Trump's hush-money trial is almost over. Deliberations could begin as early as Thursday — unless Trump testifies.

  • The Trump hush-money trial has finished its fourth week of testimony.

  • Michael Cohen is set to finish on Monday as the prosecution's last direct-case witness.

  • Will Trump testify? No one is saying, but if he takes the stand, deliberations would be pushed back.

After one week of jury selection and four weeks of prosecution testimony, Donald Trump's New York hush-money trial is now in its home stretch.

Jurors are on track to start deliberating either right before or right after the four-day Memorial Day weekend, as revealed in a scheduling discussion late Thursday.

That timing now largely depends on two yet-decided things: how much state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan will rein in a looming battle of the experts, and whether Trump will take the stand in his own defense.

Trump previously said he would take the stand. Ultimately that decision will be his, not his lawyers, who have no legal power to stop him if he decides to address his jury directly.

But there has been no confirmation either way, and the judge and prosecutors remained in the dark as the trial wrapped up for the week.

Here is how next week is shaping up.

Michael Cohen is shown leaving his apartment to attend the hush money trial in New York.
Michael Cohen en route to testify against Donald Trump.AP/Julia Nikhinson

Monday: Cohen steps down, the defense case begins

Monday morning will begin with the final testimony by Michael Cohen, Trump's former all-around "fixer" and the prosecution's star — and final — direct-case witness.

Lead Trump defense lawyer Todd Blanche said Thursday that his cross-examination of Cohen will be done before the morning break, which typically comes around 11 a.m.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger said her re-direct of Cohen will be "under an hour."

That gets Cohen off the stand by noon, at which point the prosecution will rest its direct case, and the defense will make a likely failed motion to toss the case on insufficient evidence.

Then, the defense case will begin.

Blanche said Thursday that Trump's side will call at least one witness for their direct case — Bradley A. Smith, commissioner of the Federal Election Commission from 2000-2005.

Prosecutors have alleged that Trump falsified 34 business records to conceal any of three underlying tax and campaign-finance crimes.

The defense hopes Smith can expound at length about federal campaign-finance law, in anticipation of what Blanche on Thursday called "sort of a battle of the experts."

A courtroom sketch shows Justice Juan Merchan speaking during the arraignment of Donald Trump in New York City on April 4, 2023.
Justice Juan Merchan Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

A 'battle of the experts'

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy, the prosecution's election law point man, complained Thursday that a battle of the experts is the last thing the judge should want.

Smith's testimony must be strictly limited in accordance with Merchan's own previous rulings, Conroy argued. Otherwise, jurors risk being confused by three interpretations of the law — from Smith, a prosecution rebuttal witness, and then the judge himself.

"Your honor, I think 95% of the proffered testimony that was just described flies directly in the face of your extremely clear March 18th Order, which expressly said that Mr. Smith may not testify regarding the interpretation and application of federal campaign finance laws," Conroy told the judge.

Merchan already has set strict limits on Smith, confining his testimony to general definitions of finance-law terms and the role of the Federal Election Campaign Commission. Commentary on trial evidence and interpretations of the law are expressly forbidden.

Merchan said Thursday that he will spend the weekend re-examining these guardrails in light of a recent defense request that the rules for his testimony be expanded.

But the judge warned of Smith's testimony: "Until you hear differently from me, it's going to be limited to the very, very general definitions and very general background information."

If Trump indeed decides to take the stand, that testimony could also begin on Monday. If not, prosecutors could call their own election-law expert as part of a brief rebuttal case.

Will Trump testify?

As of late Thursday, the defense had yet to tell prosecutors, the judge, or the public if they will be calling Trump to testify.

Blanche had only this to say before court broke for the week: "That's another decision that we need to think through."

Rep. Matt Gaetz, left, R-Florida, chats with Donald Trump attorney Todd Blanche in the hall outside the hush-money trial.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, left, R-Florida, with Donald Trump attorney Todd Blanche in the hall outside the hush-money trial.AP/Mike Segar

Tuesday: Either Trump or closing arguments

It's possible closing arguments will be made Tuesday.

But that would require an efficient and Trump-free Monday.

If Smith's testimony drags, if prosecutors and the defense mount an extensive rebuttal battle, and especially if Trump testifies, that could push summations into the next day of court, Thursday.

"I'm doing everything possible to avoid big breaks between summations, jury charge, jury instructions, and deliberations," Merchan told the parties Thursday.

"I will try not to break up summations, if at all possible," he said.

"And as we discussed in the robing room, the deliberations should follow immediately after the jury charge," he added.

Wednesday: no court

Early Thursday, the judge asked jurors if they could work Wednesday, which is usually a day off for the trial. Merchan uses Wednesdays to handle his other cases.

But the jurors asked to keep the day off, "So that's off the table," the judge told the parties during a break in Cohen's testimony.

Trump, meanwhile, is due to appear in court Wednesday for oral arguments in his federal classified-documents case in Florida.

That hearing is for "a very small motion and our intention is to seek permission from Judge Cannon that President Trump be excused," Blanche said of Judge Aileen Cannon.

"In the past, she has agreed," Blanche said.

A courtroom artist's sketch shows the judge, parties, and jurors in the Donald Trump hush-money trial in Manhattan.
The hush-money jury could begin deliberations as early as Thursday.AP/Christine Cornell

Thursday: Deliberations could begin

Again, if the scheduling stars align, deliberations could begin Thursday, the last trial day before the four-day holiday.

A Thursday start to deliberations would have to follow a very productive Monday and Tuesday.

Before deliberations can begin, jurors need to hear the entirety of the defense case — with or without Trump.

They need to hear any rebuttal case, which would likely be centered on the testimony of Smith.

They also need to hear both sides' closing arguments. After that, the judge would have to instruct the jurors on the underlying law and on the rules of deliberations.

The likelihood of deliberations beginning Thursday increases if Merchan can get the parties, jurors, and court staff to agree to work longer days on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.

"I'm going to look into that, and see if we could start early" on Tuesday and Thursday, Merchan told the parties before breaking for the weekend.

"I think that we can work a little bit late on some days," he added.

One of the trial's six alternates can only work until 1 p.m. Thursday, but alternates are typically dismissed at the start of deliberations, so that may not prove a problem.

"We will play it by ear and see how that plays out," Merchan said.

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