What you missed in Trump trial: A fiery clash of Judge Merchan and witness, prosecution rests

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Editor's note: This page reflects the news from Donald Trump's criminal trial on Monday, May 20. For the latest news from inside the courtroom, follow our live updates for Tuesday, May 21.

NEW YORK − A furious Judge Juan Merchan cleared his Manhattan courtroom of jurors, spectators, and the press Monday afternoon to chastise a key defense witness for Donald Trump after he made an exasperated comment about the judge's rulings.

The fireworks came shortly after the prosecution rested its case in Trump's historic hush money criminal trial.

Lawyer Robert Costello muttered "Geez!" after Merchan sustained several prosecution objections to his testimony. When Merchan confronted Costello about his breach of basic courtroom decorum, Costello told the court stenographer to "strike it" from the record − something only the judge has the power to do.

Merchan excused the jurors and began scolding Costello, a former federal prosecutor and veteran defense attorney, and then asked: "Are you staring me down right now?" The judge then ordered the entire courtroom cleared for a short time.

Costello is a key defense witness. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has testified Costello tried to serve as an intermediary between himself and Trump after the FBI raided Cohen's office in 2018.

Trump, the first-ever former president to face a criminal indictment, is charged with falsifying business records to cover up hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels on his behalf ahead of the 2016 election.

Costello will return to the stand on Tuesday, with no definitive word on whether Trump himself will testify.

Here are the top Monday developments from inside and outside the Manhattan courtroom:

Trump says ‘never seen anything like’ judge's scolding of witness Costello

Former President Donald Trump railed against Judge Juan Merchan’s treatment of a witness, Robert Costello, in his New York hush money trial, but found himself unable to detail his criticism because of a gag order that prevents him from commenting on witnesses.

“You saw. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. A tyrant,” Trump said of Merchan. “You saw what just took place in that courtroom. Hopefully the motion to dismiss this trial will go through because this trial is a disaster for our country.”

Merchan scolded Costello for disagreeing with a ruling by saying “Geez!” from the witness stand and for saying “Strike it” – rather than the judge – to erase his comments from the trial record. Merchan then asked whether Costello was staring him down and ordered the courtroom cleared of spectators and reporters.

“You saw what happened to a highly respected lawyer, Bob Costello,” Trump said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. Highly respected.”

“The press is not happy, I don’t imagine,” Trump added. “They just got thrown out of a courthouse.”

– Bart Jansen

More: A guilty verdict? Donald Trump and allies are bracing voters for the worst

'It's disrespectful': How Trump witness peeved the judge

Defense witness Robert Costello's puckish behavior on the witness stand was "unusual," said Diana Florence, a former Manhattan prosecutor, after Judge Juan Merchan ordered the courtroom cleared Monday afternoon in response to Costello's comments from the witness stand.

Costello appeared exasperated by the number of prosecution objections to his testimony that the judge was sustaining.

"If the judge says 'sustained,' you may think in your in your head that he's wrong, but you should not be making comments. It's disrespectful," Florence said, noting that lawyers often make difficult trial witnesses.

Judge Merchan's decision to clear the courtroom during Costello's testimony, however, was equally as strange, Florence said. Typically, a judge would only instruct the jury to leave before admonishing a witness.

She speculated that Merchan's decision could indicate "that there is something going on with Costello that is confidential that the parties know, that we don't know."

− Karissa Waddick

Monday proceedings end without decision on Trump request to dismiss case

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo pushed back strongly on Trump lawyer Todd Blanche's arguments for Judge Juan Merchan to take the case out of the hands of the jury and dismiss it.

After a little back-and-forth between Colangelo and Blanche, Merchan declared an end to the day's proceedings. He indicated he will make a decision later.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge skeptical as Trump lawyer says Cohen testimony should be tossed

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to Donald Trump, leaves his apartment building on his way to Manhattan criminal court in New York on May 20, 2024. Cohen, while taking the witness stand in the Manhattan criminal trial, directly connected Donald Trump to the hush-money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to keep their alleged sexual encounter out of the news ahead of the 2016 election.

In addition to the three reasons Trump lawyer Todd Blanche gave for dismissing the case against the former president, Blanche also said Michael Cohen's role in the case was another reason to toss the whole indictment.

"There is no way that the court should let this case go to the jury relying on Mr. Cohen's testimony," Blanche said.

"Without Mr. Cohen, there is no case," Blanche continued. "He not only lied repeatedly in the past under oath, but he lied in this courtroom."

