Trump hush money trial: Former president does not testify as a witness

In the historic hush money trial against Donald Trump in New York, the former US President is not testifying himself as a witness. Trump's lawyers ended questioning witnesses on Tuesday without calling Trump to the witness stand. Judge Juan Merchan then announced the closing arguments in the trial for Tuesday next week. There had previously been a scandal in the courtroom because of derogatory statements made by a witness.

Trump's lawyers officially declared the interviews over on Tuesday, without the ex-president himself testifying. Since the trial began around five weeks ago, 19 witnesses have been interviewed and numerous documents have been presented. Trump's lawyers repeatedly tried to refute important statements against the ex-president during the trial.

Judge Merchan had hoped to begin closing arguments in the trial on Tuesday. However, in view of the war of words between the two legal teams and the upcoming holiday weekend in the USA, these have now been announced for next week. Merchan now said he expects the jury to be able to begin their deliberations “hopefully sometime on Wednesday.”

Shortly before the end of the trial, there was a scandal in the courtroom: the derogatory statements made by a witness had angered Judge Merchan so much that he had the room evacuated on Monday. Attorney Robert Costello, called to the witness stand by the defense, had repeatedly expressed his disagreement with the judge's decisions in defiant remarks.

Costello once advised the main prosecution witness Michael Cohen before falling out with him. Apparently the defense wanted to use Costello's testimony to try to damage Cohen's credibility.

However, Costello's provocative appearance on the witness stand soon angered the judge: Every time Merchan acceded to a prosecutor's objection, Costello shook his head or sighed theatrically. At one point Costello shouted “Jeez!” (Jeez). Merchan asked Costello to refrain from making statements like this “if you don't like my decision.”

Costello then kept staring into Merchan's eyes, after which he had had enough. “Clear the courtroom,” Merchan finally shouted. First he instructed the jury to leave the room. The judge then ordered that the press and other people present also had to leave the room for a short time.

The journalists who have been reporting on the first criminal trial against a former US president for weeks were reluctant to comply. “The public has a right to know,” shouted one of the reporters.

The officers guarding the court then added to the chaos: They asked the reporters to leave the hall – but Trump's large circle of supporters were apparently allowed to stay.

When Merchan allowed the public and the press back into the courtroom, the mood seemed less heated. Costello looked contrite – but he continued with his grumbling remarks.

In the first criminal trial in history against a former US president, Trump is accused of using falsified business documents to cover up a hush money payment to former porn actress Stormy Daniels and thereby illegally interfering in the presidential election.

The payment persuaded the former porn actress to keep quiet about an alleged sex affair she said she had with the real estate mogul in 2006. Trump denies any sexual contact with the woman.

Trump must also worry about the political implications of a possible conviction: the 77-year-old right-wing populist wants to run in the presidential election in November against incumbent Joe Biden, whom he lost in the 2020 election.

Trump describes the New York trial as well as the three other criminal charges brought against him as politically motivated maneuvers to prevent his return to the White House.

On Monday, Trump again spoke of a show trial and complained that his election campaign was being thwarted by the weeks-long court dates. He was not allowed to “have anything to do with politics because I've been sitting in a freezing cold, dark room for four weeks,” he told reporters. “It's very unfair.”