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Trump chooses not to take the stand, and the defense rests

Trump, who is once again the presumptive Republican nominee, had said repeatedly that he wanted to testify. But Tuesday morning, he said in front of television cameras in the courthouse hallway that his lawyers would rest without his taking the stand.
Last Updated : 22 May 2024, 03:41 IST
Last Updated : 22 May 2024, 03:41 IST

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New York: The jury heard his voice, saw his tweets and watched footage of him campaigning for the presidency. But in the end, the 12 New Yorkers weighing the fate of Donald Trump did not see him testify.

On Tuesday, the defense rested its case after Trump declined to take the stand at his own criminal trial, forfeiting his only opportunity to defend himself but also avoiding what could have been a calamitous error. His decision made, his lawyers concluded the testimony phase of the trial, and next week, the jury is expected to begin the momentous task of determining whether to make former president a felon.

Trump, who is once again the presumptive Republican nominee, had said repeatedly that he wanted to testify. But Tuesday morning, he said in front of television cameras in the courthouse hallway that his lawyers would rest without his taking the stand. The defense would offer only one significant witness, Robert Costello, a pugnacious lawyer whose sole task was to attack the credibility of the prosecution’s star witness, Michael Cohen.

Prosecutors accused Trump of covering up sex scandals to pave his way to the presidency. He faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records stemming from an effort to suppress one of those scandals through a hush-money payment to an adult film actor, Stormy Daniels.

Cohen was the prosecution’s 20th and final witness of the past five weeks.

Once the case was in the defense’s hands, they called two witnesses: their own paralegal and one of Cohen’s antagonists, Costello.

A prosecutor-turned-defense-lawyer, Costello was once an informal adviser to Cohen. Costello said Cohen had once claimed he had nothing incriminating to offer prosecutors.

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

But on cross-examination, it was Costello’s credibility that came under attack, as he sparred with the prosecution for a second straight day.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger suggested that Costello had been trying to ensure that Cohen would not cooperate with prosecutors, casting him as an agent of Trump and the then-president’s lawyer at the time, Rudy Giuliani.

She produced a litany of emails underscoring her point, including one in which Costello wrote to his law partner, saying, “Our issue is to get Cohen on the right page without giving him the appearance that we are following instructions from Giuliani or the president.”

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Published 22 May 2024, 03:41 IST

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