Trump trial live updates: Michael Cohen testimony wraps for the day

Trump's former attorney returns to the stand on Day 18 of the hush money trial.

Last updated: Thursday, May 16, 2024 10:05PM GMT
Trump trial updates: Cross-examination of Cohen continues
Lauren Glassberg has the latest on the trial from Lower Manhattan.

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.

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Judge sorting out trial's final stretch

Before adjourning, Judge Juan Merchan noted the challenge of managing the trial schedule with myriad upcoming off days.

There's no court Friday so Trump can attend his son's high school graduation, and an upcoming four-day weekend for Memorial Day. Court is also not in session on Wednesdays.

Depending on how long the defense case goes, it's possible the trial could shift to closing arguments as early as Tuesday. Defense lawyer Todd Blanche has said he expects to finish the cross-examination of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen on Monday morning.

Merchan said he'd like to have both sides give their summations on the same day and could start court early or end late to accommodate that. Or, he said, they may have to spill into another day.

Then, before deliberations begin, Merchan will have to instruct and charge the jury. But the timing of that could be tricky, too, he said.

"It's not ideal for there to be a big lapse in time between summations and a jury charge," Merchan said.

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May 16, 2024, 8:18 PM GMT

Judge will wait to rule on defense's expert witness

After the jury was dismissed for the day, Judge Merchan heard arguments from the two sides on whether the defense should be allowed to call an expert witness to explain to the jury how to interpret nuances in election law, particularly the phrase "for the purpose of influencing an election."

"We don't think this jury here should be evaluating a FICA violation," defense attorney Emil Bove argued.

Prosecutors objected, saying only the judge should inform the jury what the law is.

There is a "general and widely followed prohibition" against having testimony from witnesses about the law, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo argued, adding that Bove's request "flies directly in the face" of an earlier order issued by Merchan.

"The jury has to be provided instructions one way or another ... about how to apply these principles," Bove argued back.

Merchan said he would think about it over the weekend, but told the defense, "Until you hear differently from me, my ruling has not changed" that their requested testimony would not be permitted.

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May 16, 2024, 7:00 PM GMT

Defense segues to Cohen's role in spinning news stories

Donald Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche resumed his understated style of questioning Thursday afternoon at the former president's hush money trial after reaching a crescendo just prior to the lunch break.

Blanche asked former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen as cross-examination continued to rehash his previous testimony in a "timeline fashion." He began with a moment in 2011, when Cohen created a website to assess his boss' odds of winning the presidency.

Blanche then segued into Cohen's role in spinning news stories. In one of the earliest examples, Blanche noted, Cohen helped plant a positive story in the National Enquirer about Trump's potential presidential bid. That story also included positive information about Cohen, the defense attorney noted.

Blanche sought to suggest that Cohen didn't always consult Trump about how to fend off or respond to unflattering news stories. Cohen, however, insisted he always did because Trump might "blow up" at him and it could mean the end of his job.

The questions appeared aimed at suggesting that Trump might not have been in on all the machinations surrounding porn actor Stormy Daniels' claims, though Blanche didn't specifically ask about that, at least to that point.

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May 16, 2024, 7:02 PM GMT

No court on Tuesday as Trump plans to attends Barron's high school graduation

Donald Trump's hush money trial will take a three-day weekend because the former president plans to attend the high school graduation of his youngest son, Barron, on Friday.

Judge Juan Merchan had told jurors earlier that because of scheduling - the trial will also not be held on Memorial Day - it might be necessary to hold court next Wednesday, typically a day off for the trial so Merchan can attend to other matters.

But Merchan now says that won't be the case. Some jurors indicated they can't attend that day, "so that's off the table," the judge said.