Trump trial live updates as defense witness Robert Costello returns to the stand


The main witness in former President Donald Trump’s defense is back on the stand on Tuesday, one day after he got a harsh dressing down from the judge overseeing the “hush money” trial.

The testimony by attorney Robert Costello is aimed at discrediting the prosecution’s star witness, Michael Cohen, who wrapped up his own time on the stand Monday. Costello said he met and spoke with Cohen many times beginning in April 2018, after Cohen had his home and office searched by FBI agents.

Costello told jurors that Cohen told him Trump “knew nothing” about the $130,000 payment that Cohen made to the adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016. In exchange for the money, Daniels agreed to remain quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump years earlier. Cohen put up the money himself, and testified that Trump knew of a plan to falsely disguise the purpose of payments reimbursing him. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies Daniels’ claim.

But Costello’s testimony was overshadowed by a confrontation with the judge, Juan Merchan, who angrily castigated him over his behavior on the stand. 

Costello interjected several times — saying “geez” and “strike that” — after Merchan sustained prosecutors’ objections to questions. The judge ordered the jury removed from the room so he could remind Costello about “decorum” in his court. 

Costello stared at Merchan, and the judge erupted. He ordered members of the gallery, most of whom were press, to clear the courtroom as well. A transcript released later revealed what unfolded behind closed doors.

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

Costello said he understood, and asked if he could speak. 

“No. No. This is not a conversation,” the judge replied.

Costello is set to return to the stand to kick things off Tuesday morning.

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