Trump trial updates: Defense rests without Trump taking the stand

Former President Trump did not take the stand in his criminal hush money trial.

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Last updated: Tuesday, May 21, 2024 10:51PM GMT
Defense rests without Trump taking the stand
Donald Trump's lawyers rested their defense Tuesday without the former president taking the witness stand in his New York hush money criminal trial.

NEW YORK -- Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City, where he is facing felony charges related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It marks the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Key Headlines

Here's how the news is developing.
ByNadine El-Bawab ABCNews logo
May 20, 2024, 6:50 PM GMT

What are the potential outcomes of Trump's hush money trial?

Apr 19, 2024, 6:02 PM GMT

Who are the key players?

ABCNews logo
May 21, 2024, 9:07 PM GMT

In final clash, lawyers spar over retainer instructions

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, at the end of the afternoon's pre-charge conference, argued that the jury's instructions should include that retainer agreements are legally required for lawyers to begin conducting work for a client.

Prosecutors have argued that Trump falsified records because he characterized Michael Cohen's hush money reimbursement as legal expenses pursuant to a retainer agreement. Defense lawyers have argued that Cohen was paid by the company for years and never had a retainer agreement with Trump -- or needed to.

"It is in fact the law," Steinglass said about the requirement to have a retainer.

"We don't think that's right, judge," defense attorney Emil Bove responded.

Merchan said he would review the rules before making a decision.

The judge subsequently ended the conference, telling the attorneys he would aim provide them with the final jury instruction by the end of the day Thursday so they can prepare over the weekend, ahead of the jury getting the case next week.

The proceedings will resume on Tuesday morning with summations.

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May 21, 2024, 9:05 PM GMT

Judge denies defense language related to 'advice of counsel'

Judge Merchan flatly told the defense that former President Trump could not make an advice-of-counsel argument.

The judge said the defense was being "disingenuous" by raising it now when Trump was given a deadline months ago to say whether he would invoke the defense that, in his conduct, he was relying on the advice of lawyers.

"It was concerning when notice was not given initially. It was concerning when the term was changed to 'presence of counsel.' I couldn't believe when I saw in your submission, 'involvement of counsel,'" Merchan told the defense regarding their efforts to advance that argument.

"My ruling is the jury will not hear that instruction from the bench, nor are you permitted to make that argument, period," Merchan said.

"I am not being disingenuous with Your Honor," defense attorney Emil Bove said before he attempted to argue in favor of the defense.

"You said that already, Mr. Bove," Merchan said. "This is an argument you have been advancing for many many months. ... It is denied. It is not going to happen."

Trump, at the defense table, scribbled a note and passed it to defense attorney Todd Blanche.

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May 21, 2024, 9:04 PM GMT

I won't 'change the law,' judge sides with prosecution, will not deviate from standard instructions

Following several exchanges focused on minute wording changes and dense legal arguments related to jury instructions, defense attorneys in Donald Trump's hush money case urged the judge to consider the "extraordinarily important" nature of the case when issuing his jury instructions.

The judge, Trump attorney Emil Bove argued, should use his discretion to urge jurors to reach "very specific findings" so that "it's very clear what happened at this trial."

"The importance of the case is not a basis for deviating from the standard instructions on the law," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo shot back.

Judge Juan M. Merchan sided with prosecutors, agreeing that it would be wrong to deviate from the standard instructions, even as he said he understood the defense's larger point.

"When you say it's a very important case, you're asking me to change the law and I'm not going to do that," Merchan said.

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May 21, 2024, 6:46 PM GMT

Discussion of jury instructions begins

Prosecutors and defense lawyers in Donald Trump's hush money trial began delving into the matter of jury instructions Tuesday afternoon during a charging conference.

"Charging conferences" about jury instructions are often highly detailed, word-by-word discussions, and the one for Trump's trial was no different. The conference began with the defense asking to insert the word "willfully" at two points in a section of the instruction having to do with federal election law, and prosecutors saying it was unnecessary.