Blanche referenced testimony from Cohen at trial about a phone call to Trump's bodyguard in which Cohen said he discussed the Stormy Daniels hush money payment with Trump. On cross-examination, Blanche showed Cohen text messages suggesting he was reaching out to the bodyguard about some harassing phone calls. Cohen responded that he believes he also spoke to Trump about the hush money payment during the call.

"So you're asking me to find Mr. Cohen not credible as a matter of law?" Merchan asked, with clear skepticism in his voice about taking that decision out of the hands of the jury. "Yes," Blanche responded.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump lawyer says judge should dismiss case for three reasons

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche has been urging Judge Merchan to dismiss the prosecution's case. Blanche raised three reasons for doing so:

  • First, Blanche said, the business records at issue in the case weren't actually false. He said there's no dispute that Michael Cohen provided legal services to Trump in 2017, in keeping with how payments to Cohen were characterized in those records.

  • Second, Blanche said, there is no evidence Trump had an intent to defraud when it came to the business records, which is an element of the charges prosecutors must prove. Blanche said if there were an intent to defraud, the records would have described services that were different from those actually rendered.

  • Third, Blanche said there are no crimes being covered up by the records, which is an important element in charging Trump with felonies. In particular, Blanche said, an agreement between Trump, Cohen, and a tabloid publisher to keep an eye out for stories that were bad for Trump ahead of the 2016 election isn't evidence of criminal intent.

– Aysha Bagchi

Jury dismissed until tomorrow but lawyers stay for arguments

Judge Juan Merchan excused jurors for the rest of the day. However, lawyers have remained to address legal issues.

Robert Costello, a key defense witness, is due back on the witness stand Tuesday morning. Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger is set to continue cross-examining him.

– Aysha Bagchi

'He was putting on quite a show': Costello on Cohen discussing suicide

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger began cross-examining Costello. Costello told her he has been a criminal defense lawyer for 40 or 50 years. She asked him to confirm he can understand, given that experience, how traumatic it is for someone to face criminal charges. He said he did understand that.

"But you thought he was being a drama queen, didn't you?" Hoffinger asked Costello, speaking about Michael Cohen.

"He was putting on quite a show," Costello said. Costello described Cohen saying he was on the roof of the Regency Hotel and he was going to jump off and kill himself because he couldn't withstand the ongoing pressure of the criminal case.

– Aysha Bagchi

Costello denies pressure campaign against Cohen

Under questioning from Trump lawyer Emil Bove, Robert Costello testified that he treated Michael Cohen like a client, and had Cohen's interests in mind when Donald Trump's then-fixer was under federal investigation. He also denied putting Cohen under a pressure campaign not to flip on Trump.

– Aysha Bagchi

More: Wonder what it would be like to watch the Trump trial? Graphics take you inside courtroom.

Reporters allowed back into courtroom as Costello testimony continues

Robert Costello has resumed his testimony after what appears to have been a private dressing-down by Judge Juan Merchan. The judge has sustained multiple further objections to his testimony, and instructed Costello to restrict his answers to the question Trump lawyer Emil Bove is asking.

– Aysha Bagchi

'Are you staring me down right now?': Judge clears courtroom after fiery reproach of witness

After excusing jurors from the courtroom, Judge Merchan said to Costello: "I want to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom." Costello said, "Right."

"If you don't like my ruling, you don't say, 'Geez!'" Merchan continued.

He reminded Costello, who is a veteran lawyer, that Costello also isn't permitted to say, "Strike it," because Merchan is the only one in the courtroom with the power to strike testimony. Merchan also made reference to Costello rolling his eyes.

"Do you understand that?" Merchan asked Costello, who was sitting within six feet of the judge, in the witness box to the judge's left.

Merchan then said to Costello in an inflamed tone: "Are you staring me down right now?"

"Clear the courtroom, please. Clear the courtroom," the judge then ordered. Court security officers then forced all reporters to leave the courtroom, seemingly so Merchan could further reprimand Costello outside of our presence.

– Aysha Bagchi

'Geez!' 'Sorry?': Testy exchange between judge and Trump witness in front of jurors

Before excusing jurors from the courtroom, and later excusing reporters from the room, Judge Merchan had a testy exchange with Costello.

Merchan had sustained multiple objections from prosecutor Susan Hoffinger when Costello, in the witness box, said "Geez!" at a normal volume − but with an exasperated tone.

Merchan then said heatedly, "Sorry?" "I'm sorry?" to Costello. Costello then said "strike it," seeming to refer to striking his own testimony from the court record.

