Trump appears frustrated in court while possible Cohen testimony looms

by 24britishtvMay 10, 2024, 11 p.m. 27
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Donald Trump arrived at the courtroom for his hush-money criminal trial on Friday, with apparent frustration, after sitting through two days of testimony from the adult film actor Stormy Daniels, who provided a detailed account of an alleged sexual liaison with him some 20 years ago.

The drama driven by their made-for-tabloid courtroom confrontation might soon be overshadowed, however, by another showdown. Michael Cohen, Trump’s consigliere-turned-key prosecution witness, might take the stand on Monday – promising still more angst for him.

This morning, the seemingly irked Trump carried a thin stack of papers in his hand and, after getting to the defense table, dropped them on to the table, so that they landed with a clack that reverberated into the gallery.

Indeed, the ex-president’s demeanor in the hallway suggested that his mood had soured since Daniels provided embarrassing details about their alleged sexual encounter, among them his seeming obsession with STIs juxtaposed with his decision not to use protection.

In the hallway outside Judge Juan Merchan’s courtroom, Trump ignored reporters’ queries about whether he would take up Daniels on her challenge to testify in his own defense. And, as Trump is wont to do, he played the victim, complaining about a gag order that prohibits him from commenting about witnesses.

“Certain words I’m not allowed to read,” Trump said, reading from news articles, the pool report said of Trump’s comments. “If I put one wrong word in, they’re gonna put me in jail.”

“They don’t like it when I talk during the day because they don’t want me talking at all,” Trump reportedly ranted, saying Thursday was “incredible” and calling the proceedings “so horrible”.

Trump, according to the poolers, also reportedly said: “I’ll go now and sit in that freezing courtroom for eight or nine hours and think about being on the campaign all day.”

Still more evidence that Daniels’s testimony struck a nerve with Trump was the defense attorney Susan Necheles’s cross-examination on Friday morning of Madeleine Westerhout, his former executive assistant and director of Oval Office operations in the White House.

She asked Westerhout whether she recalled being at the White House when news about Trump and Daniels’s alleged fling came to light.

“Did you have a conversation with President Trump about that?”

“Uh, yes I did,” she said.

Necheles asked: “What was your impression of his reaction to the news?”

“That he was very upset by it,” Westerhout said. Asked why Trump was upset, Westerhout said: “In my understanding he knew it would be hurtful to his family.”

Necheles asked whether this was based on what Trump had said to her. Westerhout reflected that, “I don’t believe he specifically said that, but I could just tell that the whole situation was very unpleasant.”

Not long after, Necheles tried to suggest on re-cross that Trump’s relationship to the Daniels scandal was always related to his family, not political embarrassment. “Just to reiterate, President Trump was very close to his family, right?” The question prompted an objection, and Westerhout did not answer.

When Westerhout was done testifying, she raised her eyebrows at Trump as she was leaving the courtroom, in a sort of greeting. Several custodial witnesses – who testified about phone records and Trump’s social media posts – followed.

As proceedings progressed, some of Trump’s affects suggested that whatever energy he had derived from pre-trial agitation had waned. At points during Westerhout’s testimony, for example, he could be seen slouching, eyes down, head slightly lolling side-to-side, suggesting tiredness.

The relationship between Trump and Daniels is central to the origins of the case because Trump’s then lawyer and personal fixer, Cohen, paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about their alleged sexual encounter during the 2016 election campaign.

Daniels’s testimony described their relationship in graphic detail and over lengthy periods of court time, despite the alleged criminal behavior at the heart of the charges being due to the way the payments were accounted for as prosecutors have claimed they were an election expense.

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with the payments and had pleaded not guilty.

After weeks of the trial, Trump’s position in the 2024 election race does not appear to have been affected much by his almost daily attendance at a courtroom in Manhattan or the salacious details that have emerged.

Trump’s criminal hush-money trial: what to know
• None A guide to Trump’s hush-money trial – so far
• None The key arguments prosecutors will use against Trump
• None From Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels: the key players

Trump remains the all-but-certain pick for the Republican party’s presidential nominee to face Joe Biden in the race for the White House. He has continued to perform well in the polls, often having a narrow lead over Biden in head-to-head surveys and performing well in crucial swing states.

The hush-money case is the first of four criminal cases to reach a jury against Trump. The other three have hit serious delays, which could perhaps prevent them from starting before November’s presidential election.

They involve Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election result in Georgia, his keeping of sensitive documents at his Florida resort and his conduct during the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.

In two of those cases – in Georgia and in Florida – other legal developments this week pushed back any likely start dates even further in what many experts see as wins for Trump’s legal team and its strategy of delaying trials until the fight for the Oval Office is finished.

With the Manhattan trial moving at a quick clip, and the other trials seeming unlikely to proceed anytime soon, it seems that he might return to the campaign unimpeded.

As trial wrapped for the week, the prosecution told Merchan: “We expect to call two witnesses and it’s entirely possible that we will rest by the end of next week.”

With additional reporting from Maya Yang and Hugo Lowell

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