing that Michael Cohen had not only lied repeatedly under oath in the past but again while testifying in this trial.

But Merchan appeared unmoved by the argument, asking Blanche whether he believed that “as a matter of law, this person’s so not worthy of belief that it shouldn’t even be considered by the jury?”

Blanche said that he did.

“You said his lies are irrefutable,” the judge replied. “But you think he’s going to fool 12 New Yorkers into believing this lie?”

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

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


Following the adjournment of court on Monday, the defense in Donald Trump's hush money trial asked Judge Juan M. Merchan for an order dismissing the case immediately.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche argued: “There’s absolutely no evidence that the filings were false. The business records were not false. There’s no disputing that Mr. Cohen provided legal services for President Trump in 2017.”

Blanche further argued that prosecutors have failed to prove their case and there’s no evidence of falsified business records or an intent to defraud.

Blanche underscored that Trump was in the White House while Michael Cohen was being repaid, far removed from the Trump Organization offices where his invoices and checks were being processed. Trump signed the checks in the White House, but he was doing so because Cohen was performing legitimate legal services for him as his personal attorney, Blanche argued.


Donald Trump's hush money trial has adjourned for the day, following the conclusion of the defense's questioning of witness Robert Costello.

Costello will return to the witness stand on Tuesday.


After the fireworks over Robert Costello’s testimony, Trump lawyer Emil Bove tried to get at one of the main reasons he said he called the attorney to the stand: to rebut any suggestion from prosecutors that Costello was part of an effort to arm-twist Michael Cohen to stay loyal to Donald Trump.

“Mr. Costello, did you ever put any pressure on Michael to do anything?” Bove asked.

“No,” Costello testified. He said he considered Cohen a client and had only his interests, not Trump’s, in mind during their interactions.

Trump appeared alert and engaged, his attention focused on the witness box, during Costello’s testimony. When his attorneys finished their questions, he wrote a note on a piece of paper in front of him.


Judge Juan M. Merchan on Monday afternoon briefly closed the courtroom where Donald Trump's criminal trial is being held, forcing reporters into the hallway after he admonished witness Robert Costello for his behavior.

Costello aggravated Merchan repeatedly in his testimony by making comments under his breath and continuing to speak after objections were sustained — a signal to witnesses to stop talking.

At one point, frustrated as he was again cut off by a sustained objection, Costello remarked, “Jeez.”

“I’m sorry? I’m sorry?” a peeved Merchan asked.

“Strike it, I’m —.” Costello replied, cutting himself off.

At another point, he called the whole exercise, “ridiculous.”

After excusing the jury, Merchan told the witness: “Mr. Costello, I want to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom. When there’s a witness on the stand, if you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say ‘jeez’… You don’t give me side eye and you don’t roll your eyes.”

“Are you staring me down right now? Clear the courtroom, right now. Clear the courtroom,” the judge said.

For several minutes, there were no reporters in the courtroom or video access to the proceedings in the overflow room.

Jurors and reporters returned a short time later.


Robert Costello testified on Monday that in a meeting shortly after federal authorities searched Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel room in April 2018, a “manic” Cohen asked about an “escape route” from his legal problems.

“He kept on pacing back and forth, left and right,” Costello said. “He said ‘My life is shattered, my family’s life is shattered. I don’t know what’s going to happen.’”

Costello said he told Cohen the matter could be resolved quickly “if he had truthful information about Donald Trump and he cooperated.”

“I swear to God, Bob, I don’t have anything on Donald Trump,” Cohen replied, according to Costello.

Costello added that Cohen had lamented to him, “I don’t understand why they’re trying to put me in jail” over nondisclosure agreements, and disclosed that he’d arranged one with Stormy Daniels.

But, Costello said, Cohen told him Trump “knew nothing” about the hush money paid to the porn actor.

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


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

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

During Cohen’s testimony last week, prosecutors presented correspondence showing that Costello boasted about his closeness at the time with Trump ally Rudy Giuliani — a relationship he suggested could be beneficial to Cohen — and reassured him that he was “loved” inside the White House. In presenting those messages to the jury, prosecutors hoped to prove that Costello’s outreach was designed to keep Cohen in the Trump fold and to discourage him from flipping on Trump.

But Cohen ultimately did exactly that, pleading guilty to federal crimes and implicating Trump. Costello in the years since has repeatedly maligned Cohen’s credibility and was even a witness before last year’s grand jury that indicted Trump, offering testimony designed to undermine his account.


Attorney Robert Costello was called to the witness stand in Donald Trump's hush money trial Monday afternoon.

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

But, Merchan said, he won't allow the questioning to become a “trial within a trial” as to whether there was a pressure campaign and how it affected Cohen.

The judge said he would give Trump lawyer Emil Bove “some latitude to explore the pressure campaign so you can explore some inconsistencies.”


With jurors out of the room Monday afternoon, lawyers for both sides in Donald Trump's hush money trial argued about what — if anything — the defense should be allowed to ask witness Robert Costello about.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger contended that Costello shouldn’t be allowed to testify, but if he is, he shouldn’t be allowed to offer his opinions on Michael Cohen’s credibility. Trump attorney Emil Bove countered that he is being called to rebut the prosecutors’ suggestion that Costello was part of a supposed Trump-engineered pressure campaign to keep Cohen in the fold.

Just before the break, Bove said Costello would offer “direct evidence of perjury at this trial” by Cohen, suggesting that Cohen lied in testifying that he didn’t have even a retainer to hire Costello. “Part of what Costello is going to do is to testify that some of what Cohen said is false,” Bove said.

Costello was called to testify after the first defense witness, paralegal Daniel Sitko, who only briefly took the stand.


The prosecution in Donald Trump's hush money trial rested its case shortly after 3 p.m. Monday following the conclusion of Michael Cohen's testimony.

Cohen concluded his testimony after nearly four full days on the witness stand. He looked in Trump’s direction as he walked out of the courtroom before a court officer directed him down the aisle.

After Cohen left the room, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass told Judge Juan M. Merchan: “Your honor, the people rest.”


Back on the witness stand Monday afternoon, Michael Cohen testified that he has “no doubt” that Donald Trump gave him a final sign-off to make the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. In total, he said he spoke with Trump more than 20 times about the matter in October 2016. Some conversations were brief, while others were longer, he said, adding that they happened both by phone and in person.

Prosecutors appear to be eliciting testimony from Cohen aimed at diminishing the importance of a single phone call, which defense attorneys contend was not about the Daniels payments, but about a teenage prank caller who had been harassing Cohen.


After initially objecting, Donald Trump’s lawyers have agreed to let prosecutors show the jury in his hush money trial a still image taken from a C-SPAN video of Trump and his bodyguard Keith Schiller together at a campaign event at 7:57 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2016.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said he agreed to what’s known as a stipulation, allowing prosecutors to introduce the image without the need for extra steps — such as summoning a C-SPAN representative back to the witness stand to authenticate the image.

The defense made the compromise after prosecutors said they would seek to have the C-SPAN representative testify Tuesday morning, likely after the prosecution rests its case and the defense starts calling witnesses.

Blanche conferred with prosecutor Joshua Steinglass and reached the deal during a short break in the trial after conferring with Trump and other members of his defense team about how to proceed.

The judge in the case previously ruled against showing the image on grounds that the photo would amount to hearsay without being authenticated by a representative of the TV network.


Trump lawyer Todd Blanche on Monday objected to having a C-SPAN representative return to court after prosecutors floated it in their request to show a screenshot of an October 2016 video from the network.

Blanche argued that doing so will unnecessarily prolong Donald Trump's hush money trial. He added that prosecutors are on the verge of resting their case and that the defense may rest its case Monday, too.

The defense plans to call a campaign finance expert, a lawyer who offered to represent Cohen after the FBI raided his property in 2018, and a paralegal.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said he hopes to have Robert Browning, the executive director of the C-SPAN archives, back on the witness stand on Tuesday.


Chuck Zito, the former president of the Hells Angels' New York chapter, was among those in court Monday to support Donald Trump during his hush money trial.

Zito, who helped found the biker club’s local branch in the 1980s before setting his sights on Hollywood, was part of Trump’s entourage Monday, and was sitting in the back row of the courtroom before lunch.

Also known for his role as “Chucky The Enforcer” on the HBO prison drama “Oz,” Zito served real prison time on a drug charge in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

He’s not the only Trump ally in the courtroom who was previously convicted of a criminal charge: Bernard Kerik served three years behind bars after pleading guilty to federal tax fraud and other charges before his release in 2013. Trump pardoned him in 2020.


Before the jury returned from the lunch break, Judge Juan M. Merchan ruled that prosecutors can’t show the jury screenshots of a C-SPAN video of Donald Trump and his bodyguard Keith Schiller together at a campaign event the evening of Oct. 24, 2016 — about five minutes before Michael Cohen called Schiller’s cell phone.

The judge said the photo amounts to hearsay without being authenticated by a representative of the TV network. Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said prosecutors are arranging to have the executive director of the C-SPAN archives, Robert Browning, return to the witness stand. Browning testified earlier in the trial to authenticate videos of Trump campaign speeches in 2016.

Steinglass had said they wanted to show the image to blunt any suggestion by the defense that Trump and Schiller might not have been together at the time in question.


During a bench conference before the resumption of testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial, defense lawyers said they would call attorney Robert Costello to the witness stand during their defense case.

In addition to Costello, defense lawyer Todd Blanche said potentially they would also call Bradley A. Smith and a paralegal.

Costello, whose well-publicized split from Michael Cohen was chronicled in testimony last week, was invited last year to appear before the grand jury that indicted Trump after asserting that he had information that undermined Cohen’s credibility.

In a news conference after his grand jury appearance, he told reporters that he came forward to provide exculpatory information about Trump and to make clear that he did not believe Cohen — who pleaded guilty to federal crimes and served time in prison — could be trusted.

The move to call Costello is risky for the defense because it could open the door to additional testimony about what Cohen alleged was a strong-armed effort by the lawyer to keep him in line during the federal hush money investigation and to deter Cohen from cooperating with prosecutors after his home, office and hotel room were raided by the FBI in 2018.


After the jury was excused for lunch on Monday, prosecutors said they’re seeking to show them a screenshot from a C-SPAN video of Donald Trump and his bodyguard Keith Schiller together at a campaign event on Oct. 24, 2016, just minutes before Cohen called Schiller’s cell phone.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told Judge Juan M. Merchan they wanted to show the image to blunt any suggestion by the defense that Trump and Schiller might not have been together at the time in question. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said he never suggested, nor would he suggest, they were apart.

Cohen previously testified that he needed to speak with Trump “to discuss the Stormy Daniels matter and the resolution of it” and he knew that Schiller would be with him. Cohen wired $130,000 to Daniels’ lawyer two days after the call in question.

Citing text messages and telephone records, Blanche pressed Cohen last week on the subject matter of the call, eliciting testimony that the witness was also dealing with harassing phone calls from a person who’d identified himself as a 14-year-old boy.


Donald Trump’s entourage of political supporters spoke to news reporters Monday in the park across from the Manhattan courthouse where his criminal trial is currently taking place.

The group sought to attack the case, the judge, the judge’s daughter and President Joe Biden.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said Michael Cohen — who is currently on the witness stand — lied to Congress, the media and the court.

“You’d have trouble finding a single person he has actually told the truth to,” Wilson said.

Kash Patel, who served in Trump’s administration, said that Monday’s proceedings marked the first time in six weeks of trial that “we finally have a crime,” because Cohen admitted to stealing money from the Trump Organization.

“We also have a victim. That victim is Donald J. Trump,” Patel said.

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia called for the U.S. government to withhold any federal money from being used in New York’s court system and Illinois Rep. Mary Miller said “any normal judge would have dismissed this case by now.”


As she questioned Michael Cohen again on redirect, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger took a dig at the defense’s exacting cross-examination of him during Donald Trump's hush money trial.

“I know you might feel like you’re on trial here after cross-examination, but are you actually on trial here?,” she asked.

“No, ma’am,” Cohen replied after a defense objection was overruled.

Asked to describe the difference between testifying in court against Trump and the 2018 federal case in which he pleaded guilty to various crimes, Cohen said: “My life was on the line. My liberty. I was the defendant in that case. Here, I’m just a non-party subpoenaed witness.”


Michael Cohen’s admitted theft from the Trump Organization came after his annual holiday bonus was slashed to $50,000 from the $150,000 he usually received, he testified on Monday.

Cohen said that Donald Trump owed technology firm Red Finch $50,000 for its work artificially boosting his standing in a CNBC online poll about famous businessmen.

Cohen said he’d paid the company’s owner $20,000 in cash “to placate him for the time being” after Trump had gone months without paying the bill.

Cohen said he later sought reimbursement for the full amount at the same time he was seeking payment for the money he paid Stormy Daniels. He said he kept the difference instead of paying Red Finch as a way of making up for his reduced bonus.

“I was angered because of the reduction in the bonus and so I just felt like it was self-help,” Cohen said.


