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Ken Cocker
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Five big takeaways from Day 19 of Trumps hush money trial

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(NEW YORK) — Prosecutors in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president rested their historic case after presenting more than 200 pieces of evidence and hearing from 20 witnesses, including Michael Cohen, who concluded nearly four full days on the stand on Monday.

The defense called its first two witnesses — neither of whom were Donald Trump — and set out to undermine Cohen’s credibility. That responsibility fell in large part to Robert Costello, a onetime legal adviser to Cohen, who instead earned a sharp rebuke from Judge Merchan for allegedly violating his “courtroom decorum.”

Costello will return to the stand Tuesday morning.

Trump is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement of a hush money payment that Cohen, his then-attorney, made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in order to boost Trump’s electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election. The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

Here are five big takeaways from Day 19 of Trump’s criminal hush money trial:

The state rests its case

Across four weeks of testimony, prosecutors told a story of of alleged sex, schemes, and lies related to the 2016 election — presenting more than 200 pieces of evidence and calling 20 witnesses to the stand.

It was a historic case — the first to target a former president of the United States — and on Monday afternoon, the prosecution rested.

Jurors in recent weeks heard from Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress whose long-denied alleged affair with Trump underpinned the alleged illegal conduct; David Pecker, the tabloid executive who promised to “catch-and-kill” negative stories about Trump; and Michael Cohen, Trump’s onetime attorney who arranged and executed the payments.

Michael Cohen concludes his testimony

Michael Cohen spent nearly four full days on the witness stand, where he described in chapter and verse how Donald Trump allegedly falsified business records to conceal payments to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

Cohen executed the payments to Daniels, and his testimony provided jurors with crucial narrative tissue. But his credibility — or potential lack thereof — could impact how jurors interpret the merits of the state’s case.

On Monday, Cohen said he had “more than 20” conversations, in person or by phone, with Donald Trump in October 2016 about the Stormy Daniels payoff.

The state rested its case when he stepped off the witness stand.

‘Are you staring me down?’

Robert Costello, a former attorney for Cohen, had spent less than 15 minutes on the witness stand when Judge Juan Merchan sustained a string of the state’s objections. After one such interjection, Costello was heard muttering under his breath, “Jeez.”

That extracurricular musing prompted Merchan to dismiss jurors and issue Costello a stern rebuke, ordering him to uphold “proper decorum in my courtroom.”

“If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say ‘Jeez,’ you don’t say ‘Strike it,’ because I’m the only one who can strike testimony in the court,” a visibly annoyed Merchan said. “If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t give me side-eye and you don’t roll your eyes.”

The matter appeared settled. But seconds later, Merchan barked: “Are you staring me down?”

With that, Merchan took the extraordinary step of clearing reporters from the courtroom. After a few minutes, reporters and jurors returned and Merchan resumed proceedings without addressing the matter.

Defense moves for long shot dismissal

Before proceedings concluded for the day, defense attorney Todd Blanche launched a long shot bid to have the case dismissed before it goes to jurors — saying in a lengthy argument that “there is no evidence from any of the witnesses who testified of any criminal intent.”

“How on earth is keeping a false story from the voters criminal?” Blanche asked, his voice slightly rising.

After Blanche accused Cohen of lying on the stand, Merchan quipped, “You think he’s going to fool 12 New Yorkers into believing his lies?”

The judge said he would reserve his decision on the motion.

Trump probably won’t take the stand

While Donald Trump’s attorneys have yet to definitively rule out his appearance on the witness stand, the prospect seems increasingly unlikely.

Blanche indicated early Monday that he would call two witnesses to the stand, without identifying them by name. By the end of the day, he had called two witnesses — a paralegal and Robert Costello.

Before court concluded, Judge Merchan asked attorneys for Trump whether they planned to call any additional witnesses.

“Not at this point, judge,” said defense attorney Emil Bove.

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