Trump trial live updates: Drama sweeps courtroom

After 20 witnesses, prosecutors rested their case in Trump's hush money trial.

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Last updated: Monday, May 20, 2024 11:01PM GMT
Trump Trial: Prosecutors rest their case
Donald Trump's hush money trial is heading into the final stretch, with prosecutors' last witness back on the stand Monday for more grilling before the former president's lawyers get their chance to put on a case.

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.

Key Headlines

Here's how the news is developing.
ByNadine El-Bawab ABCNews logo
May 20, 2024, 6:50 PM GMT

What are the potential outcomes of Trump's hush money trial?

Apr 19, 2024, 6:02 PM GMT

Who are the key players?

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May 20, 2024, 10:33 PM GMT

Trump calls judge a 'tyrant' after court

Speaking to reporters after his hush money trial adjourned for the day, Donald Trump called the judge in the case a "tyrant" - mentioning Judge Juan M. Merchan's chastising of defense witness Robert Costello, whom he called "highly respected."

"I've never seen anything like that," Trump said.

The former president said he hoped his lawyers' move to dismiss the case succeeds "because this trial is a disaster for our country."

Trump, carrying a legal notepad and printed pieces of paper, read statements that supporters such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made about the case, while also noting that he had to be careful of what he quoted because of the gag order.

He also quoted recent remarks by filmmaker Oliver Stone, adding: "Haven't heard his name mentioned in awhile."

Trump also claimed he's not allowed to "have an expert witness," but his legal team is allowed to call campaign finance expert, Bradley A. Smith. Merchan has limited what Smith can talk about.

The former president nevertheless declared that he thought the trial was going "very well."

"There were no crimes. We did nothing wrong. And I want to get back to campaigning," Trump said.

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May 20, 2024, 9:14 PM GMT

Defense moves for dismissal of case, judge says he'll reserve his decision

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."

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.

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May 20, 2024, 8:40 PM GMT

Defense concludes its questioning of Costello

After the fireworks over Robert Costello's testimony, Trump lawyer Emil Bove tried to get at one of the main reasons he said he called the attorney to the stand: to rebut any suggestion from prosecutors that Costello was part of an effort to arm-twist Michael Cohen to stay loyal to Donald Trump.

"Mr. Costello, did you ever put any pressure on Michael to do anything?" Bove asked.

"No," Costello testified. He said he considered Cohen a client and had only his interests, not Trump's, in mind during their interactions.

Trump appeared alert and engaged, his attention focused on the witness box, during Costello's testimony. When his attorneys finished their questions, he wrote a note on a piece of paper in front of him.

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May 20, 2024, 8:39 PM GMT

Merchan briefly closes courtroom, forcing reporters into hallway

Judge Juan M. Merchan on Monday afternoon briefly closed the courtroom where Donald Trump's criminal trial is being held, forcing reporters into the hallway after he admonished witness Robert Costello for his behavior.

Costello aggravated Merchan repeatedly in his testimony by making comments under his breath and continuing to speak after objections were sustained - a signal to witnesses to stop talking.

At one point, frustrated as he was again cut off by a sustained objection, Costello remarked, "Jeez."

"I'm sorry? I'm sorry?" a peeved Merchan asked.

"Strike it, I'm -." Costello replied, cutting himself off.

At another point, he called the whole exercise, "ridiculous."

After excusing the jury, Merchan told the witness: "Mr. Costello, I want to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom. When there's a witness on the stand, if you don't like my ruling, you don't say 'jeez'... You don't give me side eye and you don't roll your eyes."

"Are you staring me down right now? Clear the courtroom, right now. Clear the courtroom," the judge said.

For several minutes, there were no reporters in the courtroom or video access to the proceedings in the overflow room.

Jurors and reporters returned a short time later.