June 17, 2024
Hush money judge clears the courtroom after defense witness ‘stares him down’


Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial resumed on Monday at Manhattan Criminal Court, with the former president’s estranged ex-lawyer Michael Cohen concluding his testimony and the prosecution resting its case against the former president.

Cohen endured something of a rocky ride on the stand when he was accused of lying by Trump attorney Todd Blanche and challenged over inconsistencies in his public statements about the Stormy Daniels payoff at the heart of the case.

Mr Trump denies having an affair with the adult film star and all of the 34 felony charges he faces over the $130,000 payment made to her in October 2016 to ensure her silence during his presidential campaign.

It is unlikely but not certain if the defendant himself plans to testify but the defense has begun to present its case. Closing arguments were expected on Tuesday but have now been pushed to next week.

Over the weekend, Mr Trump addressed the National Rifle Association (NRA) in Dallas, Texas, and pledged to roll back all anti-gun legislation introduced by Joe Biden should he win in November.

Alex Woodward is covering the trial for The Independent at Manhattan Criminal Court.

Key Points

  • Judge clears courtroom in showdown with defense witness

  • Cohen admits to stealing from Trump Organization

  • Did a 14-year-old prank caller blow up Michael Cohen’s testimony?

  • Trump team claims Michael Cohen ‘collapsed’ under cross-examination but is that really the case?

  • Trump would be committing ‘act of near-insanity’ if he testifies

  • SNL teases Trump’s VP picks: ‘The late, great Hannibal Lecter’

Full story: Furious judge clears courtroom after Trump defense witness sighs and rolls eyes from the stand

22:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Alex Woodward was at the courthouse for this dramatic moment and filed this report:

The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan cleared the courtroom and reprimanded a defense witness for his heavy sighs, eye rolls and audible reactions to a series of objections to his testimony on Monday.

New York Justice Juan Merchan excused the jury to school Robert Costello about “proper decorum” in the courtroom moments after his testimony began.

“You don’t like my rulings? You don’t say ‘jeez’,” he said. “You don’t roll your eyes. Do you understand that?”

While in the middle of asking the jury to return, the judge fired back: “Are you staring me down right now? Clear the courtroom.”

Continue reading…

Furious judge clears court after Trump defense witness audibly reacts from the stand

22:06 , Alex Woodward

Just kidding — there’s a last-minute sidebar but with no jury or witnesses, so it’s odd they don’t speak openly.

Trump is seated, making notes, going through a stack of papers on the defense table.

The attorneys look restless and ready to leave.

Now, things conclude. The judge will see them back in court tomorrow at 9.30am and will reserve his decision until then.

Costello will be back on the stand tomorrow.

22:02 , Alex Woodward

Blanche: “At the end of the day and then I’ll sit down, you have a books and records violations here.”

“It’s hard to imagine … how this is supposed to be booked by Ms Tarasoff [Trump’s longtime accountant] when she gets the invoice.”

That’s it.

Judge Merchan is off the bench. The longest day yet of this trial has come to an end.

21:58 , Alex Woodward

This move for dismissal is clearly a request from Trump.

Judge Merchan isn’t buying it.

Matthew Colangelo, for the prosecution, is now going through the charges and evidence presented, making it clear that this will all be up to a jury, not the defendant.

Judge Merchan says he’ll reserve his decision but Blanche wants another shot.

21:51 , Alex Woodward

Without Cohen, “there is no case,” Blanche says.

“We put on irrefutable proof” of the phone call about the prank caller, he argues.

Trump is rapt. He’s got his arm around his chair and watching Blanche closely.

Merchan: “You want to take it our of the jury’s hands?”

Blanche agrees. Cohen’s testimony should be struck from the jury entirely.

21:42 , Alex Woodward

Judge Merchan excuses the jury until the morning.

Hoffinger has 30-45 minutes left of cross-examination. There will then be some re-direct from Emil Bove, who doesn’t expect it to be long.

No other witnesses have been named at this point.

Blanche is presenting a motion to dismiss because of course he is. (edited)

“There is absolutely no evidence the business records were false,” he says.

21:36 , Alex Woodward

Costello describes Cohen as “suicidal” and “acting very manic” during their meeting.

Hoffinger: “You can understand how traumatic it is to go through that experience, right? … You can empathize, can you not, sir? … But you thought he was being a drama queen?”

“He was putting on quite a show, and he explained to us, two nights before, that he was on the roof of the Regency Hotel and he was going to jump off and kill himself.”

21:21 , Alex Woodward

Bove asks: Did you ever put any pressure on Michael Cohen to do anything?

Costello responds: No.

Did Mr Giuliani ever put pressure on you to extract information from Cohen

No.

Objection. Sustained. Answer stricken.

Nothing further from defense.

Susan Hoffinger is up for the prosecution.

Watch: Moment court is cleared in midst of defense case

21:16 , Oliver O’Connell

Court resumes

21:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Press and public are allowed back into the room and the video feed is restored to the overflow room.

Judge Merchan looks thrilled.

Defence attorney Emil Bove will continue questioning Costello.

Trump and Blanche chat quietly with their hands over their mouths.

The jury is being brought back in.

21:08 , Alex Woodward

“Mr Costello I would like to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom. When there’s a witness on the stand, you don’t like my rulings? You don’t say jeez.”

Costello also can’t ask to strike. “I’m the only one who can strike it.”

“You don’t roll your eyes. Do you understand that?”

He asks the jury to come back in, and then…

Merchan: “Are you staring me down? … Clear the courtroom.”

21:07 , Alex Woodward

Another email from Costello, who notes that Giuliani had “said thank you for opening this back channel of communication”.

Did Giuliani say to use that phrase? Yes.

Objection sustained.

“[Cohen] told me I was authorized to tell Giuliani that my firm was ‘on the team’ but he wasn’t going to announce it publicly,” according to Costello.

We see an April 23 2018 email with the subject: “assignment”.

The body of the email says: “I spoke to the person you asked me to”

Who is that? “Rudy”

The email continues: “He said that I find out exactly how the matter ended up at SDNY and in particular who in Main Justice approved this.”

More questions, more objections. Sustained.

Costello lets out a heavy sigh.

Merchan excuses the jury.

21:00 , Alex Woodward

Another sustained objection, arriving in the middle of Costello saying something.

“Jesus,” Costello says shaking his head.

Judge Merchan: “I’m sorry?”

20:59 , Alex Woodward

Hoffinger is objecting to parts of Costello’s answers nearly every time. And Merchan is sustaining them nearly every time. Merchan asks counsel to approach.

Costello can be heard saying under his breath: “Ridiculous.”

Referring to Cohen’s April 17 2018 meeting with Costello, he is asked what Cohen said about the Stormy Daniels payment.

“Michael Cohen said numerous times that Trump knew nothing about payments and he did this on his own, and he said that numerous times.”

20:58 , Alex Woodward

When Costello met Cohen, he says he was “pacing back and forth, left and right.”

“He said my life is shattered, my family’s life is shattered … What’s my escape route? That’s a phrase he used.”

“I explained to Mr Cohen that when he described the search warrants, much more difficult to obtain a search warrant for a law office.”

Objection. Sustained.

“I explained to Mr Cohen that it was obvious he was not the target of the search”

Bove: “I just want to stay narrow.”

What did Cohen say?

“I swear to God, Bob, I don’t have anything on Donald Trump.”

“I don’t understand why they’re trying to put me in jail for some effing NDAs.”

20:49 , Alex Woodward

Jurors are back.

Costello is sworn in.

He’s got a puff of white hair and is wearing a navy suit, blue patterned tie and light blue shirt.

He grabs the mic when asked to spell his name. “That’s awfully loud.”

20:47 , Alex Woodward

Judge Merchan is back.

He will allow Bove to cross-examine on prior inconsistent statements, and he’s giving him “some latitude to explore the pressure campaign” and to offer some rebuttal.

“But I’m not going to allow a trial within a trial, as to whether or not there was a pressure campaign and how it impacted Cohen,” he says.

20:44 , Alex Woodward

Bove argues that “part of what Mr Costello is going to do is explain that some things Cohen testified to in this trial are false,” including Cohen stating that he had never agreed Costello would represent him. He said such testimony could be “direct evidence of perjury”.

Judge Merchan says that goes to Cohen’s credibility, not the charges in this trial. He tosses his hands up and says he’ll take a few minutes: “Don’t leave this courtroom.”

The cameras are on. It’s not an actual recess.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors are sitting at their tables, talking among themselves.

20:39 , Alex Woodward

Defense attorney Emil Bove wants to introduce Costello to rebut Cohen’s prior testimony about what he had called a “pressure campaign” for his representation, which Cohen said he had refused.

Cohen had previously testified to what sounded like a mob-like strong-arm effort to get Costello, via Giuliani, and via Trump, to represent him while he was under federal investigation, in an apparent attempt to ensure his loyalty to Trump so that he wouldn’t “flip,” as Cohen said.

Bove says prosecutors had elicited an idea that Trump was “tampering” with a federal investigation.

Bove, trying to simplify to the judge, who appears unconvinced: “Mr Costello can testify what he understood the communications to be.”

New witness: Robert Costello

20:33 , Alex Woodward

The defense calls its second witness — Robert Costello.

Costello is the lawyer who once advised Cohen and acted as his back channel to Trump and the White House in 2018.

There is a sidebar and Judge Merchan asks jurors to step out for a moment.

Judge Merchan: “I do wish we had discussed the earlier. People, let me hear your objections.”

20:30 , Alex Woodward

Prosecution attorney ADA Rebecca Mangold is also reviewing the phone record chart, noting that the total number of conversations is far less than what the defense had suggested.

Nothing further.

Former Hells Angels leader joins Trump entourage in court

20:29 , Oliver O’Connell

Chuck Zito, an actor and former leader of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang returns to court during Former President Donald Trump's trial (Getty Images)

Chuck Zito, an actor and former leader of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang returns to court during Former President Donald Trump’s trial (Getty Images)

Among the many supporters of former President Donald Trump who showed up in court today was a former president of an outlaw motorcycle gang who spent years in prison on drug charges.

Per The New York Times:

The man, Chuck Zito, helped found in the early 1980s the New York Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels, the infamous club that started in California. The Justice Department described the organization as a criminal enterprise and linked the New York chapter to the Gambino crime family. Mr. Zito later left the biker group to try to become a movie star in Hollywood.

Mr. Zito has experience with the criminal justice system, having served a prison term from 1985 to 1991 on drug conspiracy charges. In recent decades, he has created a new career as a stuntman and occasional actor, starring most prominently as Chucky “The Enforcer” Pancamo in the HBO prison drama “Oz.”

Defence calls first witness

20:22 , Alex Woodward

The defence has begun to present its case by calling Daniel Sitko as its first witness.

Sitko works for Blanche. He’s a paralegal who has been sitting directly behind the defense table throughout the trial.

Sitko is going through phone records between Cohen and Costello.

He made a chart of their conversations, which included a 96-minute call on Memorial Day weekend in 2018.

Blanche has no further questions.

Trump fan Kid Rock used ‘n-word’ and ‘waved gun’ at Rolling Stone journalist

20:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Ariana Baio reports:

Singer, songwriter and Donald Trump ally Kid Rock fervently defended and promoted his political beliefs in an inflammatory interview with Rolling Stone magazine in which he used racist language, allegedly wielded a gun at a journalist and made sweeping negative generalizations about groups of people.

Kid Rock, whose real name is Robert Ritchie, has spent the last couple of years using his platform to advocate for the conservative agenda and pledging his support for Mr Trump.

At times, he has invoked volatile rhetoric including spewing a homophobic slur on stage.

Read on…

MAGA loyalist Kid Rock used ‘n-word’ and ‘waved gun’ at Rolling Stone journalist

Prosecution rests case

20:15 , Alex Woodward

Blanche’s line of questioning is suggesting that Trump wouldn’t overpay Cohen, because he never did for anything. You may recall previous testimony, including Trump’s own books, illustrating how right he was with where his money goes, and how he would frequently void checks he disputed.

Cohen notes the reimbursement plan is “the first time I recall” that kind of payment over an NDA.

Nothing else from Blanche.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass: “Your honor, The People rest.”

20:12 , Alex Woodward

This will be Blanche’s last few moments to drill down on Cohen. He goes back to his Perry Mason moment from last week.

He brings up the newly introduced rally photograph, noting that Schiller traveled with Trump “more or less every day of the campaign”:

“So when that rally ended, your testimony is still, just so I understand, is still, that in that 90 seconds you spoke with Mr Schiller about the problem you were having with a 14-year-old … but also had time to have Schiller pass the phone to then-candidate Trump to update him with everything that was going on?”

Cohen is sticking with it.

Cohen remains on witness stand for recross-examination

20:10 , Alex Woodward

Todd Blanche is up again for recross-examination of Cohen.

Blanche: You said you lost your law licenses. Is that President Trump’s fault?

Cohen: In part.

“As a matter of fact, when you’re convicted of a felony in New York, you automatically lose your license to practice law … but you still blame President Trump, in part because of that?”

Blanche brings up the waiver he signed while talking with investigators from the Southern District of New York, allowing them to speak with Costello about conversations he had with Cohen, who had waived whatever attorney-client privilege there might’ve been.

20:03 , Alex Woodward

Cohen says: “My entire life has been turned upside down as a direct result. I lost my law licenses, my business, my financial security.”

“My family’s happiness is paramount.”

Cohen’s face is almost sunken, his eyes wide.

Nothing further on redirect.

20:02 , Alex Woodward

Hoffinger wants to play a clip from Cohen’s recorded conversation with lawyer Keith Davidson.

After a brief technical glitch, the audio is played.

This is the conversation where Cohen said that Trump told him “I hate the fact that we did it”.

Jurors are now hearing it again.

“What about me? And I can’t – I can’t even tell you how many times he said to me, you know, “I hate the fact that we did it.” And my comment to him was, “But every person that you’ve spoken to told you it was the right move.”

