Trump Trial Chaos: Judge Clears Courtroom Over Witness Behavior

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Chaos enveloped Donald Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan Monday afternoon after a defense witness verbally tangled with Judge Juan Merchan, causing the courtroom to be cleared ― and earning a severe rebuke in return.

The drama began when the witness, an attorney and longtime Rudy Giuliani associate named Robert Costello, appeared to be upset at Judge Merchan for sustaining a series of objections from the prosecution about his answers.

Costello dramatically shook his head in exasperation at one point, then muttered “ridiculous” into the microphone while attorneys from both sides were discussing the proceedings with the judge.

After another objection was sustained, Costello exclaimed “Jeez!” prompting an annoyed Judge Merchan to ask Costello, “I’m sorry?”

“Strike it,” Costello responded.

Costello then rolled his eyes and sighed after yet another sustained objection, at which point the judge asked the jury to leave the room while instructing Costello to remain seated.

“I want to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom,” Merchan told Costello.

“I’m the only one that can strike testimony in this court,” he said. “You don’t give me side-eye, and you don’t roll your eyes. You understand that?”

Costello proceeded to glare at the judge.

“Are you staring me down?” Merchan asked. The judge then cleared the courtroom, including members of the press, who were hastily shuffled into an adjoining hallway.

After 10 minutes of what HuffPost reporter Sara Boboltz described as “utter chaos,” she said jurors were brought back into the room and the trial resumed. Boboltz, who’s in the courtroom, said it’s unclear how much of the shouting the jury overheard.

On Monday evening, the trial transcript of the day was released and revealed what had happened behind Merchan’s closed doors.

“I can appreciate that the press wants to be present for every part of these proceedings, therefore, this record is not sealed,” the judge said, noting for the trial record that court officers had “great difficulty” clearing the room. Several reporters had voiced objections, prompting shouting between courthouse security officers and members of the public gallery.

Merchan then turned to the witness.

“Sir, your conduct is contemptuous right now,” he said to Costello.

“I’m putting you on notice that your conduct is contemptuous. If you try to stare me down one more time, I will remove you from the stand,” Merchan told the witness.

“I will strike his entire testimony. Do you understand me?” the judge asked.

Trump attorney Emil Bove said he understood.

When Costello interjected to ask whether he could “say something,” Merchan told him no, because “this is not a conversation.”