Trump’s ‘defense rests’ without him taking the stand in hush money trial despite prior contrasting claims

Donald Trump’s lawyers rested their defense Tuesday without the former president taking the witness stand in his New York hush money trial.

Former US President Donald Trump at Manhattan criminal court in New York, US, on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of an alleged scheme to silence claims of extramarital sexual encounters during his 2016 presidential campaign. Photographer: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/Bloomberg(Bloomberg)

“Your honor, the defense rests,” Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told the judge following testimony from a former federal prosecutor who had been called to attack the credibility of the prosecution’s key witness.

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The jury was sent home until May 28, when closing arguments are expected, but the attorneys would return later Tuesday to discuss how the judge will instruct jurors on deliberations. Trump did not stop to speak as he left the courthouse and ignored a question about why he wasn’t testifying. He had previously said he wanted to take the witness stand to defend himself against what he claims are politically motivated charges.

Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial

After more than four weeks of testimony, jurors could begin deliberating as soon as next week to decide whether the former president is guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

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Prosecutors have accused Trump of a scheme to bury negative stories to fend off damage to his 2016 presidential campaign and then falsifying internal business records to cover it up.

Trump, the first former American president to be tried criminally, has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing in the case.

The charges stem from internal Trump Organization records in which payments to Cohen were marked as legal expenses. Prosecutors say they were really reimbursements for a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public before the 2016 election with claims of a sexual encounter with Trump. Trump says nothing sexual happened between them.

“They have no case,” Trump said in the morning Tuesday before court adjourned. “There’s no crime.”

After jurors left for the day Monday, defense attorneys pressed the judge to throw out the charges before jurors even begin deliberating, arguing prosecutors have failed to prove their case. The defense has suggested that Trump was trying to protect his family, not his campaign, by squelching what he says were false, scurrilous claims.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche argued that there was nothing illegal about soliciting a tabloid’s help to run positive stories about Trump, run negative stories about his opponents and identify potentially damaging stories before they were published. No one involved “had any criminal intent,” Blanche said.

“How is keeping a false story from the voters criminal?” Blanche asked.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo shot back that “the trial evidence overwhelmingly supports each element” of the alleged offenses and said the case should proceed to the jury.

The judge didn’t immediately rule on the defense’s request. Such long-shot requests are often made in criminal cases but are rarely granted.

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