Costello continued testifying, and then he appeared to dramatically sigh after another objection was sustained. Merchan then excused the jurors from the courtroom.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge clears the courtroom after fiery exchange with Trump witness Costello

Judge Juan Merchan has cleared the courtroom after a fiery exchange with Trump witness Robert Costello.

– Aysha Bagchi

'I swear to God, Bob, I don't have anything on Donald Trump'

Costello, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan, has started testifying. He said Michael Cohen previously told him: "I swear to God, Bob, I don't have anything on Donald Trump."

Costello also quoted Cohen as saying: "I don't understand why they're trying to put me in jail for some (expletive) NDAs." (An NDA is a non-disclosure agreement.)

And Costello said Cohen told him "numerous times" that he did this on his own – an apparent reference to the hush money deals surrounding Donald Trump.

Cohen testified earlier that he never told Costello the truth about Trump's involvement in hush money deals.

– Aysha Bagchi

Who is Robert Costello?

Robert Costello is a Republican lawyer who has worked in Trump's circles, having advised Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani.

Cohen testified earlier that he found Costello a "sketchy" character who had proposed to act as a back channel to communicate with Trump when he was in the White House. Costello and Cohen discussed a retainer agreement and a presidential pardon, but neither came to fruition.

Costello earlier testified before a New York grand jury on Trump's behalf in the case, saying he argued that Cohen is "on the revenge tour."

− Kinsey Crowley

Judge gives defense 'some latitude' in Costello testimony

Judge Juan Merchan quickly returned to the courtroom and provided instructions on the testimony the defense may elicit from its next witness, lawyer Robert Costello.

Merchan said Trump lawyer Emil Bove can ask Costello about two prior inconsistent statements from Michael Cohen, and the judge will also give Bove "some latitude" to explore Cohen's claim that Trump was engaging in a "pressure campaign" to prevent him from cooperating with investigators after his office was raided by the FBI.

The judge added, however, that he won't allow the testimony to become a trial within a trial about the alleged pressure campaign and how it affected Cohen. Merchan also said he won't allow Costello to testify about a "retainer issue." That may be a reference to Cohen's testimony that he never signed an agreement to retain Costello as a lawyer.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge Merchan leaves courtroom briefly as he mulls Costello testimony

After listening to arguments from the prosecution and defense, Judge Merchan left the bench but told everyone still in the courtroom to remain. He appears to be stepping away to mull whether and how to limit the testimony of Robert Costello, a lawyer called as a witness by the defense.

– Aysha Bagchi

More: Judge Juan Merchan, presiding over Donald Trump's NY criminal trial, has already ruled against him

Jury excused as prosecution challenges potential Costello testimony

Judge Juan Merchan excused the jury for some time in order to hear arguments from the prosecution and defense about Robert Costello, who hasn't yet taken the witness stand. The prosecution is challenging the admissibility of testimony from Costello.

– Aysha Bagchi

More: Lawyer assails Trump grand jury witness Michael Cohen as 'liar on revenge tour'

Defense calls lawyer Robert Costello to testify

The Trump defense team has called lawyer Robert Costello to the witness stand.

– Aysha Bagchi

Sitko steps down as defense witness

Prosecutor Rebecca Mangold asked Daniel Sitko, a paralegal at defense attorney Todd Blanche's law firm, some brief questions about the call summary he prepared. The summary has been displayed. Some of the calls featured in it are between Michael Cohen and Robert Costello. Costello is a lawyer who Cohen testified tried to create a back channel of communication to Trump through Rudy Giuliani.

Sitko has now stepped down as a witness.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecution cross-examines Trump defense paralegal

Defense attorney Todd Blanche ended his questioning of Sitko quickly, which seemed only aimed at getting the call summary Sitko prepared admitted into evidence. Prosecutor Rebecca Mangold is now cross-examining Sitko.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump defense paralegal testifying on phone calls

The Trump defense team has called their first witness: Daniel Sitko, a paralegal in Todd Blanche's law firm. Sitko is testifying about a phone call summary he created.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecution rests its case

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked Cohen in a brief period of re-cross-examination if losing his law license was Trump's fault.

"In part," Cohen replied. He confirmed he pleaded guilty to a tax crime and making false statements to a bank, which were crimes that didn't involve doing favors for Trump. But Cohen said he lost his license because of the totality of crimes he pleaded guilty to, which included campaign finance violations and lying to Congress in relation to Trump.

Soon after, Blanche finished asking questions, and the prosecution rested its case.

– Aysha Bagchi

'My entire life has been turned upside down': Cohen ends redirect testimony

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Cohen how breaking from Trump has affected him.