Michael Cohen testified on Monday that he shelled out money to a tech firm to help boost Donald Trump’s performance in an online CNBC poll about the most famous businessmen of the last half-century.

At first, Trump was polling near the bottom “and it upset him,” Cohen said during redirect. So Cohen reached out to Red Finch, who said they could create an algorithm that would get Trump’s name “to rise and rise significantly” in the poll by acquiring IP addresses to cast phony votes.

He said Trump initially wanted to finish first, but the two decided that would be suspicious. Instead, they decided to settle for ninth. But Trump refused to pay the firm after CNBC decided to nix a second round of the poll featuring the top 10 names. Trump, Cohen testified, didn’t feel he’d gotten his money’s worth.

When he was later reimbursed by Allen Weisselberg to pay back Red Finch, Cohen kept the proceeds for himself — an act of deception that, Cohen admitted earlier in the day, amounted to stealing from the Trump Organization.

But describing his actions to the prosecutor, Cohen defended the move. “I felt it was almost like self-help,” he said.


As prosecutor Susan Hoffinger began questioning Michael Cohen during redirect on Monday, she took aim at a point that Donald Trump’s defense made during their questioning: that Cohen helped Trump and his family with some legal matters in 2017, when Cohen received $420,000 from the then-president.

The sum included reimbursement for the $130,000 that Cohen had paid Stormy Daniels, according to testimony and evidence at the hush money trial.

Prosecutors say the $420,000 in payments was deceptively logged as legal expenses to disguise the Daniels deal. Trump’s defense says Cohen was indeed paid for legal work, so there was no cover-up.

Cohen testified that he never billed for the work he did for Trump and his family in 2017. When Hoffinger asked whether the $420,000 was related at all to those 2017 legal endeavors, Cohen answered, “No, ma’am.”


The defense's cross-examination of Michael Cohen in Donald Trump's hush money trial ended with Cohen reiterating that he discussed the Stormy Daniels deal with the former president.

“Notwithstanding everything you’ve said over the years, you have specific recollection of having conversations with then-candidate Donald J. Trump about the Stormy Daniels matter?” defense lawyer Todd Blanche asked.

“Yes, sir,” Cohen answered.

“No doubt in your mind?”

No doubt, Cohen averred, and Blanche said he had no more questions.


Pushed before the morning break in Donald Trump's hush money case to describe his lucrative Trump-related side businesses, Michael Cohen told defense attorney Todd Blanche “there is a television show” in the works.

Tentatively titled “The Fixer,” the show is based on Cohen’s own life and career. A producer on his podcast is currently shopping the show to studios, but it hasn’t been picked up yet, Cohen testified.

Later asked about his recent claim that he might run for Congress because he has “the best name recognition out there,” Cohen insisted he hasn’t built his profile on Trump’s back.

“My name recognition is because of the journey that I’ve been on. Is it affiliated to Mr. Trump? Yes. Not because of Mr. Trump,” he testified.

“Well, the journey that you’ve been on,” Blanche noted, “has included near-daily attacks on President Trump.”

“My journey is to tell my story, yes, sir,” Cohen said, eventually acknowledging his frequent criticisms of Trump.

Cohen also testified he’d be better off financially if Trump isn’t convicted because it would give him more fodder for the podcasts that provide a sizeable chunk of his livelihood.

Cohen was responding to questions asking if he’d benefit financially from a conviction in the hush money case.

As he spoke, Trump looked directly at the witness box, his arm draped over his chair.


Before a morning break in Donald Trump's criminal trial, defense lawyer Todd Blanche probed Michael Cohen’s profitable new career as a media-forward Trump critic.

The ex-lawyer said he’s made about $4.4 million from his books and podcasts since 2020, the year he was released from prison to home confinement. He was freed from home confinement in 2021.

Cohen also noted that he makes some income from a real estate rental property.

Before pleading guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations and other charges, Cohen made about $4 million in 18 months, he testified. That money came largely from corporate consulting deals, plus the $420,000 he got from Trump to reimburse the Stormy Daniels payout and a technology expense, cover taxes and provide a bonus.


Jurors in Donald Trump's hush money trial remained largely engaged with Michael Cohen’s testimony on Monday, though some appeared to be dragging as his testimony stretched into a fourth day.

Several jurors stifled yawns while peering at the witness and looking at monitors in front of them as emails and other evidence were displayed. A few continued to take notes. Others sat back and took in the testimony, occasionally peering at the gallery of reporters and public observers.

The Associated Press

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks