‘I don’t get rest’: Donald Trump decides not to take stand in hush money trial

'I don't get rest': Donald Trump decides not to take stand in hush money trial

Donald Trump did not take the stand in his hush money trial, as jurors could start deliberating on whether or not he is guilty next week.

Mr Trump, 77, is accused of falsifying business records over hush money payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels in the lead-up to his 2016 presidential campaign.

But on day 20 of the trial, the former president’s defence rested without calling him to the stand. Instead, former federal prosecutor Robert Costello was called as the final witness.

Follow latest: Defence rests case without calling Trump

Judge Juan Merchan said he expects closing arguments to happen on 28 May. Jurors have been dismissed until then, and could begin deliberating as soon as next week to decide whether or not Trump is guilty.

Ever since the outset of the trial in April, Trump had asserted he would testify in his own defence despite it being uncommon for defendants to do so.

‘[Testfying] just would have been folly for the defence team,’ Trump said on Tuesday. Pic: Reuters

The former president also falsely claimed a gag order placed on him by judge Merchan prevented him from speaking in court.

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‘We’ll be resting pretty quickly’

Sky News’ US correspondent James Matthews also heard Trump tell reporters ahead of Tuesday’s proceedings: “We’ll be resting pretty quickly. I won’t be resting.

“I don’t rest, I’d like to rest sometimes but I don’t get to rest.”

Analysis: Verdict could be in by the end of next week – but still one big question to answer first

Looking at the timetable, we could have a verdict by the end of next week. With the prosecution and defence having rested, the court has begun to contemplate the case’s conclusion.

Tuesday has seen discussions over the instructions the judge will give the jury when its 12 members are sent to consider a verdict.

Prosecutors brought this case to court as the deliberate falsification of business records, a misdemeanour. That’s elevated to a felony if they can prove it was an act intended to conceal information from voters that could have impacted on his chances at the 2016 election.

The exact crime in question will crystallise in discussions between the judge, prosecution, and defence. A three-way courtroom conference will shape the instructions given to the jury, a last job for the judge next week before he sends them to deliberate.

It is the business of criminal prosecution, the nuts and bolts of American justice that underpin this process. As things stand, closing arguments (summations) could begin next Tuesday, with the jury being sent out soon after.

Witness-wise, it was deprived of a big finish when Donald Trump declined to give testimony, as he had said he would.

“We’ll be resting pretty quickly,” he said. “I won’t be resting. I don’t rest. I’d like to rest sometimes, but I don’t get to rest.”

It was a statement for the cameras in the court building corridor. The rest is history, like everything else in this most significant trial.

The prosecution alleges the former president tried to cover up a $130,000 payment to Ms Daniels, who told the court she had a “sexual encounter” with Trump at a celebrity golf outing in Lake Tahoe in July 2006.

Stormy Daniels is questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger.
Pic Reuters
Trump is accused of falsifying business records over hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. Pic: Reuters

Though the hush money payment itself is not illegal, the former president faces 34 counts of falsifying business records to hide his reimbursement to his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who initially paid for the transaction.

Cohen testified that a number of invoices, cheques and stubs were false records made to cover payments to Ms Daniels, and said none of them were for work carried out in the months to which they corresponded.

Trump has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers say there was nothing criminal about the Daniels deal or the way Cohen was paid.

Cohen lied under oath

The former president’s defence have also attempted to discredit Mr Cohen, who admitted during the trial that he lied under oath.

Defence lawyer Todd Blanche said on Monday: “There is no way that the court should let this case go to the jury relying on Cohen’s testimony.”

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Michael Cohen  leaves home to testify in Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York.
Pic Reuters
Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified a number of invoices, cheques and stubs were false records. Pic: Reuters

Trump’s lawyers also moved to have judge Merchan dismiss the case before jury deliberations, arguing there was no evidence that Trump had committed the crimes.

The judge did not immediately rule on the request by the defence.

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And speaking outside the courtroom after the defence rested, Donald Trump Jr defended his father’s choice to not testify and repeated claims that the trial is politically motivated.

“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.

“There’s absolutely no reason or justification to do that whatsoever. Everyone sees it for the sham that it is.”