"My entire life has been turned upside down as a direct result," Cohen said. "I lost my law license, my businesses, my financial security."

It sounded like Cohen's voice might be cracking a little, although I didn't see any sign of tears on his face.

Trump appeared to be looking ahead for the most part during that testimony, but he made a side glance in Cohen's direction, before turning his eyes ahead again.

– Aysha Bagchi

Jury hears audio recording of Cohen pondering breaking from Trump 'doctrine'

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger played an audio recording for the jury of Michael Cohen speaking with Keith Davidson, the former lawyer to Stormy Daniels.

"What would you do if you were me?" Cohen asked in the recording. "I mean, would you write a book? Would you break away from the entire Trump, you know, we'll call it 'doctrine'? Would you go completely rogue?" Cohen asked.

"Any thoughts? Because it's not just me that's now being affected, you know, it's my entire family," Cohen continued on the recording. "Nobody's thinking about Michael," Cohen said.

Cohen went on to say: "I'm sitting there and I'm saying to myself, what about me?"

– Aysha Bagchi

'No doubt' Trump gave instruction on hush money payment: Cohen

Cohen testified that he has "no doubt" he had a conversation with Trump in which Trump directed him to work out with Allen Weisselberg how to pay porn star Stormy Daniels hush money. Weisselberg was the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization at the time.

– Aysha Bagchi

Jurors see image of Trump with bodyguard on Oct. 24, 2016

Jurors were brought back into the courtroom and Michael Cohen resumed testifying. Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger introduced the still image the defense team agreed to allow in, without requiring a C-SPAN employee to come testify first. Cohen confirmed the image showed Trump with his then-bodyguard, Keith Schiller. Hoffinger read aloud an agreement between the two sides that the image was from 7:57 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2016.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump team agrees to allow C-SPAN image into evidence without delay

After Judge Merchan indicated he would allow the prosecution to call a C-SPAN witness to the stand tomorrow morning in order to enable the prosecution to get videos admitted into evidence, Trump's legal team reached an agreement with prosecutors. The prosecution will be able to get a still photo image from the end of a video admitted into evidence without needing a C-SPAN employee to testify.

The image shows Trump and his former bodyguard, Keith Schiller, together at 7:57 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2016. That was minutes before a phone call from Cohen to Schiller that Cohen has said he believes included talking directly to Trump about a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecutor says C-SPAN is arranging travel for witness

After a break of mere minutes, the prosecution and defense teams returned to the courtroom. Prosecutor Rebecca Mangold told Judge Merchan that her team was able to reach C-SPAN, which is arranging for an employee to travel and be available to testify at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche objected to the arrangement, saying the prosecution should just be out of luck when it comes to the videos. But Merchan seems inclined to accommodate the prosecution. He asked Blanche what prejudice it would create to the defense, since there's plenty of time for the defense to put on their own witnesses this week before closing arguments next Tuesday, May 28.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecutors seek to bring in C-SPAN witness after judge rejects video request

Judge Merchan declared a short break to allow prosecutors to see if they can get C-SPAN archives executive director Robert Browning back on the witness stand by 9:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday. Merchan ruled that, without additional testimony from Browning, prosecutors can't get two videos admitted into evidence.

At least a portion of the videos is tied to the time period surrounding a phone call at issue in the case. Prosecutors want to show that former Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller was with Trump around the time of a 8:02 p.m. call from Cohen to Schiller on Oct. 24, 2016. Cohen has testified that he discussed a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels with Trump during that call, while Trump lawyer Todd Blanche suggested the call was only with Schiller to discuss phone harassment Cohen was facing.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trial proceedings re-start with video question

Trial proceedings have started up again after lunch. Judge Merchan is currently reading aloud a lengthy section of questions and answers from testimony earlier in the trial from C-SPAN archives executive director Robert Browning. Merchan appears ready to base his ruling on whether to allow prosecutors to introduce two videos based on this testimony.

– Aysha Bagchi

Who is Chuck Zito? 

Chuck Zito, former president of the New York Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels, was among former President Donald Trump’s supporters in court Monday.

The actor from the Bronx who pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges in the late 1980s served six years in prison. Despite reportedly leaving the club to focus on his Hollywood career, his reputation remains tied to the outlaw motorcycle gang that started in California.

−Rachel Barber

Who is Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer and fixer, is the key in the New York hush-money trial that could send the former president to prison.

Cohen testified that Trump directed him to engineer payments to two women who alleged in the runup to the 2016 presidential election that they had affairs with the married candidate.

While Cohen is Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's star witness, he may also be the prosecution's greatest vulnerability, given his history of perjury and a felony conviction.

– Josh Meyer

Court takes lunch break

Judge Juan Merchan declared a lunch break. Proceedings should start back up at about 2:15 p.m. EDT.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecution wants to show jurors photo of Trump with bodyguard near time of major phone call

Judge Juan Merchan dismissed jurors for lunch, but kept the lawyers and the rest of the courtroom. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass then raised the prosecution's desire to show jurors a photo that Steinglass said displays Trump with his former bodyguard, Keith Schiller, at 7:57 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2016.

Prosecutors want to show jurors the photo to counter the most heated portion of Trump lawyer Todd Blanche's cross-examination of Cohen, who had earlier testified that a call to Schiller at 8:02 p.m. that day was to discuss the Stormy Daniels hush money payment with Trump. Blanche showed Cohen a text exchange with Schiller at about that time, in which Cohen asked to speak about harassing phone calls he was getting from a 14-year-old. Schiller texted, "Call me," at 8:02 p.m.

"That was a lie!" Blanche exclaimed. "You did not talk to President Trump on that night; you talked to Keith Schiller about what we just went through. You can admit it!"

Cohen replied the he believed he also spoke to Trump about the hush money.

Blanche argued that the photo shouldn't come in based on rules about admitting evidence. Judge Merchan indicated he will think about it.

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen confirms he never signed retainer for lawyer Robert Costello's services

Cohen confirmed to prosecutor Susan Hoffinger that he never signed a legal retainer for the services of Robert Costello. Cohen previously testified that Costello was a lawyer who tried – at a time Cohen was facing criminal threats – to establish a backchannel of communication from Cohen to Trump through Rudy Giuliani.

Asked why he didn't sign a retainer, Cohen said: "I didn't trust him. I didn't like the way that he kept invoking Rudy Giuliani. And my concern was anything I would say to him would immediately go back to President Trump."

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecutor hammers in on Trump's criminal charges

Cohen confirmed to prosecutor Susan Hoffinger that he didn't have a retainer agreement for his work for Trump. A retainer agreement is a compensation agreement that reserves a lawyer or pays for future services.

This is a core issue in the case because Trump allegedly falsified records to make it look like he was paying Cohen for ongoing legal expenses under a retainer agreement, instead of reimbursing Cohen for a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.

Cohen confirmed the $420,000 he was paid in monthly installments in 2017 had nothing to do with legal services. He confirmed the 11 invoices he submitted to get those payments, which were allegedly kept by the Trump Organization, were false. And he confirmed that stubs attached to checks referencing "retainer" for particular months were false.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecutor highlights Cohen is not on trial

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Cohen a series of questions designed to highlight his situation in Trump's trial is very different from his situation when he faced criminal charges in 2018. Cohen confirmed he's not on trial in this case, that he's a witness, that his liberty and his wife's liberty are not at stake, and that he was subpoenaed to be here.

This may be aimed at countering Trump lawyer Todd Blanche's attacks on Cohen's credibility, including based on Cohen's behavior and statements as he faced criminal charges.

Cohen confirmed to Hoffinger that his situation is different at this trial because his life isn't on the line and he's not the defendant.

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen looking into jurors' eyes during story of Trump not wanting to pay for polling help

Cohen is delivering an extended answer to a question from prosecutor Susan Hoffinger about paying a company called RedFinch for polling assistance. Trump secured the company's services after he was unhappy with his performance in polling about successful businessmen. Cohen said Trump ultimately didn't want to pay the company because Trump didn't believe the company had helped him enough.

As Cohen told this story, he was looking directly into the jurors' eyes. That's an approach seasoned trial witnesses will sometimes use in the hope of developing trust with a jury. The jurors are seated near Cohen, to his left.

Cohen ultimately paid the company only $20,000, rather than $50,000, but still asked for a $50,000 reimbursement from Trump or the Trump Organization, according to earlier cross-examination by Trump lawyer Todd Blanche. Cohen admitted to Blanche that was stealing.

Cohen just explained that he was bitter about his 2016 bonus being cut substantially. But he also confirmed to Hoffinger that what he did was wrong.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecution again asking Cohen questions

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger is again asking Cohen questions through a process known as "re-direct" questioning. It's an opportunity for the side who called a particular witness to the stand to try to rehabilitate the witness on issues that were a target during cross-examination.

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen cross-examination ends with focus on lies

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche ended his cross-examination of former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen with questions about Cohen's history of lying. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to lying to Congress.

Blanche suggested Cohen is willing to lie in different contexts, including under oath if it affects his personal life.

Blanche then asked Cohen to confirm there is no doubt in his mind about specifically recalling conversations with Trump about the hush money Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016.

"Yes, sir," Cohen responded, with the same politeness he has shown throughout his testimony.

"No further questions," Blanche said.

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen says he has financial interest in Trump's case, but not in Trump's conviction

In response to a question from Trump lawyer Todd Blanche, Michael Cohen testified that he has a financial interest in Trump's case.

"I talk about it on my podcasts. I talk about it on TikTok. And they make money," Cohen said.

However, Cohen disputed the suggestion that he has a financial interest in Trump being found guilty. Whether Trump is found guilty "is not going to affect whether I speak about it or not," Cohen said.

"It's better if he's not, for me, because it gives me more to talk about in the future," Cohen added.

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen says he is considering a run for Congress

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked Cohen about previously stating he is considering a run for Congress. Cohen agreed he said it and that he really is considering a run, in part because he has good name recognition.

Blanche asked Cohen to confirm that his name recognition is for attacking Trump.

"I wouldn't characterize it that way," Cohen said. "My name recognition is because of the journey that I've been on. Is it affiliated with Mr. Trump ? Yes. Not because of Mr. Trump."

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen says he is considering a third book

After a short morning break, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche is continuing to cross-examine Cohen. He asked if Cohen is considering writing a third book and Cohen said yes, although he doesn't currently have a book deal.

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen made $4 million from podcasts and books since flipping on Trump: testimony

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked Cohen about money he has made since flipping on Trump, including from podcasts and books in that time. Cohen hosts two podcasts, including one titled "Mea Culpa" – latin for "through my own fault," often used to express an apology or confession.

Cohen also published a book in 2020, "Disloyal: A Memoir," in which he wrote extensively about Trump.

Cohen told jurors he made about $4 million from podcasts and books since flipping on Trump. He also said he hoped to make money from a potential TV show that would focus on him.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump supporters attending trial include a state attorney general and 4 House members

More than a dozen government officials and supporters of former President Donald Trump accompanied him to his New York hush money trial on Monday, including South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and four U.S. House members.

The lawmakers include Reps. Eric Burlison, R-Mo; Andrew Clyde, R-Ga.; Mary Miller, R-Ill.; and Keith Self, R-Texas.

Other supporters included Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and criminal defense lawyer; Bernie Kerik, former New York police commissioner; and Kash Patel, a former defense and national security official in the Trump administration.

Trump is under a gag order not to talk about witnesses or jurors in the trial. But his supporters – including lawmakers such as House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and potential vice presidential candidates, such as Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio – can voice Trump’s arguments for him.

Bart Jansen

Trump eyes closed for extended periods as Cohen testifies

Trump's eyes have been closed for extended periods as Cohen has testified this morning. I just counted to 66, with a "Mississippi" between each number, before Trump opened his eyes. He quickly closed them again. Earlier, I counted to 28 in similar fashion before he opened his eyes.

– Aysha Bagchi

'Yes, sir': Cohen a master of politeness during cross-examination

As Trump lawyer Todd Blanche jumps from topic to topic in his on-going cross-examination of Michael Cohen, Blanche is often trying to paint Cohen in a bad light. He just got Cohen to confirm having stolen money from the Trump Organization, and is now asking Cohen about cashing in on being named personal attorney to the president in 2017. Cohen confirmed making $600,000 based on 20 sets of communications with AT&T, and $1.2 million that only required six communications between Cohen and another company.

Repeatedly, Cohen answers Blanche's questions with a polite "Yes, sir" or "No, sir." That's in stark contrast to the emotional venom Cohen has spewed outside the courtroom. Last week, Blanche got Cohen to confirm having said during the trial that Trump belongs in a "cage, like an animal," using an expletive before the word, "cage."

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen admits to stealing from Trump Organization

Blanche asked Cohen about a portion of the money Cohen was allegedly reimbursed by Trump through 2017 payments. Cohen was paid $420,000 in total, which he previously testified included getting reimbursed for the $130,000 to Stormy Daniels and $50,000 he claimed he was owed for campaign-related "tech services" from a company called RedFinch. Both the $130,000 and $50,000 figures were doubled, according to Cohen, to account for taxes, and Cohen was also paid a $60,000 bonus.

Blanche said Cohen only paid RedFinch $20,000 but then asked to be reimbursed for $50,000.

"You stole from the Trump Organization?" Blanche asked. "Yes, sir," Cohen said.

Blanche then suggested Cohen stole $60,000, not just $30,000, because the reimbursement payment was doubled. "Yes, sir," Cohen said. He also agreed he told prosecutors about that.

"Did you ever have to plead guilty to larceny?" Blanche asked. "No sir," Cohen said.

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen asked about calls with Tiffany Trump on Oct. 25, 2016

Blanche has seemed to be bouncing between different topics somewhat this morning. He returned to the subject of Trump daughter Tiffany after asking Cohen about a separate topic – his alleged assistance for a man whose checks to Cohen were bouncing and who was having marital troubles.

Cohen agreed with Blanche that he and Tiffany Trump communicated on Oct. 25, 2016 about her concerns that someone was trying to blackmail her. Cohen agreed he handled it immediately, including by speaking with David Pecker, a witness in this case who used to head the parent company for the National Enquirer. Cohen also confirmed speaking to Tiffany Trump and to the general counsel at the parent company. that same day.

The date at issue is close in time to the $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, which was made around Oct. 27, 2016.

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen asked about helping Tiffany Trump with extortion

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked Michael Cohen whether he remembers helping Tiffany Trump – the youngest Trump daughter – with a potential extortion involving photographs. Cohen said he does remember. Blanche moved to a new topic soon after. It's not clear, at least at this point, what the question was aiming to show.

– Aysha Bagchi

Michael Cohen back on witness stand

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is back on the witness stand. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche opened his cross-examination for today by asking Cohen how many reporters he has spoken with since Thursday about what happened last week. Cohen said he has spoken to reporters to say hello and describe how he is doing, but didn't speak to a reporter about the case over the long weekend.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge limits what potential Trump expert witness can say

Judge Merchan ruled that a potential Trump expert witness may only testify to general definitions of terms related to federal campaign finance laws. The Trump team argued the witness should be able to go further in addressing terms related to prosecutors' allegation that the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels violated federal campaign finance laws.

Merchan said it was impossible for the witness to discuss the terms the Trump team wanted him to go into without invoking and discussing federal law, including the intent behind the law. And if Trump's team is allowed to elicit testimony on that, the prosecution would get to as well.

Merchan said that was problematic because the jury would end up hearing legal instructions from three different people: a defense expert, a prosecution expert, and the judge.

"This would result in a battle of the experts" that would confuse the jury, Merchan said. He invited the lawyers, however, to submit proposals for the instructions the judge will give jurors before they begin deliberating.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge rules email tied to Robert Costello not permitted

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche started the morning proceedings by discussing an email his team wants to show the jury. These proceedings are being held before the jury arrives this morning.

The email wasn't shown to the courtroom audience, but Blanche indicated it's tied to Robert Costello and Jeffrey Citron. Costello has already come up in the trial. Michael Cohen testified he met with the lawyer as he was facing criminal trouble, and Costello allegedly proposed a back channel of communication with Trump through former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Cohen said he found Costello "sketchy," and didn't tell him the truth about Trump's involvement in hush money deals. Jeffrey Citron was Costello's law partner.

Merchan ruled the email can't come into the trial, at least at this point, because it involves multiple levels of "hearsay" – a legal term for out-of-court statements introduced in a courtroom in order to prove the truth of what was said. Merchan said the email didn't fall into an exception to the prohibition against hearsay for out-of-court statements that show the state of mind of the person who was speaking.

– Aysha Bagchi

Will Donald Trump testify?

It is unclear if Trump will testify in the hush money trial.

Before the trial started, Trump said he would take the stand. He also said he would testify under the defense's case in his New York civil fraud trial, but backed out the day before he was scheduled to start.

Trump has since blamed the gag order for preventing him from testifying, but Judge Juan Merchan has reiterated that Trump has the right to testify if he chooses, as the gag order only applies to out-of-court statements.

On his way into the courthouse Monday morning, Trump ignored reporters' questions on whether or not he would testify. But on Thursday, his lawyer told Merchan the decision still had not been made.

– Kinsey Crowley

Trump continues to rail against judge in hush money case

Former President Donald Trump entered court Monday ignoring questions about whether he would testify at his hush money trial but continuing to blast Judge Juan Merchan for keeping him off the campaign trail.

Trump said he would prefer to be giving speeches, and that he had to turn down appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire because of the trial.

“I’m not allowed to have anything to do with politics because I’m sitting in a very freezing cold courtroom for the last four weeks,” Trump said.

He continued to call Merchan “corrupt” and “conflicted,” and said the judge should not let the case go forward.

“No judge except this one would allow this case to continue,” said Trump, who quoted John Adams saying “liberty without virtue is tyranny.” “We have tyranny right now,” Trump said. “We’re disgracing our New York court system.”

Bart Jansen

Closing arguments expected Tuesday, May 28

Merchan also said it's "become apparent" that the two sides won't be able to give closing arguments on Tuesday, May 21. Last week, Merchan told the lawyers to be prepared to give those arguments as early as Tuesday.

Merchan said details for the rest of this week will be discussed later, but he anticipates finishing up witness testimony this week and then, after a day off next Monday for Memorial Day, holding closing arguments first thing on Tuesday, May 28.

Merchan also said there will be a "charging conference," which is a discussion between the lawyers and the judge about the judge's instructions to the jury on the law. After those events, the jury will begin deliberations.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge Merchan arrives in courtroom

Judge Juan Merchan entered the courtroom at about 8:45 a.m. EDT for today's early proceedings. He said the reason for scheduling early proceedings this morning is that a couple issues came up over the weekend, and he wanted to address them before the jury arrives today.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump defense team arrives in courtroom

Former President Donald Trump and his defense team entered the courtroom at 8:38 a.m. EDT. We are still waiting for Judge Merchan.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecution arrives in courtroom

The prosecution team entered the courtroom at 8:34 a.m. EDT. We are still waiting on the Trump defense team and Judge Juan Merchan.

– Aysha Bagchi

Court proceedings starting early today

A spokesperson for the New York court system emailed reporters Sunday to say trial proceedings this morning will probably start at about 8:45 a.m. EDT, instead of the normal 9:30 a.m. EDT start time.

Last week, Judge Juan Merchan appeared to be trying to create some extra time for proceedings. He asked jurors if they could work this coming Wednesday, even though Wednesdays are typically off-days in the trial. However, at least one juror indicated it would be a problem.

– Aysha Bagchi

What is Trump on trial for?

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. All of the records at issue are tied to a series of payments to Michael Cohen in 2017 that prosecutors allege were reimbursing Cohen for paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, but were falsified to seem like payments for 2017 legal services.

Trump was charged with felonies, not just misdemeanors, because the records were falsified to commit or conceal another crime, according to prosecutors. They have alleged Trump was hiding the violation of federal campaign finance laws by paying Stormy Daniels so her story wouldn't hurt his chances in the 2016 presidential election. They have also said the records were designed to hide plans to violate state tax and election laws.

– Aysha Bagchi

What testimony did Cohen provide the prosecution?

Cohen delivered major testimony for the prosecution last week, telling jurors that Trump said "Just do it" about paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016.

Cohen also said Trump approved a scheme to misrepresent his reimbursement to Cohen. That alleged scheme is at the heart of the 34 purportedly falsified records in the case.

Cohen said he met with Trump and former Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg to hash out the details of getting paid back. Weisselberg said in front of Trump that the money would be repaid in monthly installments as if it were for legal services under an agreement to retain Cohen as a lawyer in 2017.

"He approved it," Cohen told jurors, speaking about his former boss.

– Aysha Bagchi

A 'gotcha' moment for Trump against Cohen?

The most heated and potentially significant part of Blanche's cross-examination of Cohen so far was about a phone call at 8:02 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2016. Cohen earlier testified the call was to Trump's bodyguard to get Trump on the phone and "discuss the Stormy Daniels matter and the resolution of it." In that call, Trump agreed they would move forward with the hush money deal, Cohen had said.

Blanche showed Cohen and the jury a text exchange before that call in which Cohen told the bodyguard he was receiving harassing phone calls from a 14-year-old and wanted to know whom he could speak to about it. The bodyguard texted "Call me" at 8:02 p.m. The text exchange wasn't shown to the audience on Thursday because it wasn't redacted, but a redacted version has now been posted on the court's website.

After reviewing the texts, Cohen said part of the call was about the 14-year-old, but he knew the bodyguard was with Trump and "there was more than potentially just this."

"I always ran everything by the boss immediately. And in this case, it could have just been saying everything is being taken care of, it's going to get resolved," Cohen said.

"That was a lie!" Blanche said in a fiery tone. "You did not talk to President Trump on that night; you talked to Keith Schiller about what we just went through. You can admit it!"

"I believe I also spoke to Mr. President Trump and told him everything regarding the Stormy Daniels matter was being worked on and it's going to be resolved," Cohen said.

"We are not asking for your belief!" Blanche said heatedly. "This jury doesn't want to hear what you think happened!"

– Aysha Bagchi

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump trial: Prosecution rests; furious Judge Merchan scolds witness