Trump Trial: Judge and Witness Disagree Over Question Limits


NEW YORK Judge Juan Merchan became irate at a witness Donald Trump’s defense team brought in to testify in the former president’s hush money trial on Monday, claiming the witness was reacting inappropriately to the judge’s decisions.

Merchan pointed out that Robert Costello said “geez” in response to one of the judge’s rulings and that Costello offered to strike his own response from the record. Merchan said he also noticed Costello roll his eyes and give him “side eye” at one point.

“As a witness on the stand, you don’t say ‘geez.’ … You don’t give me side eye,” Merchan said.

Merchan then abruptly yelled, “Clear the courtroom!” It was unclear exactly what prompted Merchan’s outrage, but after a few minutes of Merchan talking alone with the witness and attorneys, the trial resumed and the jury returned.

Trump attorney Emil Bove led the questioning of Costello, a New York-based attorney of five decades who once advised Michael Cohen.

Costello’s reactions of exasperation at Merchan had been prompted by the judge sustaining repeated objections from the prosecution. Merchan also at one point admonished Costello for elaborating too much in his responses and struck some of them from the record.

Bove initially asked to call Costello to counter testimony from Cohen. Cohen said while testifying in the trial last week that Costello advised him for a couple of months beginning in April 2018, just as the Department of Justice was beginning to prosecute Cohen. Cohen claimed from the witness stand that Costello, who had ties to Trump through Trump’s then-attorney Rudy Giuliani, had dangled a pardon in front of Cohen at the time and pressured him not to implicate Trump.

Bove told Merchan he wanted Costello to have an opportunity to dispute this point, but prosecutors claimed that a witness attempting to discredit another witness was against the rules, and they objected to Costello testifying at all.

Merchan partly denied prosecutors’ request. The judge allowed Costello to testify, but only under severely limited terms, resulting in Bove continuously running into roadblocks as he attempted to question Costello about his experiences with Cohen.

While Costello could say little during the trial, he also testified last week before the House Judiciary Committee and excoriated Cohen for allegedly perjuring himself.

“I read Michael Cohen’s testimony from yesterday’s trial in New York on the way down on the train, and virtually every statement he made about me is another lie,” Costello told the committee.

One point Costello made to the committee that he was also able to make to jurors on Monday was that he recalled Cohen saying he had no evidence Trump did anything wrong.

“Michael Cohen said numerous times that President Trump knew nothing about those payments, that he did this on his own,” Costello said. “And he repeated that numerous times.”

Costello’s testimony centered largely on the first meeting he had with Cohen, which took place on April 17, 2018, at the Loews Regency Hotel in Manhattan.

Costello emphasized how nervous and “manic” Cohen appeared. He said he told Cohen that if Cohen had any negative information about Trump, he should bring it forward to the DOJ to help his prospects of avoiding prison. Costello’s testimony suggested Cohen would have said he had damning information about Trump at that point if he truly had any.

Ashley Oliver
Ashley Oliver
Ashley Oliver is a Justice Department reporter. She previously covered Congress and campaigns for Breitbart News. Originally from Fredericksburg, Virginia, she graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in classics and philosophy before spending six years in Massachusetts working in the real estate industry.

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