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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Cameron Joseph

Trump’s criminal trial wraps up testimony

Small courtroom with table at front. People are mostly white men in suits.
Donald Trump (middle) at Manhattan criminal court in New York City, on 21 May 2024. Photograph: Mark Peterson/AFP/Getty Images

On the docket: ‘The defense rests’

On Tuesday, more than a month after former president Donald Trump’s criminal hush-money trial began, both sides wrapped up their questioning of the final witness. The testimony part of the trial is officially over.

All that’s left now is for both sides to make their closing arguments, for Judge Juan Merchan to give the jury their instructions, and for the 12 jurors to determine whether Trump should be convicted of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Trump’s team rested their defense, as expected, without calling their client to testify.

Donald Trump Jr defended his dad’s decision in a press gaggle outside the courthouse. “Why would you justify this insanity? You don’t subject yourself to that. You’re going in a kangaroo court, nothing more nothing less,” he said.

Merchan let the jury go for the week late Tuesday morning and told them to return next Tuesday, 28 May, after Memorial Day weekend, to hear closing arguments.

“At that time, you will hear summations of the attorneys. And the next day, you will hear my jury charge and then I expect you will begin your deliberations at some point on Wednesday,” he told them.

Attorneys on both sides returned Tuesday afternoon to haggle over what Merchan’s jury instructions will look like.

It’s unclear how long the jury will take to deliver a verdict.

Here’s what happened on the final real day of Trump’s trial:

Trump’s entourage kept growing bigger and weirder.

Republican lawmakers and other hangers-on have rushed to be by Trump’s side in the final weeks of his trial. Past cameos came from House speaker Mike Johnson and veepstakes hopefuls like JD Vance and Vivek Ramaswamy. But Tuesday’s list was the longest and strangest yet. The group included nine current and former Republican lawmakers, as well as former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, who earlier this week said officials who’d prosecuted Trump, his former aides and January 6 insurrectionists “must be charged for abuse of power under the color of law”; former Hells Angels New York president Chuck Zito; and has-been former Saturday Night Live staffer turned conservative activist Joe Piscopo.

The trial wrapped up with cross-examination of Robert Costello.

Former Trump fixer and attorney Michael Cohen had described Costello as a close ally of the Trump adviser and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani who Trump’s team had sent to be Cohen’s attorney in order to keep him “in the fold” after Cohen was raided by the FBI. Trump’s team brought in Costello to dispute this, but after some rocky and raucous Monday testimony, Costello faced cross-examination from prosecutors on Tuesday, who confronted him with the plain language he emailed to Cohen at the time. It included the line: “Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places.” Costello also emailed his partner: “Our issue is to get Cohen on the right page without giving him the appearance that we are following instructions from Giuliani or the President.”

Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors argued over what instructions Merchan will give jurors next week.

Merchan, who will make the final call on his jury instructions, held an afternoon session to hear out requests and complaints from both sides. That included debates on exactly what verbiage he’d use in discussing the specific crimes Trump is charged with and how he’d describe the laws that Trump is accused of violating. He rejected requests from Trump’s lawyers that he offer instructions to the jury that hush-money payments aren’t inherently illegal and regarding political bias against Trump.

In other news

Rudy Giuliani; the Republican National Committee senior counsel for “election integrity” Christina Bobb; and nine Arizonans who served as fake Trump electors in 2020 pleaded not guilty to criminal charges on Tuesday. Giuliani, who’d spent weeks ducking getting served his subpoena, was the only one of the group ordered to post bond ahead of his next appearance; he’ll have to pony up $10,000 as assurance that he’ll show up for booking within the next 30 days.

Other defendants are expected to be arraigned next month, including Trump attorney and adviser Boris Epshsteyn, who has been at his boss’s side for much of Trump’s New York trial including on Tuesday, and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Eighteen Trump allies were charged; Trump himself is listed as “unindicted co-conspirator 1” in the case.

• A newly unsealed filing in Trump’s Florida classified documents criminal case shows that there were more classified documents discovered at Mar-a-Lago even after the FBI searched Trump’s property in 2023, confirming a 2023 scoop from the Guardian’s Hugo Lowell. This filing came before a Wednesday hearing where Trump aide Walt Nauta will seek to have the charges against him dismissed.

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