Former President Donald Trump, standing with attorney Todd Blanche, speaks to...

Former President Donald Trump, standing with attorney Todd Blanche, speaks to the media Tuesday outside his Manhattan trial.

  Credit: Pool/AFP via Getty Images/Mark Peterson

After five weeks of testimony, 20 witnesses and more than 200 documents and photos entered into evidence, prosecutors rested their case this week against former President Donald Trump in his hush money criminal trial at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse.

Trump’s legal team took a shorter route to resting — calling only two witnesses and opting not to call Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, to testify.

Jurors will reconvene Tuesday to hear closing arguments. The case centers on charges that Trump falsified business documents to cover up an alleged hush money payment his former personal attorney Michael Cohen made on his behalf to porn actor Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges and denies allegations of an affair.

Legal experts say Trump’s defense lawyers likely kept their witness list short by design, noting that the burden of proving Trump guilty beyond a reasonable doubt lies with the prosecution.

“A major question for any defense attorney is whether to put on a defense and, if so, how much of a defense to put on,” said Lance Fletcher, a Manhattan criminal defense attorney.

“This is because the defendant is presumed innocent, and the prosecution must prove everything beyond a reasonable doubt,” Fletcher told Newsday. “If the defense attorney puts on a case, it might make it seem like the defense has something to prove, which it does not. It also might tend to shift the burden of proof in the juror’s mind.”

Here are takeaways from the sixth week of Trump’s trial:

Trump’s lawyers continued their effort to undercut Cohen’s credibility, hammering at an admission that he stole $30,000 from The Trump Organization.

Cohen testified he paid a tech firm, Red Finch, $20,000 to rig online polls in Trump’s favor before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen sought $50,000 in reimbursement from The Trump Organization — the amount initially promised to Red Finch — and Cohen pocketed the remaining $30,000.

“You stole from the Trump Organization?” Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked.

“Yes,” Cohen replied.

The admission was not new — prosecutors had questioned Cohen about the reimbursement earlier in the trial — but at the time Cohen cast it as a move made in anger after his year-end bonus was cut from $150,000 to $50,000.

“I just felt like it was almost like self-help. I wasn’t going to let him [Trump] have the benefit this way,” Cohen told prosecutor Susan Hoffinger.

Fletcher, a former Manhattan prosecutor, said prosecutors long ago established for jurors that Cohen had character flaws, so hearing him confess to stealing from the company may not have been “too much of a shock” to the jury.

“The jury was expecting Cohen to be a mess,” Fletcher said, noting that “much of Cohen‘s testimony was corroborated by other, seemingly more honest witnesses.”

Randy Zelin, a criminal defense attorney and Cornell Law School professor, told Newsday the business theft aids Trump’s case by demonstrating Cohen had the capacity to go “rogue” and act without Trump’s knowledge.

“It shows that Michael Cohen could get over on the former president, he could do things without the former president,” Zelin said. “And that's the entire defense in this case — which is that Michael Cohen went rogue” and paid Daniels “on his own, in an effort to curry favor with the former president.”

Trump’s legal team decided against putting the former president and GOP presidential candidate on the stand to testify in his defense.

For weeks, Trump had told reporters he wanted to testify to clear his name, but legal experts said such a move would have opened him to intense cross examination by prosecutors.

“For him to take the stand and risk a bad cross examination, it would have been the epitome of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” Zelin said.

Trump testified in January in a personal defamation lawsuit brought against him by former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll. During his three minutes of testimony, Trump violated the judge's rules about what he could say on the stand. The jury ruled for Carroll, ordering Trump to pay her $83 million in damages. He is appealing the ruling.

One of the most contentious exchanges in the trial came Monday when the defense called attorney Robert Costello as a witness.

Costello, a Trump ally who also represented former Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, advised Cohen for a brief period after an FBI raid on his office and home in 2018.

Costello testified that Cohen told him Trump had no role in the payment to Stormy Daniels. But Cohen had testified previously he had not been forthright with Costello out of concern Costello was reporting back to Giuliani and Trump.

Costello’s conduct on the stand — continuing to speak after Judge Juan Merchan had sustained objections to his testimony — prompted Merchan to make the rare move of clearing the jury and reporters from the courtroom in order to scold Costello.

“I’m putting you on notice that your conduct is contemptuous,” Merchan said, according to a court transcript. “If you try to stare me down one more time, I will remove you from the stand.”

Cohen’s personal attorney, Danya Perry, appearing on CNN, said Costello’s behavior buttressed Cohen’s testimony that he viewed Costello as untrustworthy.

“I certainly thought it bolstered Michael’s testimony that he never trusted this guy, and I think the jury saw in full force why he didn’t,” Perry said.

Closing arguments will begin Tuesday, giving prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers a final chance to make their case to jurors.

Merchan could instruct jurors on the legal parameters of the case as early as Tuesday afternoon, before they begin deliberating.

Zelin said it could help Trump’s defense that Merchan waited to schedule closing arguments after Memorial Day rather than continue with proceedings just before the holiday.

“I have experienced times where jurors are deliberating and there is a holiday coming up — they don't want to come back after the holiday, and as a result, they will rush a decision,” Zelin said.

After five weeks of testimony, 20 witnesses and more than 200 documents and photos entered into evidence, prosecutors rested their case this week against former President Donald Trump in his hush money criminal trial at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse.

Trump’s legal team took a shorter route to resting — calling only two witnesses and opting not to call Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, to testify.

Jurors will reconvene Tuesday to hear closing arguments. The case centers on charges that Trump falsified business documents to cover up an alleged hush money payment his former personal attorney Michael Cohen made on his behalf to porn actor Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges and denies allegations of an affair.

Legal experts say Trump’s defense lawyers likely kept their witness list short by design, noting that the burden of proving Trump guilty beyond a reasonable doubt lies with the prosecution.

“A major question for any defense attorney is whether to put on a defense and, if so, how much of a defense to put on,” said Lance Fletcher, a Manhattan criminal defense attorney.

“This is because the defendant is presumed innocent, and the prosecution must prove everything beyond a reasonable doubt,” Fletcher told Newsday. “If the defense attorney puts on a case, it might make it seem like the defense has something to prove, which it does not. It also might tend to shift the burden of proof in the juror’s mind.”

Here are takeaways from the sixth week of Trump’s trial:

Cohen admits stealing

Trump’s lawyers continued their effort to undercut Cohen’s credibility, hammering at an admission that he stole $30,000 from The Trump Organization.

Cohen testified he paid a tech firm, Red Finch, $20,000 to rig online polls in Trump’s favor before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen sought $50,000 in reimbursement from The Trump Organization — the amount initially promised to Red Finch — and Cohen pocketed the remaining $30,000.

“You stole from the Trump Organization?” Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked.

“Yes,” Cohen replied.

The admission was not new — prosecutors had questioned Cohen about the reimbursement earlier in the trial — but at the time Cohen cast it as a move made in anger after his year-end bonus was cut from $150,000 to $50,000.

“I just felt like it was almost like self-help. I wasn’t going to let him [Trump] have the benefit this way,” Cohen told prosecutor Susan Hoffinger.

Fletcher, a former Manhattan prosecutor, said prosecutors long ago established for jurors that Cohen had character flaws, so hearing him confess to stealing from the company may not have been “too much of a shock” to the jury.

“The jury was expecting Cohen to be a mess,” Fletcher said, noting that “much of Cohen‘s testimony was corroborated by other, seemingly more honest witnesses.”

Randy Zelin, a criminal defense attorney and Cornell Law School professor, told Newsday the business theft aids Trump’s case by demonstrating Cohen had the capacity to go “rogue” and act without Trump’s knowledge.

“It shows that Michael Cohen could get over on the former president, he could do things without the former president,” Zelin said. “And that's the entire defense in this case — which is that Michael Cohen went rogue” and paid Daniels “on his own, in an effort to curry favor with the former president.”

No Trump testimony

Trump’s legal team decided against putting the former president and GOP presidential candidate on the stand to testify in his defense.

For weeks, Trump had told reporters he wanted to testify to clear his name, but legal experts said such a move would have opened him to intense cross examination by prosecutors.

“For him to take the stand and risk a bad cross examination, it would have been the epitome of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” Zelin said.

Trump testified in January in a personal defamation lawsuit brought against him by former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll. During his three minutes of testimony, Trump violated the judge's rules about what he could say on the stand. The jury ruled for Carroll, ordering Trump to pay her $83 million in damages. He is appealing the ruling.

Disorder in the court

One of the most contentious exchanges in the trial came Monday when the defense called attorney Robert Costello as a witness.

Costello, a Trump ally who also represented former Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, advised Cohen for a brief period after an FBI raid on his office and home in 2018.

Costello testified that Cohen told him Trump had no role in the payment to Stormy Daniels. But Cohen had testified previously he had not been forthright with Costello out of concern Costello was reporting back to Giuliani and Trump.

Costello’s conduct on the stand — continuing to speak after Judge Juan Merchan had sustained objections to his testimony — prompted Merchan to make the rare move of clearing the jury and reporters from the courtroom in order to scold Costello.

“I’m putting you on notice that your conduct is contemptuous,” Merchan said, according to a court transcript. “If you try to stare me down one more time, I will remove you from the stand.”

Cohen’s personal attorney, Danya Perry, appearing on CNN, said Costello’s behavior buttressed Cohen’s testimony that he viewed Costello as untrustworthy.

“I certainly thought it bolstered Michael’s testimony that he never trusted this guy, and I think the jury saw in full force why he didn’t,” Perry said.

What’s next

Closing arguments will begin Tuesday, giving prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers a final chance to make their case to jurors.

Merchan could instruct jurors on the legal parameters of the case as early as Tuesday afternoon, before they begin deliberating.

Zelin said it could help Trump’s defense that Merchan waited to schedule closing arguments after Memorial Day rather than continue with proceedings just before the holiday.

“I have experienced times where jurors are deliberating and there is a holiday coming up — they don't want to come back after the holiday, and as a result, they will rush a decision,” Zelin said.

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