Trump trial: Drama sweeps courtroom as defense tries to get case tossed

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(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City, where he is facing felony charges related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It marks the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

May 20, 5:56 PM
Trump says he's surprised judge cleared courtroom

Donald Trump, exiting the courtroom, commented on the chaotic scene this afternoon when Judge Juan Merchan cleared the courtroom so he could admonish defense witness Robert Costello.

"A totally conflicted judge who just did something that nobody's ever seen -- and the press is not happy -- I don't imagine they just got thrown out of the courthouse. Nobody's ever seen anything quite like it," Trump said.

Trump also said he was unhappy that the judge decided to limit the testimony of the defense's expert witness on election law.

"We're not allowed to put it in an expert witness," Trump said. "Nobody's ever heard of it before. You know, election law is very complicated, actually."

May 20, 5:02 PM
Judge says he'll reserve his decision on motion to dismiss

Responding to the defense's motion to dismiss the case, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo Colangelo argued that Trump, at a minimum, can be found responsible for the actions of his accomplices if he set the action into motion.

"At minimum a rational jury can conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that they all contained false information," Colangelo said of the business records that recorded Michael Cohen's hush money repayment as legal expenses.

Trump, at the defense table, jotted down notes as Colangelo spoke.

"The trial evidence overwhelmingly supports each element of the offense," Colangelo argued.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche pushed the theory that Trump has argued since the first days of the trial: How else would Trump describe a payment to his lawyer other than a legal expense?

"It's hard to imagine what book -- how was this supposed to be booked by Ms. Tarasoff," Blanche asked about Trump Organization accounts payable supervisor Deborah Tarasoff.

Judge Merchan said he will reserve his decision on the motion.

Court was then concluded for the day.

May 20, 4:52 PM
Defense moves for dismissal of case

The defense made a motion for the dismissal of the case, with defense attorney Todd Blanche telling Judge Merchan, "There's absolutely no evidence the filings were false, the business records were false."

When the invoices for Cohen's payment were sent to the Trump Organization there's no evidence they were entered improperly, Blanche said. "At the start, there is absolutely no false business filings. They're accurate business filings," he said.

Trump looked directly at Blanche as the attorney addressed Merchan.

"There's no evidence that there's any intent to defraud by Mr. Trump in connection to these filings," Blanche argued.

"There are no other crimes," defense attorney Todd Blanche argued about the legal standard in the case -- that Trump falsified business records in furtherance of another crime. "There is no evidence that any one was thinking about a campaign finance charge in 2016 when this payment was made to Ms. Daniels."

"The prosecutors have talked in their opening statement and in papers about some sort of conspiracy to influence the election but as the court knows there has to be something illegal about this effort," Blanche said. "There's no evidence from any of the witnesses who testified of any criminal intent."

"There is no way that the court should let this case go to jury relying on Mr. Cohen's testimony," Blanche said "Without Mr. Cohen, there is no case."

Judge Merchan asked if Blanche was calling for him to rule that Cohen's testimony is "not credible as a matter of law."

"Absolutely, that's exactly what we're calling on the court to do," Blanche replied. "He testified, and he lied under oath -- in this courtroom."

May 20, 4:43 PM
Defense says it has no additional witnesses 'at this point'

Asked by Judge Merchan if they have any additional witnesses, defense attorneys responded, "Not at this point."

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger said she has no more than 45 minutes of cross-examination left when court resumes tomorrow.

The defense will have then some redirect.

May 20, 4:37 PM
'He was putting on quite a show,' Costello says of Cohen

Under cross-examination from prosecutor Susan Hoffinger, Michael Cohen's former attorney Robert Costello testified that he first met with Cohen at the urging of Jeffrey Citron, who scheduled the April 2018 meeting at the Regency Hotel.

Costello -- who has represented Leona Helmsley and George Steinbrenner in the past -- acknowledged that representing Cohen would have generated positive publicity for his law firm. But Costello said he did not have positive feelings about landing Cohen as a client.

"I didn't want him as a client with the firm," Costello said, pushing back on prosecutors' assertions that landing Cohen would have been a big win.

Jurors briefly saw an email where Costello's son congratulated him for landing Cohen as a client.

"Wow. That's big news. Congrats Dad. I hope this leads to a lot of good things coming your way," Costello's son wrote.

Asked about the FBI's raid on Cohen's office and hotel room, Costello said, "I wouldn't use the term raid -- they executed a search warrant."

"He was suicidal that day and acting very manic," Costello said about Cohen's behavior after the FBI searched on his hotel and office.

""You thought he was being a drama queen, didn't you?" Hoffinger asked.

"He was putting on quite a show and he explained to us that two nights before he was on the roof of the Regency Hotel and he was going to jump off and kill himself because he couldn't handle the pressure," Costello said.

Testimony subsequently concluded for the day, with Costello scheduled to return to the stand tomorrow.

May 20, 4:24 PM
Costello testifies that he never pressured Cohen

After Judge Merchan brought the jury back to the courtroom, defense attorney Emil Bove resumed his direct examination. The judge did not reference his admonition of Robert Costello.

Costello testified that Cohen instructed him to contact Rudy Giuliani on June 7, 2018. Jurors saw phone records showing that Cohen and Costello spoke for 46 minutes that day.

Jurors saw another email between Cohen and Costello in June 2018.

"Please remember if you want or need to communicate something, please let me know and I will see that it gets done," Costello wrote.

"Did you ever put any pressure on Michael Cohen to do anything?" Bove asked.

"No," Costello answered.

"Did you ever pressure him to interact with Rudy Giuliani in a certain way?" Bove asked.

"Not at all," Costello said.

Costello added that Cohen never paid his legal bills to Costello's firm.

Costello's direct examination then concluded.

May 20, 4:13 PM
Judge blasts defense witness: 'Don't give me side-eye'

Attempting to rebuff the idea that Michael Cohen's then-attorney Robert Costello was asserting pressure on Cohen not to flip on Trump, Costello testified that Cohen was also trying to get information from him -- a backchannel that went both ways.

"Cohen was trying to get information from Rudy Giuliani?" defense attorney Emil Bove asked.

"That's correct," Costello said.

Following another objection, Costello let out an audible breath. Judge Merchan then sent the jury out of the courtroom.

"I'd like to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom," he admonished Costello. "If you don't like my ruling, you don't give me side-eye and you don't roll your eyes. Do you understand that?"

Costello said he understood.

Then Merchan abruptly said: "Are you staring me down?"

A furious Merchan then ordered the entire courtroom cleared out.

After a resolution was reached, everyone returned to the courtroom.

May 20, 4:04 PM
Costello says Cohen said Trump knew nothing of Daniels payment

Michael Cohen's former attorney, Robert Costello, testified that in their initial meeting on April 17, 2018, Cohen said Trump did not know about the payment to Stormy Daniels.

"Michael Cohen said numerous times that President Trump knew nothing about those payments, that he did this on his own, and he said that numerous times," Costello testified.

"Jeez," Costello muttered when Judge Merchan sustained an objection following another question.

The judge had earlier instructed Costello to wait until an objection was resolved before answering the question.

May 20, 3:57 PM
Costello testifies Cohen told him he had nothing on Trump

Defense witness Robert Costello, who for a time was Michael Cohen's attorney, introduced details of his first meeting with Cohen, saying they first met at the Regency Hotel in Manhattan on April 17, 2018, with attorney Jeffrey Citron.

Cohen "was absolutely manic" during the first meeting, Costello said. The FBI had just raided his home and office.

“I really want you to explain what my options are. What’s my escape route?” Costello said Cohen told him.

Cohen said, "My life is shattered, my family's life is shattered," Costello testified.

Costello said he told Cohen, “This entire legal problem he was facing would be resolved by the end of the week if he had truthful information about Donald Trump and cooperated with the Southern District of New York.”

Costello said that Cohen on multiple occasions said, “I swear to god Bob, I don’t have anything on Donald Trump.”

"Did the topic of Stormy Daniels come up?" defense attorney Emil Bove asked Costello.

Costello said it did, with Cohen telling him, "I don’t understand why they’re trying to put me in jail for some f------ NDAs."

May 20, 3:48 PM
Judge agrees to allow limited testimony from Costello

Judge Merchan, after returning to the bench, agrees to give defense attorney Emil Bove "some latitude" to explore with witness Robert Costello the pressure campaign that Michael Cohen spoke.

"I’m not going to allow this to become a trial within a trial ... that's not the purpose of this trial, and I'm not going to let it become that," the judge said.

The defense called Robert Costello to the stand.

May 20, 3:45 PM
Attorney argue over Costello testifying

In a sidebar, Trump's attorney told Judge Merchan want to use ex-Cohen attorney Robert Costello to push back on Cohen's claims that he was worried about speaking to Costello because he was worried it would get back to Trump.

"That's not Mr. Costello's recollection," defense attorney Emil Bove said. "To rebut the government's pressure campaign theory -- that's why this evidence is admissible."

Bove told Merchan that Costello would testify that Cohen told him that Trump had no awareness of the Stormy Daniels' hush money payment.

Earlier today, Cohen testified that he lied to Costello about Trump's awareness because he did not trust Costello.

"The whole purpose was to make Mr. Trump sound threatening," Bove said.

"I don't think so," Merchan responded.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger argued that defense lawyers did not include Costello on their witness list or provide the exhibits related to his testimony.

"Rebutting the pressure campaign should have been part of their direct case," Hoffinger said.

Merchan called a brief recess to consider the arguments but ordered the parties to remain in the courtroom.

May 20, 3:39 PM
Prosecution seeks to limit Costello's testimony

The prosecution objected to the defense calling Robert Costello, Michael Cohen's former attorney to the stand.

Out of earshot of the jury, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Judge Merchan to omit Costello or limit his testimony to two questions.

"I think there's very limited testimony that's permissible here if at all" Hoffinger said.

The defense said it wants to use Costello to rebut Cohen's testimony about a "pressure campaign" carried out against him not to flip on Trump after Cohen made Stormy Daniels payment.

Costello, a longtime Trump ally, testified before the grand jury in March 2023 as an exculpatory witness at the request of Trump’s attorneys.

May 20, 3:30 PM
Defense calls ex-Cohen attorney Robert Costello

On cross-examination, prosecutor Becky Mangold quizzed defense witness Daniel Sitko about the technical process for putting together the summary chart from cell phone records.

The defense attempted to show through the call summary that Cohen and his then-attorney Robert Costello spoke 75 times. On cross-examination, the defense paralegal conceded it wasn't quite that many.

After Sitko stepped off the witness stand, the defense called Robert Costello himself.

May 20, 3:25 PM
Defense witness introduces evidence regarding phone calls

The defense called Daniel Sitco, a paralegal for defense attrney Todd Blanche.

Sitko introduced a summary chart of phone calls between Michael Cohen, his one-time attorney Robert Costello, and the law firm of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron.

May 20, 3:14 PM
Prosecution rests its case

Defense attorney Todd Blanche, on redirect examination, asked Michael Cohen about the photograph of Trump and bodyguard Keith Schiller together on Oct. 24, 2016, at 7:57 p.m.

"Your testimony is still, just so I understand, is in that 90 seconds you spoke to Mr. Schiller about the problem you were having with the 14-year-old, got him to agree to take care of it," and also had time to talk to speak about Daniels to Trump.

Cohen stood by his testimony.

Cohen also testified again that his $420,000 payment in 2017 was a reimbursement, not a payment for legal services.

"It was a reimbursement -- it wasn't a payment for your services?" Blanche asked.

"Correct," Cohen said.

Blanche attempted to cast doubt on that claim by highlighting Trump's frugality.

"Did he overpay for things regularly?" Blanche asked.

"No, sir," Cohen said.

Cohen then concluded his testimony and the state rested its case.

"Your honor, the People rest," Steinglass said.

May 20, 3:04 PM
Prosecutors play recording of Cohen discussing payment

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger, with Michael Cohen back on the stand, played an Oct. 16, 2017, recording that Cohen secretly made of a conversation with Stormy Daniels' then-attorney Keith Davidson regardin the Stormy Daniels payment.

"What would you do if you were me?" Cohen is heard asking on the recording.

"Ugh. I can't even -- I don't even know. ... I can't even imagine," says Davidson.

"I mean, would you write a book, would you break away from the entire Trump, you know, we'll call it doctrine, you know, would you go completely rouge, would you join with Bannon, you know. What -- I mean any -- any thoughts?" Cohen asks.

"Because it's not just me that's now being affected. It is my entire family. It's, you know -- and the --- there's no -- nobody is thinking about Michael. You understand? And despite what like -- for example, you know, what the earlier conversation, you know, and who else would do that for somebody, who else?" he says on the recording.

" I did [it], because I care about that guy and I wasn't going to play pennywise, pound foolish," COhen says, to which Davidson replied, "Right."

"And I'm sitting there and I'm saying to myself, what about me?" says Cohen. "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."

Asked by Hoffinger about the recording, Cohen said, "I was referring to the payment that I made to Keith Davidson that I made on behalf of Mr. Trump."

"How has telling the truth about what you did with Mr. Trump affected you?" Hoffinger asked.

"My entire life has been turned upside down. I lost my law license, my businesses, my financial security, which I was fortunate early to be able to obtain. My family's happiness is paramount," said Cohen.

May 20, 2:53 PM
Cohen says he spoke 'more than 20' times with Trump about Daniels

Michael Cohen returned to the stand and prosecutors displayed an image of Trump and bodyguard Keith Schiller on Oct. 24, 2016, the night of the phone call Cohen said he had with Trump to finalize the Stormy Daniels deal.

Before showing the image to the jury, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger read a stipulation that the photo came from a video that ended at 7:57 p.m. on that date.

Under additional questioning, Cohen said he had "more than 20" conversations, in person or by phone, with Donald Trump in October 2016 about the Stormy Daniels payoff.

"Do you have any doubt in your mind that Mr. Trump gave you the final signoff [on the Stormy Daniels payment]?" Hoffinger asked.

"No doubt," Cohen said.

"Would you have paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 had Trump not signed off?" Hoffinger asked.

"No ma'am," Cohen said.

"Why not?" Hoffinger asked.

"Because I wanted to ensure I would get my funds back," Cohen said.

May 20, 2:46 PM
Lawyers agree to admit photo under Cohen's testimony

Prosecutors reached a compromise with defense counsel that prevents the need to recall C-SPAN executive Robert Browning to testify.

The state has called Michael Cohen back to the stand to introduce their desired photo evidence through Cohen's testimony.

May 20, 2:41 PM
Defense could present case or wait for tomorrow

Judge Merchan offered to break early today and resume tomorrow morning when C-SPAN executive Robert Browning arrives to testify.

He also gave the defense the option begin presenting its case today.

Defense counsel and Trump huddled over the question.

May 20, 2:35 PM
Attorneys continue to argue over admission of photo

After Judge Merchan ruled that he would not admit a photo that prosecutors said showed Trump and his bodyguard Keith Schiller together on Oct. 24, 2016 -- the night of the phone call Michael Cohen said he had with Trump to finalize the Stormy Daniels deal -- prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said he respected Merchan's ruling, but criticized the defense for objecting to the evidence despite not contesting that Schiller and Trump are both in the photo together.

"I am not sure why we are jumping through all these hoops," Steinglass said.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche said it would be "patently unfair" to allow prosecutors to recall C-SPAN executive Robert Browning to testify about the photo after the defense has presented witnesses.

"That's not the way a trial is supposed to work, judge," Blanche said.

The judge ordered prosecutors to check with Browning -- who previously traveled from Louisiana to testify -- to see if he can be here by 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.

Mangold subsequently reported that Browning would be able to make it.

"They are booking travel right now," Mangold said.

May 20, 2:28 PM
Judge rules against admitting prosecution's photo evidence

Judge Merchan has ruled that he will not admit into evidence two still images prosecutors want to introduce that purportedly show Trump and his bodyguard Keith Schiller together on Oct. 24, 2016, the night of the phone call Michael Cohen said he had with Trump to finalize the Stormy Daniels deal.

Prosecutors want to introduce screenshots from a C-SPAN video showing Trump and Schiller together at that time.

Merchan said the images are relevant but said prosecutors could not overcome a hearsay objection.

Prosecutor Becky Mangold told Merchan that they just reached out to C-SPAN executive Robert Browning, who testified earlier, to ask him to return to court "as soon as reasonably possible" to introduce the images as evidence.

Mangold said she would update Merchan about Browning's status by the end of the day.

May 20, 2:18 PM
Proceedings resume following lunch break

Judge Juan Merchan and all parties are back in the courtroom following the lunch break.

The judge is preparing to rule on the admission of the photograph requested by prosecutors prior to the break.

May 20, 12:58 PM
Prosecutors seek to introduce photo from time of phone call

Judge Merchan dismissed the jury for the lunch break, after which prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked permission to show the jury a photo of Donald Trump and Keith Schiller together on Oct. 24, 2016, at 7:57 p.m.

Prosecutors hope to introduce the evidence to counter the defense suggestion that Cohen lied about the purpose of an Oct. 24, 2016, phone call to Schiller.

"It shows that they were together," Steinglass said of the photo.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche pushed back on the request, arguing the photo is inadmissible and that testimony about the time and date of it would be hearsay. Blanche added that the fact that Trump and Schiller were together on Oct. 24 is not in dispute; rather, defense lawyers have hammered at the substance of Cohen's call with Schiller.

"I have significant evidence that he lied under oath," Blanche said about Cohen's testimony about the phone call.

Judge Merchan said he would discuss the issue further after lunch.

May 20, 12:51 PM
Prosecutors press Cohen on legality of Daniels' NDA

On redirect examination, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Michael Cohen about his testimony on cross-examination that nondisclosure agreements are perfectly legal and that the contract with Stormy Daniels was also legal.

Hoffinger sought to emphasize how out of the ordinary this particular NDA was.

"Under the circumstances of this NDA with Stormy Daniels -- was that perfectly legal under those circumstances?" Hoffinger asked, referring to efforts to affect the 2016 election.

"No ma'am," Cohen said.

May 20, 12:43 PM
Cohen testifies about fake AI cases

On redirect examination, Michael Cohen offered some context about how he claims he inadvertently provided some fake case law to the court during a recent bid to end his supervised release.

"I went onto Google Bard which is an AI search engine," Cohen said. "It gave me a plethora of cases that appeared to me to be legitimate. They certainly looked legitimate and there were facts behind it and supported what we were going to put in the upcoming motion."

"I was just trying to be helpful," Cohen added.

But when Cohen showed the cases to his current lawyer, she noticed they were "not legitimate."

At her recommendation, Cohen said he notified the court about the fake cases.

May 20, 12:36 PM
Cohen says he has nothing at stake as a witness

Michael Cohen testified under redirect examination that he had nothing at stake in the outcome of Trump's criminal trial.

"Are you actually on trial here?" Hoffinger asked.

"No ma'am," Cohen said.

"Are you a witness here?" Hoffinger asked.

"I am," Cohen said.

"Are you charged with any crimes here?" Hoffinger asked.

"No ma'am," Cohen said.

While Cohen was subpoenaed to testify at this trial, he described his outlook about the trial as markedly different from his participation and plea in a 2018 federal investigation.

"My life was on the line. My liberty. I was the defendant in the case," Cohen said.

May 20, 12:20 PM
Cohen tells why he took an additional $30K in reimbursement

On redirect examination, Michael Cohen provided some background on the $30,000 he said he stole from the Trump Organization by overcharging them for work he did with Red Finch -- funds that were paid to him as part of the Stormy Daniels reimbursement payment.

"Red Finch is 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," Cohen said, speaking to the jury. "Mr. Trump's name was on that list and at the beginning of this poll he was polling toward the very bottom. It upset him, so he had me come to his office and he provided me with a sheet of paper."

"I reached out to Red Finch who told me he was able to create an algorithm to ensure that Mr. Trump would rise and rise significantly in this poll. We talked about what number Mr. Trump wanted to finish," Cohen said.

The jury sat in rapt attention as Cohen spoke.

Eventually Trump came in No. 9 but he declined to pay Red Finch because CNBC didn't bother following through with the poll, Cohen said. Cohen ended up paying them -- in a brown paper bag in cash, he said.

"You felt some pressure to make some payment to your friend? Hoffinger asked.

"Yes," Cohen responded.

Asked why he did it, Cohen said, "Well for a long time I had been telling him about the $50,000. ... I was angered because of the reduction in the bonus, and so I just felt it was almost like self help."

"I wasn't going to let him have the benefit this way as well," Cohen said, admitting that it was wrong.

May 20, 12:10 PM
On redirect, prosecutors address 2016 phone call

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger begun her redirect examination of Michael Cohen by attempting to rehabilitate Cohen's testimony about the phone call he said he had with Donald Trump on Oct. 24, 2016.

"Is it possible that other matters may have been discussed on those calls, but you are sure the Stormy Daniels matter was discussed?" Hoffinger asked.

"Yes," Cohen said.

Cohen told jurors that even if he was busy with other matters at the time, he was sure he communicated with Trump about the Stormy Daniels' payment.

Jurors seem fully engaged, several taking notes.

Hoffinger also asked about today's questions by defense attorney Todd Blanche suggesting Cohen was too busy to remember much of anything in 2016.

"Were you too busy in 2016 to finalize the Stormy Daniels payoff with Mr. Trump?" Hoffinger asked.

"No ma'am," Cohen responded.

"Were you too busy to get his approval to make that payment?" Blanche asked.

"No ma'am," Cohen said.

May 20, 12:04 PM
Defense concludes Cohen's cross-examination

"Your testimony remains ... that notwithstanding everything you've said over the years, you have specific recollection of having conversations on the phone with then candidate Donald J. Trump about the Stormy Daniels matter, correct?" defense attorney Todd Blanche asked Michael Cohen as he wrapped up his questioning.

"Yes sir," he replied.

"No doubt in your mind?" Blanche asked.

"No sir," said Cohen.

"No further questions," Blanche said, ending his cross-examination.

May 20, 12:01 PM
Cohen pressed on his financial interest in the case

"Do you have a financial interest in the outcome of this case?" defense attorney Todd Blanche asked Michael Cohen.

"Yes sir," said Cohen, before clarifying.

"I talk about it on my podcast, i talk about it on TikTok, and they make money, and that's how I was viewing your question. Whether he is ultimately determined innocent or guilty is not going to affect whether i speak about it or not."

As Cohen answered, Trump looked on, facing Cohen directly.

Subsequently, Cohen said, "It's better if he's not, for me, because it gives me more to talk about in the future."

The answer drew some laughs in the overflow room.

May 20, 11:48 AM
Cohen says he's considered running for Congress

When cross-examination resumed following the mid-morning break, Michael Cohen testified that he is considering a run for Congress.

"Going after President Trump, that's your name recognition?" defense attorney Todd Blanche asked.

"My name recognition is because of the journey I've been on." Cohen answered. "It is affiliated to Mr. Trump -- yes -- not because of Mr. Trump."

"Your journey includes near-daily attacks on President Trump?" Blanche asked.

Eventually Cohen conceded, "Yes sir."

May 20, 11:29 AM
Cohen says he asked for Giuliani's help in getting payment

Michael Cohen told jurors that he requested that his then-attorney Robert Costello reach out to Rudy Giuliani to get help paying for his own defense lawyers after Cohen's office and hotel room were raided by the FBI in 2018.

"The payment was not being made in accordance with the invoices," Cohen said about his own legal bills, which were initially covered by the Trump Organization after the FBI raid that resulted in part from Cohen's involvement in the Stormy Daniels arrangement.

Cohen said he asked Costello to tell Giuliani to communicate the payment issue to Trump.

"I expressed to him that the nonpayment was becoming an issue," Cohen said. "To, yes, let Mr. Giuliani know to pass it along to Mr. Trump that it is becoming an issue."

Cohen confirmed that he received approximately $4 million from his consulting work between 2017 and 2018.

Court was subsequently recessed for the mid-morning break.

May 20, 11:13 AM
Defense presses Cohen on his communication with Costello

Testifying about Robert Costello, Michael Cohen's attorney for a period until Cohen ended the association, Cohen initially said he spoke with Costello approximately a dozen times over the phone in 2018.

When defense attorney Todd Blanche suggested they actually spoke on the phone 75 times, Cohen responded, "It seems excessive but possible."

Blanche suggested that some of their phone calls lasted more than 30 minutes. According to Blanche, Cohen and Costello spoke for a total of nine hours over the course of a few months in 2018.

May 20, 11:08 AM
Cohen says he asked Robert Costello to ask Giuliani for info

Last week, Michael Cohen testified that he did not trust Robert Costello to be his lawyer because he worried any information shared with him would get to Rudy Giuliani and then get to Trump.

But Cohen testified today that he took advantage of that back channel -- including asking Costello to ask Giuliani to try to learn more about the origins of the federal investigation that led to the search of Cohen's office and hotel room.

“I spoke with the person you asked me to and he said he would find out exactly how the matter ended up in the SDNY and in particular who in Main Justice approved this,” Costello wrote in an email to Cohen on April 23, 2018.

Cohen confirmed the “person” mentioned above was Rudy Giuliani.

May 20, 10:58 AM
Cohen details consulting work he did in 2017

Defense attorney Todd Blanche asked Cohen about the large sums of money he made through his consulting work with other companies in 2017 -- an apparent effort to legitimize the money Cohen made from Trump as the being the result of legal work.

Cohen testified he was paid $600,000 by AT&T in 2017, communicating with them just 20 times.

"And there's nothing wrong with that?" Blanche asked.

"I don't believe so," Cohen said.

Cohen said he was paid $100,000 per month from Novartis, $100,000 per month from an aerospace company, and $150,000 a month from a bank.

Cohen was also paid $50,000 by a company in 2017 to help restart a nuclear power plant formerly run by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

On direct examination, Cohen had testified he did less than 10 hours of work or Trump in 2017 -- an attempt by prosecutors to cast doubt on the fact that the payments Cohen received were for any legitimate legal work.

Blanche appears to be trying to rebut those assertions by painting Trump's payments as just another one of Cohen's lucrative consulting jobs, in which he made hundreds of thousands of dollars while doing little work for his clients.

May 20, 10:49 AM
Defense says Cohen's repayment was for legitimate legal expense

Throughout his cross-examination this morning, defense attorney Todd Blanche has attempted to legitimize the repayment arrangement between Trump and Cohen in 2017.