What did you mean?

“I was referring to the payment to Keith Davidson, that I made on behalf of Mr Trump for the Stormy Daniels matter, for the nondisclosure agreement.”

Who was the “he”?

“Mr Trump.”

That recording was in October 2017, nearly a year after the deal, and while Cohen was still “personal attorney to the president” – and still getting reimbursed.

19:50 , Alex Woodward

Do you have any doubt that Trump gave the “final sign-off to go ahead and make the payment before you went to the bank”?

“No doubt.”

Why wouldn’t you have made the payment without his approval?

“Because I wanted to ensure I was going to get my funds back”

Any doubt in your mind you were going to get paid back?

He said that.

Would you have made that payment (if not)?

No ma’am.

19:49 , Alex Woodward

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asks Cohen about the CSPAN picture [Remember, he hasn’t been around for any of the discussions about this and neither have the jurors].

She asks: You believe you spoke to both Mr Trump and Mr Schiller on October 24 2016 at about 8:02pm. Do you remember?

I do.

Did you have a number of conversations about resolving the Stormy Daniels matter?

Yes.

Some in person?

Yes.

Some by phone?

Yes.

Some longer, song shorter?

Yes.

How many … just in October?

More than 20.

19:45 , Alex Woodward

But wait…

Steinglass: “We may be able to short-circuit this process.”

Prosecutors and defense reached an agreement with the admission of the photo, with a stipulation that notes the time stamp. So no need to bring in any other witnesses.

Trump’s team could’ve settled this in the morning…

Likely just another of the defense’s stall tactics, wringing out objections to anything they can.

So, both the prosecution and the defense are now on track to rest today.

Michael Cohen returns to the stand.

19:38 , Alex Woodward

Trump is huddling with his team — a first.

To recap:

Option 1: Cohen finishes, we adjourn until morning, Browning testifies for the prosecution, and then the defense presents its case.

Option 2: Cohen finishes, defense starts its case, we adjourn until morning, Browning testifies for the prosecution, then the defense continues to present its case.

This is all so that the prosecution can introduce a still image from a CSPAN video of Trump standing next to Schiller. That’s literally it…

19:36 , Alex Woodward

Everyone returns to the courtroom.

Judge Merchan: “OK People what did you find out?”

“They are booking travel right now in order to be available for 9:30 tomorrow.”

Blanche argues that the testimony would be “compromised by giving them more time”.

Steinglass: “Um… that’s just wrong.”

“The testimony of this witness is so narrow,” he says. “There’s no reason why we can’t go on.”

Merchan says the court this week is essentially “sending this jury home to do nothing.” The schedule hasn’t been compromised.

Either the defense can “present your case out of order” or we can adjourn after Cohen is off the stand.

“Nothing has changed,” Judge Merchan says.

19:28 , Alex Woodward

The court will recess for a few minutes so prosecutors can check once again if Mr Browning from CSPAN can come back tomorrow…

In short: Judge Merchan is suggesting that the defense can present their case, and then when Browning arrives tomorrow, prosecutors would loop back and admit that photo evidence.

In the meantime, sounds like prosecutors are prepared to rest momentarily, and then defense will introduce possibly two witnesses

19:26 , Alex Woodward

Judge Merchan says while the evidence is relevant, “I can’t see how the People can get past the hearsay objection.”

Browning’s testimony “didn’t lay a foundation for any and all videos,” and to “suggest that a paralegal or anyone else” could step in as “qualified to testify as record custodians” doesn’t work.

“I don’t think we can say that,” he says.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass suggests that they could bring Browning back to testify to introduce that image, and they’re working out travel and scheduling. Merchan says “We have time for that.”

Defence attorney Todd Blanche obviously objects.

“There’s a likelihood that we close today,” he says. “We have a witness in the back … we have another short witness.”

Why wasn’t this taken up sooner, Merchan asks prosecutors

Steinglass says they just found out about the evidence over the weekend, and they assumed Browning’s testimony about CSPAN material would apply.

“It doesn’t even seem like Blanche is contesting that they weren’t even together,” he says, noting that Blanche hasn’t explicitly stipulated that Schiller and Trump weren’t in the same room.

Blanche: “It’s patently unfair in our view for the court to allow the People given an obvious ruling on the admissibility of a picture on redirect to allow them to stop, presumably rest or not rest.”

Merchan cuts him off: “What I could do simply is adjourn until tomorrow.”

Court gets back underway after lunch break

19:19 , Oliver O’Connell

Court is resuming after the lunch break.

Alex Woodward continues to report from the courthouse:

Donald Trump just flashed a thumbs-up to an aide who gave him a piece of paper.

Judge Merchan is gonna rule on the admission of video stills that prosecutors want to introduce to prove that Trump and Keith Schiller were with one another when Michael Cohen called to tell him that the Stormy Daniels deal was a go.

The judge is reviewing testimony from Robert X Browning, the CSPAN archivist, who testified about the collection of footage that prosecutors had previously introduced. Prosecutors said his testimony should apply in this case too – the video stills they’re using come from CSPAN.

Michael Cohen reveals Tiffany Trump was target of extortion plot

19:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Donald Trump’s youngest daughter Tiffany Trump was the target of an extortion plot back in 2016, according to testimony from the former president’s ex-lawyer and one-time fixer Michael Cohen in court on Monday.

Ariana Baio and Alex Woodward have the story:

Michael Cohen reveals Tiffany Trump was target of extortion plot

19:00 , Oliver O’Connell

Biden says 2020 election loss left Trump ‘unhinged’

Watch: Alina Habba claims Trump wants to testify

18:50 , Oliver O’Connell

It looks increasingly unlikely that he will and conventional wisdom is that it would be an “act of near-insanity”….

Why was Ruby Wax kicked off Trump’s private jet?

18:45 , Oliver O’Connell

Ruby Wax has revealed she was once thrown off Donald Trump’s private jet after she laughed at his plans to become president of the United States.

The TV personality, 71, had been mid-interview with The Apprentice businessman, who went on to be president from January 2017 to January 2021, when she misinterpreted his political ambition as a joke.

Lydia Spencer-Elliott has the details:

Ruby Wax reveals why she was once kicked off Donald Trump’s private jet

Biden asks how Trump would have handled Jan 6 if Black Americans had been responsible

18:30 , Oliver O’Connell

Joe Biden has launched a stinging attack on his Republican rival for the presidency, Donald Trump, by suggesting at a civil rights event that his predecessor in the White House might have acted differently if the Capitol riot of 6 January 2021 had been carried out by Black Americans.

“Let me ask you: what do you think he would have done on January 6 if Black Americans had stormed the Capitol?” President Biden said during an address to the Detroit chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on Saturday.

Joe Sommerlad reports:

Biden asks how Trump would have handled Jan 6 if Black Americans had been responsible

Full story: Michael Cohen admits to stealing from Trump Organization while clawing back Stormy Daniels’ hush money

18:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Alex Woodward reports from the courthouse:

Michael Cohen has admitted to “stealing” tens of thousands of dollars from the Trump Organization as part of his reimbursement plan with Donald Trump to recoup $130,000 for paying off Stormy Daniels in 2016.

Those reimbursements – paid out in monthly $35,000 instalments in 2017 – totaled $420,000.

Continue reading…

Michael Cohen admits to stealing from Trump while clawing back hush money

Watch: Trump’s claims of barricades preventing supporters coming to court debunked (again)

18:05 , Oliver O’Connell

…and the jury is getting “fatigued”, reports MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle.

17:55 , Alex Woodward

The jury was about to hear about the text exchanges and calls between Cohen and Schiller, which will no doubt totally undermine the points that Blanche was trying to make about the prank caller that was happening at the same time – one of the many, many conversations that were happening at the time.

We will hear more about that after the lunch break.

Meanwhile, in the sidebar now that the jury is out of the room — Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass is detailing a conversation that Cohen and Trump bodyman Keith Schiller had (on 24 October) that makes it clear that Trump was in the room, a point that the defense doubted last week.

Blanche is arguing that they haven’t ever suggested or implied that Trump wasn’t in the room [we’ll check that out from our Thursday coverage].

Steinglass wants to introduce photo evidence that establishes that they were together.

[Blanche asked Cohen last week “how that works” if he had called Schiller and then spoke to Trump and then asked if Cohen knew that Trump was there, and whether he is “on speaker or do you just have privacy with Mr Trump when that happens” — which kind of sounds to me like Blanche was doubting Trump was there]

17:44 , Alex Woodward

Blanche and fellow defense attorney Emil Bove have passed notes to one another behind or in front of Trump many times throughout this trial, while Trump has his eyes closed (or is possibly asleep), seemingly not to disturb him. Trump sits between them.

I guess they decided rather than waking him up repeatedly it’s better to just ignore him.

There was a sidebar, and now Judge Juan Merchan is excusing jurors for lunch.

17:43 , Alex Woodward

Questioning turns to the embarrassing use of AI by Cohen to find case precedents.

Cohen says he was using Google Bard to help with case citations because he didn’t have access to LexisNexis/Westlaw etc. He thought it was more like a search engine. They were corrected after it was pointed out to him – but only after his attorney had used them in filings.

What was Red Finch doing for Trump?

17:35 , Oliver O’Connell

Cohen says: “[Red Finch was] a technology company that I had asked to assist in a CNBC poll, and the poll was regarding the most famous businessmen in, like, the last century. Mr Trump’s name was on that list. At the beginning of this poll, he was polling at the very very bottom, and it upset him. He had me come to his office and he provided me a sheet of paper and he showed it.”

Red Finch would “create an algorithm to ensure that MrTrump would rise and rise in this poll” and reach “a number he wanted to finish.”

17:32 , Alex Woodward

Some points of clarification getting to the heart of Cohen’s testimony and its relevance to the case against Trump:

Ever put together a retainer agreement for Trump?

No … Because I never expected to get paid.

Ever bill for work from 2017 and 2018?

No.

Did the $420,000 have anything to do with any legal services you provided in 2017?

No.

When you received those 11 checks … in response to those false invoices, was the stub that said retainer true or false?

False.

17:30 , Alex Woodward

Hoffinger: “I know it may feel like you’re on trial … but are you actually on trial?”

Objection. Overruled.

“No ma’am.”

Is your liberty at stake? No ma’am.

Is your wife’s liberty at stake? No ma’am.

Did we subpoena you to testify? Yes ma’am.

Is this situation different than the one in 2018? Yes ma’am.

“The other one was, my life was on the line,” Cohen says. “I was the defendant in that case. Here, I’m just a nonparty subpoenaed witness.”

17:26 , Alex Woodward

Cohen had agreed under Blanche’s cross that non-disclosure agreements are legal.

However, Hoffinger wants to clarify whether the circumstances of the NDA involving Trump and Daniels were legal.

Objection. Overruled.

She tried again.

Cohen answered: Nope.

Meanwhile, outside the court…

17:22 , Oliver O’Connell

Donald Trump’s support crew are having a hard time with protestors…

17:11 , Alex Woodward

Cohen on why he billed Trump for Red Finch:

I was angered … It was almost like self-help. … I wasn’t going to correct the conversation I was having with Allen [Weisselberg] about it. I had not only protected [Trump] to the best that I could but I had also laid out money to Red Finch a year and a half earlier, and again $130,000 to have my bonus cut by two-thirds was very upsetting, to say the least.

Re-direct by prosecution begins

17:05 , Alex Woodward

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger is up on redirect.

She clarifies that Cohen testified truthfully to Congress in 2019 and that he had lied in 2017, to correct a misstatement earlier.

After a morning of “yes sir” and “no sir,” he accidentally lets one out in response to Hoffinger. He corrects himself: “Ma’am.”

Cross-examination concludes

17:01 , Alex Woodward

“This trial affects your personal life, doesn’t it?” asks Blanche.

“Yes sir.”

“You also have said to this jury but I want to make sure I understand that you would lie under oath out of loyalty?”

Objection. Sustained.

“When you lied to Congress, you said you were lying out of loyalty, correct?”

“Yes sir.”

“Loyalty to President Trump, correct?”

“Yes sir.”

“It’s true you would lie out of loyalty, correct?”

“Yes sir.”

Trump’s arm is resting on his chair behind him, making a fist against the lapel of his jacket.

Asked once again whether he has had a specific recollection of a phone conversation with Trump about Stormy Daniels, Cohen says firmly: “Yes sir, no doubt.”

No further questions.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger approaches the bench.

Trump is alone at the defense table, eyes closed.

Cohen darts his eyes around the room.

16:54 , Alex Woodward

Blanche asks: “Do you have a financial interest in the outcome of this case?”

“Yes sir.”

“Because if Trump is convicted that will benefit you personally, financially?

“No sir.”

“Well then what is your financial interest?”

“When you said do I have a financial interest in the outcome of this case, I talk about it on my podcast, I talk about it on Tiktok, they make money, and that’s how I was viewing your question.”

But does a conviction financially benefit him?

“No,” Cohen says, adding that “it’s better for me if he’s not.”

“It gives me more to talk about in the future.”

How did a 14-year-old prank caller impact Cohen’s testimony?

16:51 , Oliver O’Connell

Michael Cohen was bombarded with prank calls in October 2016, the same month he was urgently arranging a deal to buy Stormy Daniels’ silence.

On October 24, 2016, the prank caller forgot to hide their number, and Cohen sent them a message: “This number has just been sent to Secret Service for your ongoing and continuous harassment to both my cell as well as the organization’s main line.”

“I DIDNT DO IT,” the prankster replied.

“Im 14,” another text read. “Please don’t do this.”

That night, Donald Trump’s fixer called his boss’s bodyguard, and then texted him the alleged 14-year-old prankster’s phone number to deal with it.

That moment, drawn out by defense attorneys in a Manhattan courtroom during Cohen’s testimony in the former president’s hush money trial on Thursday, intended to undercut Cohen’s prior testimony about the call to Mr Trump’s bodyman, Keith Schiller.

Alex Woodward reports:

Did a 14-year-old prank caller just blow up Michael Cohen’s testimony?

Cross-examination resumes after break

16:47 , Alex Woodward

Lead defense attorney Todd Blanche resumes cross-examination: Is it true you’re considering a run for Congress?

Yes sir, replies Cohen.

And you told reporters because you “have the best name recognition out there”?

Yes sir.

“My name recognition is because of the journey I’ve been on. Is it affiliated with Mr Trump? Yes. It’s not because of Mr Trump.”

Does that journey include daily attacks against him?

“My journey is to tell my story, yes sir.”

“My question is whether your journey has been near-daily attacks on Trump since 2020?”

“Sure.”

“Sir, yes or no”

“Yes.”

Watch: Blanche cross-examination described as ‘meandering’

16:45 , Oliver O’Connell

16:39 , Oliver O’Connell

Donald Trump, far left, watches as defense attorney Todd Blanche, at podium, cross examines Michael Cohen on the witness stand with Judge Juan Merchan presiding (AP)

Donald Trump, far left, watches as defense attorney Todd Blanche, at podium, cross examines Michael Cohen on the witness stand with Judge Juan Merchan presiding (AP)

MAGA Republican Elise Stefanik loses it with Fox News host

16:30 , Oliver O’Connell

The New York congresswoman lost her cool with Fox host Shannon Bream on Sunday as she faced questions over the former president’s past comments about women.

Stefanik appeared on Fox News Sunday where Bream brought up a New York Times article that quoted several of the lawmaker’s former friends, speaking about her transformation into a Trump loyalist.

Bream read out a past 2015 quote from Stefanik, which featured in the article, in which she called Trump “insulting to women” and said he would hurt the Republican Party’s image among half of the US population.

“The question is when, and more importantly, why, did you change your opinion about President Trump?” asked Bream.

Stefanik didn’t take kindly to the question and instantly hit out at Ms Bream, saying it was “disgraceful” for her to quote from the NYT.

John Bowden has more.

MAGA Republican Elise Stefanik loses it with Fox News host: ‘This is a disgrace!’

16:26 , Alex Woodward

There’s a TV show being pitched with your permission about your life, right?” asks Blanche.

“Yes sir.”

The proposed name of the show is his “self appointed title” of Fixer, right?

“Yes sir.”

You expect to make money if it gets picked up?

“Yes sir.”

“Has it been picked up”

“No, sir”

Judge Merchan calls the morning recess.

16:24 , Alex Woodward

“Did you stop making money when you pleaded guilty in 2018?” asks Blanche.

“Yes sir,” says Cohen.

Cohen made $4m from 2107 through 2018. “Was that the most money you made in an 18-month period?”

“No sir.”

What was?

“More than $5m.”

Cohen says since the fall of 2020 he has made about $4.4m from books, podcasts and related merchandise, and some additional money from a piece of real estate.

16:17 , Alex Woodward

Now another email from June 14:

The subject line is “Trump’s campaign to discredit Michael Cohen is already underway”

Cohen wrote: “Since we are sharing this morning… they are again on a bad path.”

Blanche notes that Cohen began cooperating within a couple of months later.

16:17 , Oliver O’Connell

The court sees an email in which Costello sends Cohen a video with the subject line: “RE: Giuliani on possibility of Cohen cooperating, Mueller probe – YouTube”.

Cohen replies: “Why send this to me?”

Costello replies:

The answer to your question will be found in watching the video. It seems clear to me that you are under the impression that Trump and Giuliani are trying to discredit you and throw you under the bus to use your phrase. I think you are wrong because you are believing the narrative promoted by the left wing media. They want you to believe what they are writing . Many of them are already writing that you are cooperating. This strategy has been consistent from the start to put pressure on you into believing that you are alone, that everyone you knew before is distancing themselves from you and you are being “thrown under the bus.” The whole objective of this exercise by the SDNY is to drain you, emotionally and financially, until you reach a point that you see them as your only means to salvation. I told you that the very first day I met you.

Yesterday you were very upset by the stories they were writing about the end of McDermott Will & Emery. You knew this was coming and this was the plan yet it really seemed to throw you off your game emotionally. Whatever you do in the future on this case, please keep in mind that getting upset and flying off the handle, play into your adversaries hand. I know it is very difficult, but you have to keep your head in these trying times.

You are making a very big mistake if you believe the stories these “journalists” are writing about you. They want you to cave. They want you to fail. They do not want you to persevere and succeed. If you really believe you are not being supported properly by your former boss, then you should make your position known. If you really want certain things to happen, you should make that known. If you really want other lawyers to refrain from saying this or that, you should make it known. You have the ability to make that communication when you want to. Whether you exercise that ability is totally up to you.

Bob

16:11 , Alex Woodward

You spoke for over nine hours over the course of months with Mr Costello – would that surprise you? asks Blanche.

“No sir,” replies Cohen.

You had a phone call over Memorial Day weekend that lasted an hour and a half?

“I don’t recall that it was Memorial Day weekend.”

Do you recall Costello or you initiating more?

“To the best of my recollection, I believe Costello reached out to me.”

Those nine hours of calls, how many times did you meet with him in person?

“I believe it was once or twice.”

16:03 , Alex Woodward

In the wake of the Stormy Daniels story leaking in 2018, Cohen says he basically told anyone who had asked whether Trump knew anything about the Daniels payment that the president didn’t know anything about it.

Blanche is now going through the Robert Costello emails after the FBI raided Cohen’s office, hotel and apartment in April 2018.

15:58 , Alex Woodward

2017 was not a bad year for Cohen — on top of $35,000 per month of reimbursement from Trump, there was $80,000 a month from Columbus Nova, $100,000 a month from KAI, and $150,000 per month (for three months) from BTA Bank on top of that.

These aren’t just regular clients though. Aerospace, telecoms and nuclear plants all hired an attorney with a direct line to the newly elected president.

15:49 , Alex Woodward

Cohen made about $4m from six clients in 2017, including $600,000 from AT&T while they were negotiating a potential deal to acquire Time Warner. He said that involved about 20 communications, including calls and emails.

“And you don’t see anything wrong with that, correct?”

“I don’t believe so”

Blanche is running through similar arrangements with other clients, making the point that a retainer doesn’t mean the “quantity” of work done. Th prosecution objects to Blanche making that point explicit. Sustained.

15:43 , Alex Woodward

Cohen is asked about his work with Melania Trump, including an issue involving Madame Tussauds and another involving a copyright issue, one he clarified as a “personal matter” vs a legal one.

“Did you view that as part of your job?”

Yes sir.”

“Not only doing legal work but helping President Trump and his family with an array of issues?”

Blanche here is underscoring the defense’s opening statement, that burying stories of Trump’s affairs was more about protecting his family than it was about corrupting the election.

Trump would be committing ‘act of near-insanity’ if he testifies

15:40 , Oliver O’Connell

Donald Trump would be committing an “act of near-insanity” to testify in his own defence at his hush money trial, according to a leading criminal defence barrister.

