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Saturday June 22, 2024

Hush money case: Donald Trump chooses not to testify as defence concludes

Donald Trump opts out of testimony in legal battle over hush money payments

By Web Desk
May 22, 2024
Donald Trump opts out of testifying as defence rests in hush money case. (Former President Donald Trump, with lawyer Todd Blanche, arrives at court. — AFP File)
Donald Trump opts out of testifying as defence rests in hush money case. (Former President Donald Trump, with lawyer Todd Blanche, arrives at court. — AFP File)

Former US President Donald Trump decided not to testify in his hush money trial on Tuesday, as the defence wrapped up its case. This sets the stage for closing arguments and jury deliberations after Memorial Day.

At 77, Trump had left open the possibility of testifying publicly.

Judge Juan Merchan of the State Supreme Court informed the jurors that closing arguments would take “at least a day” and jury instructions would take an hour. He dismissed the jury until after the holiday weekend, saying, “At the end of the day, the best thing we can do is adjourn now until next Tuesday.”

Defendants are not required to testify in criminal trials, as the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. Trump's lawyers argue that the payments to his lawyer, Michael Cohen, were legitimate legal expenses and not part of a cover-up, as alleged. Trump has repeatedly defended his actions in the media during trial breaks.

Prosecutors claim that Trump, through Cohen, paid hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels near the 2016 election and hid the payments with a criminal scheme in 2017.

Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying employment records, calling the trial a sham to undermine his campaign.

Attorney Robert Costello, who met with Cohen after the 2018 FBI raid, closed the testimony as a key defence witness. Judge Marchan berated Costello for his conduct in the courtroom, threatening him with contempt.

Costello later had a heated exchange with attorney Susan Hoffinger. He said Cohen had "nothing" to do with Trump, while Cohen said he didn't trust Costello.

Trump's lawyers rejected the idea of a pressure campaign on Cohen, and Costello denied any pressure on his behalf. The defence called no other witnesses beyond Costello and a paralegal.