Trump Declines to Testify as Defense Concludes in Hush Money Trial

Trump's legal strategy shifts in high-profile hush money case.

by Nouman Rasool
Trump Declines to Testify as Defense Concludes in Hush Money Trial
© Mark Peterson - Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump announced to the court that he will not testify in his criminal trial over a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. The decision follows his defense team's resting of its case and flies in the face of dire warnings from legal experts that such a maneuver could tarnish his defense.

Trump's legal team, led by attorney Todd Blanche, had earlier stated that a decision on whether Trump would testify had not been made. Trump himself had initially expressed a strong desire to testify, proclaiming to reporters at the start of the trial that he intended to speak the truth, which he believed demonstrated the absence of a legitimate case against him.

However, his stance became more reserved following an April 26 interview with Newsmax where he mentioned he would only testify if deemed necessary.

Trump Heeds Legal Advice

Despite his previous eagerness, Trump's lawyer outside of this case, Alina Habba, informed Fox News that while Trump was inclined to testify, he ultimately decided to heed the advice of his legal counsel.

As a result, attorney Robert Costello was the last to testify for the defense, attempting to discredit claims made by Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, who linked Trump to the payments made to Daniels. The court has scheduled closing arguments for May 28, following the Memorial Day weekend, as per Judge Juan Merchan's directive.

This timeline suggests a considerable wait before the trial progresses further, providing both sides additional time to prepare. Legal commentators have consistently advised against Trump testifying, with some like attorney Norm Eisen labeling such a move as judicial "suicide" on CNN.

Historically, criminal defendants often choose not to testify due to the inherent risks, and this decision cannot be used against them by the jury. Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying bank records related to the $130,000 payment made by Cohen to Daniels ahead of the 2016 election, purportedly to silence allegations of an affair, a claim Trump denies.

The checks, totaling $420,000 with taxes covered, were reportedly misrepresented as legal expenses, a point Trump contests. Throughout the trial, Cohen testified that Trump was fully aware of and sanctioned the payments, a claim Trump and his defense vehemently deny.

Observers have noted Trump's presence in court throughout the trial, a requirement due to his status as the defendant, though there have been reports of him appearing disengaged at times.