Donald Trump won’t testify at hush money trial as defense rests its case

NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s defense team rested their case on Tuesday without calling him as a witness at his historic Manhattan trial.

Judge Juan Merchan directed the jurors to go home and return next Tuesday, saying he wanted to avoid a large gap between summations and their deliberations.

“At the end of the day, I think the best thing we can do is adjourn now until next Tuesday,” Merchan said, warning them not to look up anything about the case.

Prosecutors said they had nothing more to present to rebut the defense’s case.

On his way into the courtroom earlier, Trump called the defense’s case “phenomenal” and said it would be wrapped shortly.

“We’ll be resting pretty quickly,” said Trump, whose entourage Tuesday included Don Trump, Jr., former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker and comic Joe Piscopo.

“Resting meaning resting the case. I won’t be resting. I don’t rest. I’d like to rest sometimes but I don’t get to rest.”

Outside the courthouse

Don Jr., who appeared in court for the first time on Tuesday, called those testifying for the prosecution “arguably the least credible witnesses in the history of, I don’t know, witnesses.

“The star witness in this case was a what, nine times convicted liar and now an admitted thief?” he said, referring to former Trump fixer Michael Cohen. “That is who they’re hanging the entire case on. The other happens to be a porn star,” he said about Stormy Daniels. “Not exactly the ultimate form of jurisprudence here.”

“Don Jr., we hate you in New York,” yelled a passerby walking a bicycle.

Lawyer’s testy testimony

Attorney Bob Costello, who received a tongue-lashing from the judge Monday less than 15 minutes into his testimony as a witness for Trump for criticizing the judge’s rulings, continued on cross-examination with the prosecution.

Trump’s team called the veteran lawyer and longtime associate of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani late Monday in a bid to discredit Cohen’s testimony.

During his four days on the stand, Cohen said Trump directed him to pay off Daniels before the 2016 election and covered up his reimbursement the following year. Prosecutors rested their case after calling him as their last witness of 20 on Monday.

Cohen, 57, told jurors that Costello dangled a “back channel” to the White House in trying to pin him down as a client after the feds began investigating him for campaign finance crimes he was later convicted of in 2018. He said he didn’t trust the veteran lawyer and felt anything he said would go straight back to Giuliani and Trump, whom he felt pressure from not to flip.

“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 Monday of advising Cohen after the FBI raids.

Back on the stand Tuesday, Costello refrained from making wisecracks but responded to several of prosecutor Susan Hoffinger’s questions with an attitude — pushing back and claiming he didn’t dangle White House connections in trying to represent Cohen.

“Michael, I just spoke to Rudy Giuliani and told him I was on your team. Rudy is thrilled and said this could not be a better situation for the President or you,” read an excerpt of an email Costello sent Cohen on April 21, 2018, less than two weeks after the FBI raided Cohen’s residence.

“[Giuliani] said thank you for opening this back channel of communication and asked me to keep in touch,” the email continued.

Hoffinger asked if the email “speaks for itself.”

“No, not quite,” Costello replied, trying to say more before the prosecutor cut him off.

On redirect, Trump lawyer Emil Bove asked Costello who was the first used the term “back channel,” to which he replied it was Giuliani, “in response to my telling him we couldn’t make this public.”

Hoffinger ended her cross-examination with a series of questions about Costello “losing control” of Cohen as he didn’t hire him as his attorney and pleaded guilty.

“What should I say to this a–hole?” Costello wrote in an email to his law partner. “He’s playing with the most powerful man on the planet.”

Trump, 77, has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsification of business records, each tied to his alleged reimbursement of Cohen in 2017. The criminal case is the first ever filed against a U.S. president. Prosecutors say the payments, recorded in 11 checks, 11 invoices, and 12 ledger entries as compensation for a retainer fee, constituted felonies as they were disguised to mask an underlying conspiracy to influence Trump’s chances of winning the election.

The presumed Republican nominee for president has decried the case as a “witch hunt” and denies he reimbursed Cohen for the hush money, telling reporters outside court Monday that he paid his lawyer for legitimate legal services. Trump’s defense has countered that any efforts to silence women with unflattering allegations about his past were carried out to protect his family and his brand, not boost his political prospects.