Trump will not testify in New York hush-money trial as defence rests

Weeks of witness testimony have ended, with closing statements scheduled for next week before jury deliberates.

Former President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, New York. [Mark Peterson/Pool Photo via AP]

More than four weeks of witness testimony in the New York hush-money trial of former United States President Donald Trump have ended with the defence resting its case.

The development on Tuesday means that the trial will be put on pause until next week, when both the prosecution and the defence will give their closing arguments in the case, which is connected to payments allegedly made to an adult film star who said she had a sexual encounter with Trump.

Upon the resumption of the trial, the jury will deliberate on whether Trump is guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

The end of witness testimony in the unprecedented trial also means that Trump will not be called to the witness stand by the defence, despite months of speculation that the bombastic former president might do so.

Since opening arguments began in the Manhattan court on April 22, prosecutors from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office have sought to portray the falsification of business documents as part of a larger, illegal effort to manipulate the 2020 presidential election.

They said that Trump sought to cover up reimbursements to his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Cohen says he made the payment to Daniels in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair that Trump has denied.

For the felony charges to stick, prosecutors must prove that the falsifications were done with the intent to commit another crime. The payments were made in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election, shortly after a damaging video leaked showing Trump brag about grabbing women by their genitals.

The payments, prosecutors said, were part of a wider scheme to stifle negative information about Trump that ran afoul of New York state election and tax law, as well as federal election finance law, prosecutors said.

Trump’s defence has maintained that any payments would have been made in an attempt to protect the former president’s family from embarrassing and harmful information being leaked. They have said Trump is innocent.

For his part, Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential election, has portrayed the trial as a “political witch hunt” and has repeatedly railed against Judge Juan Merchan and several of the witnesses. Early on in the trial, he was fined $9,000 for violating a partial gag order banning him from publicly talking about individuals involved in the trial.

Weeks of testimony offered a window into Trump’s world in the months in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, in which he unexpectedly beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Witnesses in the case included David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid, who detailed entering into an agreement with Trump to stifle negative stories in an effort to help the campaign.

Daniels, born Stephanie Clifford, also testified, detailing the alleged sexual encounter with Trump and how her silence was bought shortly before polls opened.

Former Trump lawyer Cohen took the stand in the final days of the trial, telling jurors that his former boss was directly behind the payments to Daniels and the attempted cover-up. The defence countered that Cohen had an axe to grind against his Trump, and branded him a liar.

The New York trial is only one of four criminal proceedings Trump currently faces. However, it is the only case expected to finish before the presidential election in November.

Prior to Trump, no current or former president had ever been indicted or convicted on felony charges. Nevertheless, a guilty verdict would not preclude Trump from being elected president.

In Georgia, Trump faces a separate state election interference case. Federally, he faces one indictment for attempting to overturn the 2020 election and a second for allegedly hoarding classified documents at his estate in Florida.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies