NY v. Trump: Judge considers defense motion to dismiss after prosecution drops case

Judge Juan Merchan could rule Tuesday morning on Trump's lawyers' request to dismiss the case against the former president entirely after the prosecution dropped its case following days of testimony from star witness Michael Cohen.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with 34 counts of first-degree falsifying corporate records. Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump falsified company records 34 times to conceal a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, a pornographic performer, in the run-up to the 2016 election to silence her about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.

Trump has denied guilt on all charges and maintains his innocence.

This courtroom sketch shows Michael Cohen being questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger during former President Trump's criminal trial in New York City on May 20, 2024. (Reuters/Jane Rosenberg)

TRUMP KILLS DOWN THE NY COURT SYSTEM, DECLARES HE'S 'GOING TO WIN' THE EMPIRE STATE

After the fourth day of Michael Cohen's testimony was over, the prosecution rested its case and Trump's lawyers called two of their own witnesses.

At the end of the day's hearing, Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked for an immediate dismissal order, saying there is “no evidence” that the records or business documents at the center of the case were false , that there are “absolutely no false corporate filings.”

Blanche said there is no doubt that Cohen acted as Trump's personal attorney in 2017 and that there is no evidence or intent by Trump to deceive, conceal or falsify company records.

Donald Trump/Michael Cohen

Donald Trump and Michael Cohen (Getty Images)

Blanche said there would be records of intent to commit fraud, if it existed, and that no other crimes were being covered up. He said there was no evidence that campaign finance costs were on anyone's mind when the payment was made to Stormy Daniels or when Cohen and then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg developed the repayment plan.

Blanche said Trump paid Cohen a “monthly retainer” of $35,000, as stated in the documents, and that there is no evidence from any witness to prove any criminal intent.

Reflecting on the prosecution's case, Blanche pointed to the alleged “catch and kill” strategy used to prevent a Trump Tower doorman's “demonstrably false” story about Trump from being published.

“How on earth is it possible to keep a false story criminal in front of the voters?” Blanche asked, adding that it was “not a catch and kill and certainly not a criminal catch and kill.”

NY V TRUMP: MICHAEL COHEN ADMITS TO STEALING THOUSANDS FROM THE FORMER PRESIDENT'S COMPANIES

“There is no way the court will let this case go to the jury with Mr. Cohen's testimony,” Blanche said, adding that Cohen has lied under oath in the past and during the current criminal trial in Merchan's courtroom.

Merchan asked Blanche whether he should “find Mr. Cohen not legally credible,” to which Blanche said “yes.”

“So you want me to take it out of the jury's hands?” Merchan asked, to which Blanche responded that Cohen's entire testimony should not be considered by the jury.

Merchan told Blanche that if Cohen's “lies” were “irrefutable,” he could convince the jury of that.

Michael Cohen is asked if he took an oath while being questioned by lawyer Todd Blanche during former US President Donald Trump's criminal trial

Michael Cohen is questioned by attorney Todd Blanche during former President Trump's criminal trial in New York City on May 16, 2024, as shown in this courtroom sketch. (Reuters/Jane Rosenberg)

The prosecutor then argued that under New York State's statute against falsifying corporate records, anyone who “causes” the falsification of records can be punished.

“As a matter of law, it is sufficient, more than sufficient, that the defendant initiated the chain of events that led to the falsification of company records,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo argued.

Merchan said he would reserve a ruling on whether to dismiss the case before the jury can deliberate.

Before the afternoon development, Trump's lawyers continued Monday to cross-examine Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and self-described “fixer,” who testified that he stole $30,000 from the Trump Organization.

Cohen said the move was “almost like self-help” because he was “angry” about having his bonus cut.

Cohen testified that he had to pay the $30,000 he withdrew from the bank to a technology company, Red Finch, in addition to the $20,000 he had already paid to them. Instead, he failed to make the payment, collected the $30,000 for himself and led the Trump Organization to believe he had paid the total.

Prosecutors then briefly questioned Cohen via referral, where he said he had “over 20” conversations with Trump about Stormy Daniels in 2016 and that Trump had “undoubtedly” signed off on the hush money payment for Daniels.

NY V TRUMP: MICHAEL COHEN TESTIFIES HE IS CONSIDERING CONGRESSIONAL RUN

Cohen has stated that he personally made the $130,000 payment to Daniels using a home equity line of credit, in an attempt to conceal the payment from his wife. Cohen said he did this because Trump told him to “handle it” and prevent a negative story from emerging ahead of the 2016 election.

Cohen testified that he “repaid $420,000” for the $130,000 he paid to Daniels. Cohen said Weisselberg suggested he “grossed up” the payments and that Trump knew the details of that reimbursement.

Last week, prosecutors presented Cohen with 11 checks totaling $420,000. Cohen confirmed that they have all been received and deposited. The checks were labeled “retainer,” which Cohen said was false.

But on Monday, the prosecutor dropped his case against the former president.

Trump's lawyers have called two witnesses: paralegal Daniel Sitko and former legal adviser to Michael Cohen, Robert Costello.

Sitko testified that Cohen and Costello had 75 phone calls in which Cohen told Costello that Trump knew nothing about the payment to Stormy Daniels.

Judge Juan Merchan presides as Michael Cohen is questioned by defense attorney Todd Blanche during the criminal trial of former US President Donald Trump

This courtroom sketch shows Chairman Juan Merchan during former President Trump's criminal trial in New York City on May 14, 2024. (Reuters/Jane Rosenberg)

Costello took the stand, testifying that Cohen told him “several times” that Trump knew nothing about the payments, and recalled Cohen telling him, “I swear to God, Bob, I have nothing on Donald Trump.”

Earlier in the day, Cohen recalled telling numerous people that Trump knew nothing about the payment.

COHEN'S BOMBSHELL ADMISSION COULD LEAD TO HANGED JURY, IF NOT ACQUITTED: EXPERT

But during his testimony, Costello clashed with Merchan. Costello reacted audibly and visibly disapprovingly when Merchan raised several prosecutorial objections regarding his testimony about Cohen.

“I'm sorry?” Merchan said to Costello after one response before leaving the courtroom.

“I want to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom,” Merchan said after the jury left. “You don't say hit it because I'm the only one who can hit it.”

Merchan instructed Costello, a former federal prosecutor, not to respond, roll his eyes or react in any way to his statements.

Before the jury returned to the courtroom, Costello looked at Merchan, prompting the judge to ask, “Are you staring at me?”

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Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger conducted Costello's cross-examination. She said she had about 45 minutes left for questioning.

The defense said they will not call any other witnesses, indicating that Trump will not act in his own defense.

Closing arguments are currently scheduled for next Tuesday.

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