Over the last few weeks, the former president touted that he would “absolutely” testify in his criminal trial “if necessary”, adding that he would probably do so.

Interrogation of the prosecution’s final witness, Michael Cohen, will continue on Monday for a fourth – and likely final – day before Trump’s lawyers get an opportunity to present his defence.

But one thing remains ambiguous: will Mr Trump take the stand?

James Liddell reports:

Trump testifying in own defence would be ‘act of near-insanity’, lawyer says

15:39 , Alex Woodward

Blanche is asking about Cohen working with lawyer Mark Kasowitz as a co-lead counsel on a case.

He is drawing the ties between Cohen and Kasowitz at the time.

What effect if anything did the Mueller investigation have on your attorney-client relationship?

“It did not.”

At some point during the year, did that affect you?

“Yes sir.”

And that was because of false claims made by you?

“Yes sir.”

Were you happy or sad that Kasowitz took over?

“Probably happy”

Did you continue to work with Kasowitz in relation to the Mueller investigation?

“Not that I recall.”

You weren’t really a part of it?

“No, I was not.”

15:30 , Alex Woodward

Blanche: Every time you sent an email, whether to a potential client or to a friend or to the Trump Organization, sending an invoice which always said “personal attorney to President Trump”?

“His job changed. … Your job didn’t, right?” asks Blanche.

“Correct,” says Cohen.

“You told everybody that was happening” with Cohen’s move from personal attorney to the president of the Trump Organization to President of the US?

“Not everybody but I certainly was proud of the role and I announced it.”

We’re seeing his farewell email to the Trump Organization on January 27, 2017.

15:26 , Alex Woodward

Blanche brings up an email from 31 January 2017 that had to go with a mortgage agreement for a Trump property.

Weisselberg tells Cohen: “Thank you. We never stopped for a bro hug.” and then tells him to prepare an agreement for monthly payments.

Blanche asks why he would email that, given their arrangement Cohen testified to.

(Cohen didn’t submit his first invoice until the following month so not sure why that would be so unusual)

15:21 , Alex Woodward

Blanche has tried to ask several questions to get Cohen to admit that he came up with the idea that there wouldn’t be a retainer agreement but they’re so awkward that Cohen has scrunched his face asking him to rephrase.

At one point in the first of those attempts, Blanche apologized and said it was a terrible question.

Another attempt was withdrawn.

He’s gonna try again by looking through some emails.

15:20 , Alex Woodward

[Reminder: Cohen said Trump had stiffed the company Red Finch for services, and he wanted to make them whole because he knew the CEO. He paid the company some of the $50,000 owed and so that was included in the total sum of the reimbursement paid by Trump in 2017. The way the reimbursements broke down, totalling $420,000, included $130,000 for Daniels, $50,000 for Redfinch, and his $60,000 bonus and $180,000 to compensate for tax]

Cohen met with the owner of Red Finch after withdrawing $20,000 over two days from a TD Bank across the street from his house. Blanche asks if he just gave him a duffel bag.

“No, it was a small bag.”

What kind?

“A brown paper bag.”

He still owed $30,000. Blanche is skeptical.

“He still wanted the full amount. This was enough to placate him for the time being. I still needed his services and I still needed his availability.

Cohen said he “accepted a request to give him certain monies” that Red Finch was “out of pocket” with.

But Cohen billed Trump for the full $50,000 as part of his reimbursement scheme.

“You stole from the Trump Organization?”

“Yes, sir.”

In meetings with prosecutors, “did you ever have to plead guilty to larceny? Have you paid back the money to the Trump Organization that you stole from them?” He did not.

“You did steal from the Trump Organization, based on the expected reimbursement from Red Finch, correct?”

“Yes sir.”

15:08 , Alex Woodward

Ask if he was “exploring the idea of getting a job at iPayments” around that same time, Cohen says “I was floated. Yes, sir.”

On 25 October 2016, Cohen received a “communique” from Tiffany Trump “about concerns about someone blackmailing her,” according to Blanche. He spoke with David Pecker and AMI, and “that was all in a way to shut this down?” Cohen agrees.

On October 26, Cohen spoke with Trump twice by phone.

Blanche suggests he must’ve talked to him about Tiffany. Why only the Daniels deals, as he previously testified?

“Because they were important to me.”

Why not Tiffany?

“It was important, I took care of it but it wasn’t personally important to me,” Cohen says.

“My recollection was that I was speaking about Stormy Daniels because that’s what he tasked with and that’s what I was working on.”

Did Blanche trip up Michael Cohen during his testimony last week?

15:00 , Oliver O’Connell

On Thursday, the jury in Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial heard how his former “fixer” and attorney Michael Cohen was bombarded with prank calls in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

It was Cohen’s complaint about these calls to Mr Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller in a 24 October 2016 phone call that Mr Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche used to try to undermine Cohen’s prior testimony as part of a fiery cross-examination.

But did Cohen “completely collapse” as Trump supporters have said?

Trump team claims Michael Cohen ‘collapsed’ under cross-examination. Is that true?

14:56 , Alex Woodward

Blanche keeps suggesting that Cohen and Gene Friedman were business partners relating to the taxi medallions Cohen owned. Cohen refutes this.

Cohen last week explained their relationship like landlord/tenant.

“Mr Friedman was a licensed New York City medallion agent, and he was running my medallions in New York as well as some in Chicago,” Cohen says today.

Cohen basically had a lot going on, and Friedman also was going through “marital problems,” he says. “I tried to assist in bringing them back together as well as talking to him about potential lawyers.

Blanche: Did you help find him a place to live?

Objection from the prosecution.

Merchan: Please approach.

14:50 , Alex Woodward

Same for documents. He had seen many before, including from his congressional testimony. He met with US Rep Dan Goldman twice ahead of his House Oversight hearing, Cohen said.

Blanche is asking a series of questions about Cohen’s busy October 2016, including a deal involving taxi medallions, the sale of an investment property, and speaking with David Pecker and AMI’s general counsel about an extortion scheme targeting Tiffany Trump.

Keith Davidson had previously testified that Cohen was an “excitable” and “pants on fire” guy at this time, always calling or messaging with urgency.

14:41 , Alex Woodward

Michael Cohen, former lawyer for Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump, departs his home in Manhattan to testify in Trump’s criminal trial on 20 May 2024 (REUTERS)

Michael Cohen, former lawyer for Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump, departs his home in Manhattan to testify in Trump’s criminal trial on 20 May 2024 (REUTERS)

Lead defense attorney for Donald Trump Todd Blanche is back up for cross-examination of Cohen, and here we go…

Blanche, out the gate: “How many reporters have you talked to about what happened last week?”

Cohen said he hasn’t talked to any reporters about the case.

You didn’t talk to a single reporter?

“Just to say hello and ask how I’m doing and check in but not to talk about this case.”

He says he has met with prosecutors roughly 20 times, for about an hour each time. The most recent was 10 days ago, the weekend before he started his testimony.

“When they asked you questions last Monday and Tuesday, you had heard those questions before, correct?”

“Some of them but not all of them”

What did you hear for the first time?

“I can’t tell you. There were a lot of questions I had not heard before.”

14:38 , Alex Woodward

Everyone returns to the courtroom and Judge Merchan asks both sides to submit draft proposals for each of those campaign finance definitions and to see where they differ, but “if the two sides can agree on definitions of these terms, that’s all the better.

Michael Cohen heads back in wearing a shiny lavender tie and dark suit.

The jury enters and is seated.

14:28 , Alex Woodward

There is a brief break before Michael Cohen returns to the stand and the jury comes in.

It sounded like the judge would be addressing the scheduling hiccup once the jurors are back. At any rate, he’ll explain what’s up later.

14:26 , Alex Woodward

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo argues that Smith’s “entire experience” as a former commissioner, lawyer and law professor “is based on interpretation.”

Judge Merchan is sticking with his ruling.

There is a sidebar at the bench.

Reminder: The defense wanted to expand on the meaning of “for the purpose for influencing an election” and “irrespective of a candidate’s campaign” and the so-called “press exemption” in campaign finance law, likely to inject some flexibility and doubt into how they involve Trump’s actions in this case.

Those definitions are also likely key to the prosecution’s legal theory and will come up in jury instructions and closing arguments: that Trump covered up reimbursements to Cohen as part of a plan to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, stemming from an arrangement with a tabloid publisher to bury negative press about him.

Trump in furious rant at Biden on Truth Social after ‘freezing’ on stage at NRA speech

14:25 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s more from James Liddell on the Republican’s latest social media diatribe against his successor, whom he is accusing – baselessly, as always – of orchestrating “disinformation” over his on-stage glitch in Dallas on Saturday.

Trump in furious rant at Biden after ‘freezing’ on stage at NRA speech

14:18 , Alex Woodward

Judge Merchan suggests that the defense should just tell him what Smith will say on the stand about those definitions, and then he can determine if they’re admissible.

14:11 , Alex Woodward

Judge Merchan moves on to the defense motion on the expert witness Brad Smith, a former FEC commissioner.

The judge ruled weeks ago that Smith could testify broadly to campaign finance laws, but defense attorneys wanted to expand the scope of his testimony.

The judge didn’t seem convinced at the time but said he’d think about it over the weekend.

Merchan is allowing Smith to testify broadly about what the FEC does and provide statutory definitions of key terms to the jury but with no interpretations.

Merchan argues that the defense’s problem appears to be that Smith won’t be able to discuss the scope of campaign finance law without getting into prior legal rulings and opinions in other cases.

Bove says that is kind of hamstringing their case.

If he asks what “for the purpose for influencing an election” means, then Smith would have to offer his interpretation, according to Bove.

New York hush money trial: Closing arguments will now be heard next week

13:55 , Joe Sommerlad

Judge Juan Merchan, beginning proceedings a little early this morning, starts by saying: “It’s become apparent, we’re not going to be able to sum up tomorrow.

“It was either a long break now or a long break then and unfortunately the calendar is what it is.”

Some issues appear to have come up over the weekend that the judge will address at some point.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger is now objecting to admission of an email about a meeting with Michael Cohen and Robert Costello that Todd Blanche argues contradicts last week’s testimony from Cohen about Costello.

Cohen had argued that Costello was pressuring him to represent him, in having a direct line to Rudy Giuliani and thereby Donald Trump. Cohen rejected it.

Judge Merchan won’t allow it.

“Cat’s out of the bag, the jury has heard it. How do you get past the hearsay evidence?” Merchan says.

“Nowhere in this email does it express Cohen’s state of mind.”

Hoffinger replies: “This is a third person’s opinion.”

New York hush money trial: Trump arrives at court flanked by large entourage

13:50 , Joe Sommerlad

Trump, wearing a blue tie today, is addressing the pool, complaining about the case and saying he should be out campaigning (although he hasn’t done as much of that as you might have expected when he has had the chance).

He is flanked by a large entourage that today includes, per his campaign:

  • South Carolina AG Alan Wilson

  • Missouri congressman Eric Burlison

  • Georgia congressman Andrew Clyde

  • Ilinois congresswoman Mary Miller

  • Texas congressman Keith Self

  • Lawyer John Coale

  • Lawyer Alan Dershowitz

  • Missouri attorney general candidate Will Scharf

  • Property magnate Steve Witkoff

  • Ex-NYC police commissioner Bernie Kerik

  • Ex-Trump admin official Kash Patel

  • Ex-Georgia congressman Vernon Jones

  • New York Conservative Party chair Jerry Kassar

  • Ex-president of the New York chapter of the Hells Angels Chuck Zito

Some ripe old names on that list and they’re all seated in court, as are Eric Trump and Alina Habba.

Among the questions Trump declined to answer just now were the following:

  • “Mr Trump, will you testify?”

  • “Have your lawyers advised you not to testify?”

  • “Mr Trump, do you want to testify?”

  • “Are you afraid to testify?”

Trump VP hopeful Marco Rubio refuses to commit to accepting 2024 election results

13:25 , Joe Sommerlad

On NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday, Republican senator Marco Rubio dodged questions about whether he would accept the results of the 2024 presidential election and left open the possibility of the outcome being mired in fraud.

The Florida man once derided by Trump as “Little Marco” is now among a handful of prominent Republicans thought to be on the former president’s shortlist to join him as a running mate in November.

Rubio, one of Mr Trump’s more vocal defenders in the Senate, has previously said that he would be “honoured” to accept the position.

Yeesh.

John Bowden has more.

Trump VP hopeful Marco Rubio refuses to commit to accepting 2024 election results

‘BYOB’ MAGA cruise around New York announced to coincide with Trump’s Bronx rally

13:10 , Joe Sommerlad

Trump has announced that he will be hosting his first major New York rally for years after court this coming Thursday at Crotona Park in the South Bronx but that isn’t the only Make America Great Again show in town this week.

A “Trump Rally Bronx MAGA cruise” on the evening of 22 May, the day before the former president takes to a stage in the Big Apple for the first time in eight years, was announced on Saturday by the site TrumpSwag.com.

Organisers promise an evening to remember.

“Sailing from Midtown, Manhattan the evening before Tump [sic] Rally Bronx. Party like a Rock Star with New York’s Finest MAGA Patriots,” the flier reads.

Only 150 tickets are available at $99 each, food and entertainment included, with cruisers told to board at 6pm for a 6.30pm sailing time.

Mimicking Trump’s own love of capital letters in his Truth Social posts, the FAQ for the cruise states: “BRING YOUR OWN BEER, WINE, LIQUOR. This is UNHEARD OF on a private Manhattan charter, but our Captain is allowing.”

Here’s Oliver O’Connell on what promises to be a real-life Triangle of Sadness.

‘BYOB’ MAGA cruise around New York announced to coincide with Trump’s Bronx rally

Watch live: Donald Trump’s hush money trial continues with another grilling of Michael Cohen

12:55 , Joe Sommerlad

You can watch all the latest action from Manhattan via our livestream in the story below.

Watch live: Trump hush money trial continues with another Cohen grilling

New York hush money trial: ‘Why won’t Blanche call Schiller?’

12:45 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s a further update from Alex:

“Correction: there is another protester carrying a two-sided sign: ‘TRUMP 2 TERRIFIED 2 TESTIFY’ and ‘WHY WON’T BLANCHE CALL SCHILLER?’

“It’s a good question: Trump’s longtime bodyguard followed him everywhere. Cohen testified and phone records show that he called Keith Schiller after securing the deal for Stormy Daniels’ silence. Cohen said he handed the phone to Trump and told him that the deal was done.

“In perhaps the single largest blow against Cohen during cross-examination, Trump’s attorneys claimed he was only calling Schiller to complain about a prank caller. But dozens of other messages from the same time period show Cohen and others scrambling to nail down a contract and payment for Daniels silence – a point that will certainly come up under the prosecution’s redirect and closing arguments.

“The sign holder walked over to the shofar blower, who yelled at him on the bullhorn: ‘Don’t talk to me. Mind your own business. I am not here for you.’ She then put her phone to the bullhorn to play what my Shazam says is CeCe Winans’ ‘Come Jesus Come’.

“Meanwhile, there was a dispute over a coveted spot at the front of the public line and someone was kicked out.”

New York hush money trial: What to expect on Day 19

12:40 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s the latest from Alex Woodward in line for us at the courthouse:

“Good morning once again from downtown Manhattan. The line outside the courthouse has been steadily growing since my arrival around 5:30am, reporters are relieving their line holders, and a lone protester is preaching from a bullhorn and blowing a shofar in an empty park.

“A jury inside the courthouse across the street could deliver a verdict against Donald Trump as soon as Thursday, setting in motion the possibility of a Republican presidential campaign run by a convicted felon.

“Both sides in the first-ever criminal trial against an American president are preparing to deliver closing arguments on Tuesday. Instructions to the jury will follow.

“Manhattan prosecutors have spent the last five weeks presenting witness testimony and evidence detailing Trump’s alleged cover up of sex with an adult film star to stop damning stories of his affairs from reaching voters in the fragile weeks before Election Day in 2016.

“Before closing arguments, the prosecution’s key witness Michael Cohen will finish his testimony today.

“Cohen is the sole witness who can link Trump to the scheme to pay Stormy Daniels, to the scheme to reimburse him and a scheme to cover up those payments as legal expenses.

“Defense attorneys grilled him for his past convictions, lies and deceptions, but jurors will have crucial witness testimony and evidence corroborated by more than a dozen other witnesses. They won’t have to believe every word Cohen has ever said, but they can’t ignore a paper trail with their names all over it, and unimpeachable testimony where all roads lead back to Trump.

“Closing arguments from both parties are expected to begin tomorrow and then jurors will then receive instructions to begin deliberations.

“The trial will pause again on Wednesday, as it has for the last six weeks.

“If deliberations continue past Thursday, the jury won’t reconvene until Tuesday, after a four-day Memorial Day holiday weekend.

“Justice Juan Merchan’s instructions to the jury are a key final piece of the trial that will inform how jurors will reach a decision.

“The judge will charge the jury based on guidance from state law and suggestions from either side, or his own, which will inform the framework for jurors and whether it supports the prosecution’s case, and offer a glimpse of what the judge may be thinking about it.”

New York hush money trial: Did a 14-year-old prank caller really blow up Cohen’s testimony?

12:25 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s Alex Woodward with a look at the exchange that had Trump’s conservative cheerleaders hailing victory from the sidelines on Thursday.

Did a 14-year-old prank caller just blow up Michael Cohen’s testimony?

New York hush money trial: Key takeaways from Day 18

11:55 , Joe Sommerlad

As we gear up for another week at Manhattan Criminal Court and Michael Cohen’s return to the stand, here’s Alex Woodward and Ariana Baio’s wrap on Thursday’s action (court was in recess on Friday as Trump attended his son Barron’s high school graduation in Florida).

Key takeaways from day 18 of Trump’s hush money trial

SNL teases Trump’s VP picks: ‘The late, great Hannibal Lecter’

11:25 , Joe Sommerlad

Saturday Night Live (SNL) kicked off its season finale this week with a skit teasing Trump’s potential vice presidential picks,including a gun-toting, dog-killing Kristi Noem and the “late, great” Hannibal Lecter.

James Austin Johnson reprised his role as the former president turned criminal defendant for the cold open, appearing outside Manhattan Criminal Court where Trump’s hush money trial is continuing.

Here’s more from Katie Hawkinson.

SNL teases Trump’s VP picks: Kristi Noem and the ‘late, great Hannibal Lecter’

Truth Social: Trump now saying Biden NOT too old for presidency

10:55 , Joe Sommerlad

The Republican appears to be changing his line of attack here, dropping the cognitive decline line against Biden in favour of insisting he is simply “too incompetent and corrupt” to be commander-in-chief.

Make up your mind Don.

That post in full:

“JOE BIDEN IS NOT TOO OLD TO BE PRESIDENT – NOT EVEN CLOSE – BUT HE IS TOO INCOMPETENT AND CORRUPT!”

Truth Social: Trump angrily denies ‘freezing’ during NRA speech

10:25 , Joe Sommerlad

It was widely reported that Trump “froze” in the middle of his address to gun advocates on Saturday, an allegation he has angrily denied on Truth Social in a two-part rant.

His first post reads:

“My Speech in Dallas this weekend at the NRA’s ‘Endorsement of President Donald J. Trump,’ was attended by a Record Crowd of very enthusiastic Patriots. The Biden Campaign, however, put out a Fake Story that I ‘froze’ for 30 seconds, going into the ‘Musical Interlude’ section, when in actuality, the 30 to 60 second period of silence is standard in every one of my Speeches where we use the Music. Check out any of my Speeches! The reason they came up with this Disinformation is that Biden freezes all the time, can’t put two sentences together, and can rarely find his way off the stage without help. Donald Trump doesn’t freeze! It is a MADE UP Biden Campaign story, put out in a dying Newspaper that I never heard of, and every Reporter knows it, including the large group that was there….”

The second continues:

“As far as the podium, I actually stopped it from falling due to good reflexes and strength, two elements which Joe Biden does not possess. Check out the clip! Crooked Joe is a completely incompetent and corrupt person, even when it comes to putting out a fake story like this.”

Not knocking over a lectern in the middle of a musical interlude?

That’s what great leadership is all about right there.

Here’s Oliver O’Connell’s report on the incident in question.

Trump appears to freeze for 30 seconds during NRA speech

Trump vows to ‘roll back’ Biden gun rules amid record mass shootings

09:55 , Joe Sommerlad

Over the weekend, the Republican presidential candidate addressed the National Rifle Association (NRA) in Dallas, Texas, and pledged to roll back all anti-gun legislation introduced by his predecessor Joe Biden should he secure a second term in the White House.

Here’s Oliver O’Connell’s report.

Trump vows to ‘roll back’ Biden gun rules amid record mass shooting deaths

Click here to read the full blog on The Independent’s website





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