Prosecutors have argued that Trump falsified business records by describing a reimbursement for the Stormy Daniels payment and other expenses as payment for legal services pursuant to a retainer agreement, even though Cohen never had a retainer agreement with Trump.

Blanche emphasized all the legal work that Cohen did for Trump and his family in 2017. He also showed the jury an email from Allen Weisselberg, where he requested Cohen to "please prepare the agreement we discussed so we can pay you monthly."

Amid frequent objections, Blanche has referenced the "agreement" mentioned above as a "retainer agreement," though Cohen never had a formal retainer agreement with Trump.

Pursuant to the "agreement," Cohen said he received nine checks directly from Trump in 2017.

"That would have been nine checks -- 35,000 a piece," Cohen said.

May 20, 10:35 AM
Defense asks Cohen about taking job as president's attorney

Defense attorney Todd Blanche entered another email into evidence, and it was displayed on the courtroom monitors.

It's Cohen's good-bye email to the Trump Organization on Jan. 27, 2017, announcing he will be "personal attorney to potus." "I cannot express how difficult it is for me to write this farewell e-mail," it begins.

In the email, Cohen said he is starting "a new journey," and that he is "truly excited" to begin new position as personal attorney to Trump as president. He reminisced about first taking the job there and moving into Ivanka's old office.

Blanche asked Cohen about his effort to spread the word about his new role as Trump's personal attorney.

"You told everybody that was happening, correct?" Blanche said.

"Not everybody, but I certainly was proud of the role and I announced it," Cohen said.

"You told TMZ?" Blanche asked.

"Yes, sir," Cohen said.

"You told the New York Times?" Blanche asked.

"Yes, sir," Cohen said.

"You actually gave them a little scoop on it?" Blanche asked.

"Yes, sir," Cohen said.

"You went on TV and told Sean Hannity about it?" Blanche asked.

"Yes, sir," Cohen said.

May 20, 10:29 AM
Jury sees chummy email between Cohen, Weisselberg

Jurors saw a chummy email between Michael Cohen and then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg in January 2017 in which Cohen and Weisselberg discussed the Stormy Daniels repayment arrangement.

"Thank you. You never stopped on [sic] for a bro hug," Weisselberg wrote to Cohen.

"Anyway please prepare the agreement we discussed so we can pay you monthly."

Trump, at the defense table, hunched forward and examined the email as it was displayed on his monitor.

May 20, 10:21 AM
Cohen admits he stole from Trump through his reimbursement

Michael Cohen admitted that he stole $30,000 from the Trump Organization when, as part of his reimbursement for the Stormy Daniels reimbursement, he requested $50,000 for a reimbursement for IT services, when Cohen had actually paid $20,000 for the services.

"You stole from the Trump Organization, correct?" defense attorney Todd Blanche asked.

"Yes, sir," Cohen said.

Blanche hammered Cohen, asking if he ever repaid the Trump Organization or "Did you ever have to plead guilty to larceny?"

"No sir," Cohen said.

At the defense table, Trump shook his head and pursed his lips.

Cohen remained calm during this questioning when Blanche raised voiced, almost shouting at Cohen.

May 20, 10:12 AM
Defense seeks to cast doubt on other alleged phone calls

After suggesting last week that Michael Cohen lied about the purpose of a phone call to Trump's security guard Keith Schiller on Oct. 24, 2016, defense attorney Todd Blanche sought to cast doubt on another instance of Cohen's testimony where he said he spoke to Trump about the Stormy Daniels deal -- specifically on two calls that occurred during the 8 a.m. hour on Oct. 26, 2016.

Blanche asked Cohen about what else Trump did that day, including the opening ceremony for one of his buildings in Washington, D.C., and a national television interview, which Cohen said he didn't remember.

"My recollection is that I was speaking to him about Stormy Daniels because that's what he tasked me to take care of," Cohen said.

May 20, 10:02 AM
Defense presses Cohen on how busy he was in 2016

In addition to handling numerous business issues during October 2016, Cohen testified that he tried to help his taxi medallion business partner with his marital problems.

"I tried to assist in bringing them back together as well as talking to him about potential lawyers," Cohen said.

Through this line of cross-examination, defense attorney Blanche is suggesting that Cohen was a very busy man in October 2016 -- potentially casting doubt on his extensive role in the Daniels hush money payment.

May 20, 9:52 AM
Defense suggests Cohen had distractions dealing with Daniels

Defense attorney Todd Blanche suggested that Michael Cohen was juggling multiple other issues in October 2016, at the same time he was arranging the Stormy Daniels hush money payment.

