'Don't roll your eyes': Trump defense witness gets judge's warning. What you missed on Day 19 of the hush money trial.

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After days of trying to dismantle Donald Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen’s credibility, the defense began presenting its own case, calling two witnesses that may make up the totality of its presentation.

It was during a defense witness' testimony that one of the most heated exchanges of the trial erupted. As attorney Robert Costello grumbled and groused, New York state Judge Juan Merchan grew increasingly irate, asking the jury to leave so he could admonish the witness and ultimately clearing the court in Manhattan of reporters and cutting off feeds to the overflow room where the media is assembled.

trump hush money trial (AP)
trump hush money trial (AP)

“If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t give me side eye, and you don’t roll your eyes,” Merchan said before he asked, “Are you staring me down?”

Merchan then ordered the room cleared.

Later, Trump implied Merchan had done so to hand the prosecution a break, telling reporters that the “highly political” and “conflicted” judge “just did something that nobody’s ever seen” after Costello began to impugn “his highly political motive.”

“Nobody’s ever seen anything like this,” Trump added.

Here’s what you missed on Day 19 of Trump’s hush money trial:

Trump's witnesses seek to undermine Cohen

The defense's efforts to discredit Cohen didn't end when he left the stand.

The second witness called — after a paralegal for the defense team who testified about tracking phone calls made by Cohen — was Robert Costello. He is an attorney who Cohen said had offered him a “back channel” to Trump after federal authorities searched Cohen’s home, office and safety deposit box in 2018.

Costello testified that Cohen told him numerous times, “I swear to God, Bob, I don’t have anything on Donald Trump,” and that he paid Stormy Daniels "on his own.”

It wasn't the first time Costello had provided testimony in this case. He also testified before the grand jury that indicted Trump, at the request of Trump's defense team. His testimony at that time didn't persuade the grand jury not to indict.

On the stand Monday, Costello said Cohen appeared “absolutely manic” after the FBI searched his home and his hotel room.

Cohen last week said that he believed he was under a “pressure campaign” by Trump and his allies and that he was being railroaded into working with Costello, an attorney he didn't trust and who would protect Trump at his expense.

Trump’s lawyers had told Merchan early Monday that they weren't sure they would call Costello, but they did, and fireworks ensued as he drew repeated objections from prosecutors and ruffled Merchan's typically calm demeanor.

“I’m not going to allow this to become a trial within a trial about a pressure campaign and how it affected Cohen,” Merchan swiped at one point.

Visibly irritated at the interruptions, Costello grumbled at Merchan's instructions to control his response, drawing fiery blowback from him.


Trump lawyer Todd Blanche's cross-examination of Cohen sometimes seemed to meander, but on Monday he appeared to land another blow in his effort to undermine the witness's credibility.

Blanche pressed Cohen about how he lied to Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg about how much was owed to a third party when Cohen felt shortchanged on his bonus.

Cohen admitted giving Weisselberg the wrong number.

“You stole from the Trump Organization, right?” Blanche said.

“Yes, sir,” Cohen replied.

Cohen said felt he was owed money after his bonus was cut by two-thirds and embittered after he went out on a limb for Trump, personally and financially. “It was very upsetting, to say the least,” Cohen said of the slashed bonus.

Prosecutors work to restore Cohen’s credibility 

Prosecutors used their re-direct examination to try to restore some of Cohen's credibility and offer long explanations to answers he gave under Blanche's questioning.

Cohen repeated his testimony about Trump's role in the hush money scheme, saying he had “no doubt” that he discussed the matter with him. Trump told him to “work it out” with Weisselberg, he said, and he reiterated that he wouldn't have paid Daniels without such an assurance.

The district attorney’s office tried to end it on a personal note.

But the stakes for Cohen today are nowhere as close, he said, suggesting there is no need for him to lie. “My life was on the line, my liberty,” Cohen said, as was his wife’s. “Here, I’m just a nonparty witness.”

Scheduling confusion 

The schedule was in tumult at times Monday. When trial proceedings wrapped last week, Merchan told the lawyers to be prepared to deliver closing arguments Tuesday. But before testimony even resumed Monday morning, the end of the trial had already been delayed by another week.

That’s because it wasn’t clear whether witness testimony was going to be finished by the end of the day Monday and whether there would be enough time for closing arguments, jury instructions and then deliberations to begin before the long holiday weekend. So Merchan decided to let witness testimony conclude this week and then take off for the holiday.

Then, another twist was added when the defense and the prosecution argued over entering a photo from a C-SPAN video. To be able to enter the photo, the prosecution asked to bring in another witness, requesting to do so Tuesday morning. But Trump’s lawyers objected, saying they had two witnesses waiting and wanted to conclude by the end of the day. Eventually, they reached an agreement. But Costello's testimony — lengthened by the courtroom clearing — wasn't over by the end of the day, requiring all parties to return Tuesday morning.

As it looks now, Merchan and lawyers will meet Thursday to discuss jury instructions. The trial will take Friday and Monday off for Memorial Day, and closing arguments will be next week.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com