Prosecutors rest hush money case against Donald Trump as Michael Cohen wraps testimony

Molly Crane-Newman and Josephine Stratman, New York Daily News on

Published in Political News

NEW YORK — Manhattan prosecutors rested their case against Donald Trump on Monday — more than five years after they began investigating him and a month after the hush money trial began — during a dramatic day that saw both jurors and journalists booted from the courtroom amid a tense exchange between the judge and a witness for the ex-president.

That witness, Robert Costello, elicited a highly unusual rebuke from Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan when Costello mouthed off about the judge’s rulings in real time.

After asking jurors to step out, Merchan gave Costello a tensely worded warning about muttering “geez” and “ridiculous” under his breath. When the judge was met with more sass, he ordered his court officers to eject everyone else from the room.

“Are you staring me down right now?” Merchan at one point asked Costello.

“Clear the courtroom!” he then ordered.

Costello, a New York City attorney who advised Michael Cohen after the feds began investigating him in 2018 for issuing a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, was called as the second and potentially last witness to testify in Trump’s defense in a bid to discredit Trump’s former fixer.


Reporters, members of the public and a slew of Republicans and Trump associates who accompanied the defendant to court in his largest entourage yet — including disgraced former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik and convicted former leader of the Hells Angels Chuck Zito— were out of the courtroom for about five minutes.

“If you try to stare me down one more time, I’m removing you from the stand,” Merchan warned Costello once everyone was out of the room, according to a transcript.

Before Costello took the stand, the defense wound down its cross-examination of Cohen, Trump’s former fixer. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche peppered him with questions about his communications with Trump regarding the $130,000 payoff to Daniels and the profits he’s made during his bitter feud with the former president — eliciting an admission he stole from Trump’s company.

Cohen acknowledged that he effectively stole from the Trump Organization by requesting reimbursement for a $50,000 expense he paid out of pocket to rig an opinion poll in Trump’s favor when he had spent only $20,000.


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