Justice “Are you staring me down?” – scandal in the Trump trial

A reporter describes the Trump trial in New York as the best reality show of all time. In fact, sometimes unbelievable things happen in room 1530 – the judge's collar is now bursting.

The trial against former US President Donald Trump is historic; the accusation of alleged cover-up of hush money payments to a porn actress could hardly be more spicy. After more than a month of spectacular accusations and detailed descriptions of Trump's sex life, the trial briefly went off the rails: Judge Juan Merchan had room 1530 of the court in downtown Manhattan temporarily evacuated – because he felt disrespected by a defense witness close to Trump.

The trial concerns the prosecution's accusation that Trump wanted to improve his chances of success in the 2016 presidential election by paying $130,000 to the porn actress Daniels and then incorrectly recorded the flow of money. Although the payment itself – which is not disputed by any side – was not illegal, the now 77-year-old Republican is said to have manipulated documents when refunding the amount to his personal lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, in order to conceal the true reason for the transaction. Therefore it is illegal campaign financing. Trump, who wants to become US president again in November, has pleaded not guilty.

Closing arguments next week

The witness interviews in the historic trial have now ended. After hearing more than 20 witnesses and dozens of hours of questioning, the closing arguments are scheduled to take place next Tuesday. The twelve jurors would then meet to deliberate to reach a unanimous verdict.

After the prosecution called its last witness, Cohen, Trump's defense asked Robert Costello for questioning. Cohen's former legal advisor was intended to undermine the credibility of the main prosecution witness – but could have actually damaged himself through his behavior: Costello responded several times to questions to which Merchan had previously allowed the public prosecutor's office to object. The judge therefore instructed the witness that he was not allowed to answer in such cases.

A word with consequences

A short time later, Costello commented on another approved objection with “Jeesh” – which can be translated as a derogatory “Oh my God”. Merchan then had the jury escorted out of the room and told the Trump ally on the witness stand: “I want to talk about proper decorum in my courtroom.” He refuses to comment on his decisions. “You don't give me a sideways glance or roll your eyes,” dictated Merchan, who has a reputation for not putting up with anything.

As Costello continued to frown and red-face the judge, Merchan blurted out, audibly annoyed, “Are you staring me down?” He then had the room cleared – with the help of loud and sharp instructions from the court staff, so that even Trump turned around and watched what was happening. Journalists were allowed to re-enter the room after a few minutes and the questioning continued.

US media spoke of the “craziest moment” of the trial. The trial surrounding one of the most polarizing political figures of all had already had some spectacular moments. A reporter who covers the proceedings virtually every day called the Trump trial the best reality show of all time.

The proceedings are also likely to have an impact on the current election campaign – the only question is: to what extent and to whose advantage? Trump is trying to turn the allegations into personal gain and mobilize his followers by portraying himself as a victim of a politically motivated justice system. Incumbent Joe Biden does not appear to have benefited noticeably from the legal proceedings against his challenger.

One-night stand details

The statement by erotic star Stormy Daniels herself, who spoke in irritating detail about her alleged one-night stand with Trump, also received huge attention: how he wooed her at a dinner in 2006 on the sidelines of a golf tournament and thus dismissed her reference to his wife Melania I realized that both of them didn't even sleep in the same room. Melania Trump had married the colorful real estate mogul the year before.

In the presence of the accused, Daniels then described during the increasingly tense questioning that she had stared at the ceiling in Trump's hotel suite during sexual intercourse and asked herself how she came to have sex with Donald Trump. She endured everything, but in the end it was all over quickly. Trump didn't use a condom. After sex, Daniels said, she was shaking so much that she could barely get dressed.

Cohen's statements from the last four days of the meeting were also memorable. In his statements to the public prosecutor, he described in detail how, for years, he worked as Trump's ruthless “pit bull” to get out of the way of legal problems for his boss, put people under pressure, spread lies – and finally suppressed public reports about Trump's sex scandals so that he could In 2016, he won the election against Hillary Clinton and moved into the White House. Thanks to the process, which is closely monitored by the media with live ticker news every minute, the American public is currently reliving that spectacular phase in the 2016 election campaign.

Entourage with Hells Angels rockers

As usual, the ex-president appeared in court in a dark blue suit and this time he wore a blue tie. After putting on his usual grim expression for the photographers, who are only allowed into the room for a few minutes before the session each day, he initially followed the session more actively than on many other days when he had to walk for long stretches with his eyes closed sat before the judge.

Now Trump brought with him his largest entourage of political supporters to date. One of the most controversial figures may be the convicted rocker Chuck Zito: According to media reports, the 71-year-old was a co-founder of the New York Hells Angels in the 1980s, which was classified as a criminal organization by the US Department of Justice. Zito spent over five years in prison for drug offenses.

With his supporters behind him, Trump had words of praise for defense witness Costello after his argument with the judge on Monday. Costello is a “highly respected lawyer,” while Judge Merchan is a “tyrant.”

Meanwhile, the end of the trial is in sight. The judge said he expects closing arguments to be heard on Tuesday next week. After that, the twelve jurors will meet to deliberate and reach a verdict. Officially, there is no time limit for this, but juries usually deliberate for a few hours to a few days.