Michael Cohen on deck as Trump prosecutors say they could rest case next week


Madeleine Westerhout, a former Trump executive assistant, departs Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on May 9, 2024.

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Prosecutors said Friday that they plan to call only two more witnesses in Donald Trump’s criminal trial, and they could rest their case by the end of next week.

One of those final two witnesses will be Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who is reportedly expected to begin testifying Monday.

Cohen’s late-2016 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels is at the heart of the historic trial in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Late in the day, Trump’s attorneys complained to Judge Juan Merchan that Cohen is regularly insulting his former boss on social media, but the ex-president is prohibited from responding because of a gag order that bars Trump from talking about witnesses in the trial.

“It’s becoming a problem every single day that President Trump is not allowed to respond,” defense lawyer Todd Blanche told Judge Juan Merchan after the jury left for the day.

Lead prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said the District Attorney’s office has asked Cohen and other witnesses not to speak about the ongoing trial. But ultimately, they cannot control the witnesses’ speech.

Merchan told the prosecutors to explain to Cohen that the judge is asking him to refrain from publicly discussing the case. Steinglass said he would convey the message to Cohen.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump walks to speak to the press at the end of the day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 9, 2024.

Angela Weiss | Via Reuters

Merchan already rejected a request by Trump on Thursday to revise the gag order so the former president could publicly attack porn star Stormy Daniels after she finished testifying.

“My concern is protecting the integrity of the proceedings as a whole,” Merchan said, explaining his rationale for refusing the request.

Merchan has already held Trump in contempt of court 10 times for violating the gag order.

Trump’s Oval Office calls and schedules

Friday’s testimony featured Madeleine Westerhout, a former top Oval Office operations aide who had an up-close view of how Trump operated in the White House.

Westerhout testified that Trump was “very upset” when the $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels first became a major news story in 2018.

“The whole situation was very unpleasant,” Westerhout said during cross-examination by an attorney for Trump.

Westerhout said she spoke with Trump at that time about Daniels, who says she had sex with Trump in 2006 at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.

Trump “was very upset about it,” Westerhout recalled.

Read more about Trump’s hush money trial

My understanding is that he knew it would be hurtful to his family,” she said. Trump was married to his wife, Melania Trump, at the time the alleged one-night stand occurred.

Defense attorneys have tried to undermine the prosecution’s argument in the case, saying that the hush money payment to Daniels was meant to help Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

They argue that Trump was also concerned about how the sex story would affect his wife and children.

On Thursday, Westerhout testified about Trump’s work habits in the White House, and she confirmed a list of high-profile contacts that was compiled for Trump in 2017. The contact list included “SNL” producer Lorne Michaels, NFL quarterback Tom Brady and tennis great Serena Williams.

Also listed were ex-tabloid publisher David Pecker and Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. The two men are at the center of Manhattan prosecutors’ case, in which Trump is charged with falsifying business records about hush money payments as part of a scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Westerhout painted a flattering portrait of Trump, praising his work ethic and his relationship with his wife. She cried while describing how she was fired from her job in 2019 after criticizing members of Trump’s family at a dinner with reporters.

Her portrayal of Trump as a devoted husband cut sharply against the testimony of Daniels, who graphically detailed her sexual encounter with Trump over seven hours of testimony on Thursday.

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