Trump’s defense rests case in hush money trial without calling Trump as witness

By Thomson Reuters May 21, 2024 | 9:19 AM

NEW YORK – Donald Trump’s defense lawyers on Tuesday rested their case at his criminal trial on charges stemming from hush money paid to a porn star without calling the former U.S. president as a witness.

Taking the stand would have given Trump, the Republican candidate for the Nov. 5 U.S. presidential election, the chance to defend himself against the 34 criminal counts he faces for allegedly falsifying business records.

Prosecutors say he sought to cover up his former lawyer Michael Cohen’s $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels for her silence before the 2016 election about a sexual encounter she says she and Trump had in 2006.

Testifying would have been risky for Trump because it would have opened him up to potentially probing cross-examination from prosecutors.

Trump, 77, has pleaded not guilty and denies having sex with Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford. He said before the trial that he would testify, but his lawyers said last week he had yet to decide whether he would or not.

The first-ever criminal trial of a U.S. president, past or present, is winding down after weeks of witness testimony.

Prosecutors called 20 witnesses, including Cohen, who testified last week that Trump directed him to pay off Daniels and then agreed to reimburse him through a series of phony invoices designed to appear as payments for legal services.

Trump’s lawyers have sought to distance him from the Daniels payment and argued that Cohen was in fact being paid a retainer fee for his work as the then-president’s personal lawyer in 2017.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Howard Goller)