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?

ByPeter Charalambous ABCNews logo
May 20, 2024, 11:00 AM GMT

Prosecutors expected to rest their case in Trump hush money trial

Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen will return to the witness stand for the final time before prosecutors rest their case against the former president in Trump's criminal hush money case Monday.

Cohen last week described Trump as being deeply involved in a scheme to hide information from voters ahead of the 2016 election, but a stinging line of cross-examination may have damaged Cohen's overall credibility with the jury.

Prosecutors plan to rest their case Monday morning, and defense attorneys have not yet declared who they plan to call to testify -- including whether Trump will testify in his own defense.

Defense lawyers have suggested they might call Bradley Smith -- an expert on federal campaign finance laws -- and have left the door open to call rebuttal witnesses.

During his cross-examination of Cohen on Thursday, defense attorney Todd Blanche accused him of lying about an alleged phone call with Trump related to the Stormy Daniels' hush money payment.

Cohen testified that on Oct. 24, 2016, he placed a phone call to Trump's security guard Keith Schiller, who passed the phone to Trump so he and Cohen could "discuss the Stormy Daniels matter and the resolution of it."

On Thursday, Blanche presented evidence to suggest that Cohen lied about the purpose of the phone call, arguing that Cohen actually called to complain to Schiller about a teenage prank caller.

Jurors saw text messages between Cohen and the prank caller from the same day as the alleged phone call between Cohen and Trump.

"This number has just been sent to secret service for your ongoing and continuous harassment to both my cell as well as to the organizations main line," Cohen texted the teenager.

"It wasn't me," the 14-year-old prank caller replied. "My friend told me to call."

Jurors also saw text messages between Cohen and Schiller ahead of their phone call at 8:02 p.m.

"Who can I speak to regarding harassing calls to my cell and office. The dope forgot to block his call on one of them," Cohen texted Schiller.

"Call me," Schiller texted Cohen at 8:02 p.m..

When confronted with the alleged inconsistency, Cohen stood by his initial testimony, arguing he spoke to Trump about the hush-money payment in addition to talking to Schiller about the prank caller.

"That was a lie, you did not talk to President Trump on that night, you talked to Keith Schiller about what we just went through; you can admit it?" Blanche confronted Cohen while raising his voice.

"No, sir, I can't. I am not certain that is accurate," Cohen responded.

While the cross-examination may have broadly damaged Cohen's credibility, the specific phone call emphasized by Blanche was just one of many conversations between Cohen and Trump related to the Daniels' payoff. Cohen testified that he had multiple other phone calls and in-person meetings with Trump -- in both Trump Tower and the Oval Office -- where Cohen claimed they discussed how to approach Stormy Daniels' allegations, the plan for Cohen to make the payment, and the scheme to reimburse Cohen in 2017.

Trump, for his part, has repeatedly signaled his willingness to testify during the trial.

"I would have no problem testifying," Trump told ABC News on March 25. "I didn't do anything wrong."

"I would testify, absolutely," Trump said on April 12. "It's a scam. It's a scam. That's not a trial. That's not a trial. That's a scam."

However, Trump appeared to back away from the idea earlier this month, falsely telling reporters that the limited gag order in the case -- which prohibits extrajudicial statements about witnesses and jurors -- prevents him from testifying.

The next day in court, Judge Juan Merchan directly addressed Trump to clarify that he has an "absolute right" to testify and that the gag order does not apply to his statements in court.

"I want to stress, Mr. Trump, that you have an absolute right to testify at trial, if that is what you decide to do after consultation with your attorneys," Merchan said.

May 16, 2024, 8:55 PM GMT

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.

ABCNews logo
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.