Cohen testified that was resolving issues with his taxi medallion business, handling a loan for one of his investment properties, assisting with the National Diversity Coalition, and helping Tiffany Trump deal with an instance of extortion.

"You agree with me, right, that you had a lot going on both in your personal life and with President Trump in those first two weeks of October?" Blanche asked.

"Yes sir," Cohen said.

Blanche also reminded jurors that Cohen was dealing with harassing phone calls at the time -- referencing his line of questioning last week when he suggested Cohen lied about the purpose of a phone call to Trump's security guard Keith Schiller on Oct. 24, 2016.

May 20, 9:43 AM
Cohen asked about communication with reporters

Defense attorney Todd Blanche opened today's questioning by asked Cohen about his communication with reporters.

"Since that time [when your last testimony ended], how many reporters have you talked to?" Blanche asked.

Cohen said he's spoken to reporters "who called to say hello, to see how I'm doing," but that he didn't talk about the case.

"Didn't speak at all about your testimony last week?" Blanche asked.

"Correct," Cohen responded.

As Cohen resumed his testimony, jurors appeared attentive, with several taking notes. Trump sat slouched at his chair with his eyes closed.

May 20, 9:38 AM
Michael Cohen retakes witness stand

Following the break, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen has entered the courtroom.

He took his seat in the witness box to resume his cross-examination as Trump looked on.

May 20, 9:24 AM
Attorneys conference at bench on discovery issue

Defense attorney Todd Blanche asked to approach the bench about an ongoing discovery issue.

Both legal teams leaned in as Blanche spoke to the judge.

With the sidebar completed, the judge called for a ten-minute break.

May 20, 9:09 AM
Judge won't let defense expand expert witness' testimony

Judge Merchan denied a request from defense lawyers to broaden the scope of testimony from their expert witness Bradley Smith, who is an expert on campaign finance regulations.

On Thursday, defense lawyers asked Merchan to allow Smith to testify about various terms related to federal campaign finance laws. Merchan denied the request, citing long standing precedent prohibiting witness testimony about the law.

"An expert is not permitted to present or interpret the law," Merchan said.

Merchan also expressed concerns about Smith's testimony prompting a "battle of the experts" between Smith and an expert called by prosecutors, which Merchan said would confuse the jury.

Merchan said that Smith could still testify, as long as he follows the limits imposed in his pretrial ruling on the case's motions in limine.

"The court will monitor this testimony closely to ensure full compliance," Merchan said in a pretrial ruling. "Any deviation from this ruling could result in sanction up to and including striking the expert's entire testimony."

May 20, 8:59 AM
Judge rejects defense request to admit email as evidence

Judge Merchan has begun hearing arguments about the admissibility of some defense exhibits, including an email communication between Michael Cohen and his one-time attorney Bob Costello's law partner Jeffrey Citron.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche argued that the exhibit could be used to impeach Cohen's testimony.

Judge Merchan said he will not allow the email into evidence. Prosecutors argued that the email was hearsay and cannot fairly offer a window into Cohen's state of mind.

"There is another layer there of hearsay," Merchan said about the email. "I don't see any probative value for impeachment purposes here at all."

May 20, 8:53 AM
Judge says summations will likely happen next Tuesday

"Good morning Mr. Trump," Judge Juan Merchan said as he gaveled in the proceedings.

"It's become apparent that we are not going to be able to sum up tomorrow," the judge said after taking the bench.

Merchan said it's more likely summations will take place next Tuesday, after procedural matters and the Memorial Day break.

"Either have a long break now or a long break then, and unfortunately the calendar is what it is," the judge said.

May 20, 8:41 AM
Trump, prosecutors enter courtroom

Prosecutors have entered the courtroom for Day 19 of the trial.

Trump has arrived with his entourage.

Before entering, the former president addressed reporters but ignored their questions about whether he'll testify in the trial.

May 20, 6:00 AM
Prosecution expected to rest its case Monday morning

Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen returns to the witness stand Monday morning for the final time before prosecutors rest their case against the former president in his criminal hush money trial.

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case later Monday morning.

Defense attorneys have not yet declared who they plan to call to testify -- including whether Trump will testify in his own defense.

Cohen, the prosecution's last major witness, is scheduled to complete his cross-examination by Trump's defense team Monday morning.

Proceedings are scheduled to get underway at 8:45 a.m. ET with arguments over the admission of additional exhibits, after which the jury is expected back in court at 9:30 a.m.

Monday, May 20, 2024 at 6:32PM by Aaron Katersky, Peter Charalambous, Olivia Rubin, Lucien Bruggeman and Julia Reinstein, ABC News Permalink