Judge Merchan Stops Trial to Scold Key Trump Defense Witness

Judge Merchan Stops Trial to Scold Key Trump Defense Witness

Tensions ran high during former President Donald Trump’s trial on charges of falsifying business records, but this time, Trump wasn't the target of Judge Juan Merchan’s frustration.

The ire was directed at the defense's key witness.

On Monday, witness Robert Costello took the stand and expressed visible dissatisfaction with rulings that prevented the defense from asking specific questions. Judge Merchan quickly put a stop to Costello’s discontent.

Costello's testimony centered on claims that prosecution witness Michael Cohen had told him Trump was unaware of payments to Stormy Daniels, which are central to the case.

“I swear to God, Bob, I don’t have anything on Donald Trump,” Costello quoted Cohen as saying, asserting that Cohen paid Daniels “on his own.”

Cohen has previously claimed he was under a “pressure campaign” by Trump and his allies to cooperate with Costello. Defense attorneys attempted to explore this narrative but were stopped by Merchan.

“I’m not going to allow this to become a trial within a trial about a pressure campaign and how it affected Cohen,” Merchan stated, according to NBC.

After the prosecution objected to one of the defense's questions, Costello audibly sighed, “Jeez!”

“Sorry? I’m sorry?” Merchan retorted.

“Strike it,” Costello responded.

Merchan then reminded Costello that only the judge has the authority to order testimony stricken, according to USA Today.

“Do you understand that?” Merchan asked.

The judge also took issue with Costello’s demeanor.

“Are you staring me down right now?” he demanded.

Merchan then cleared the courtroom of jurors and the media to address Costello about “decorum.”

A transcript published by USA Today revealed Merchan’s reprimand:

“The fact that I had to clear the courtroom and that the court officers, including the Captain, had great difficulty clearing the courtroom, and that there was argument back and forth between the press and including counsel for the press, goes to why I had to clear the courtroom in the first place,” Merchan said.

“And that is, sir, your conduct is contemptuous right now. I’m putting you on notice that your conduct is contemptuous. If you try to stare me down one more time, I will remove you from the stand.

“I will strike his entire testimony; do you understand me?”

“Yes, Judge. I understand,” Emil Bove, a Trump lawyer, replied.

“Listen to the question and answer the question,” Merchan instructed.

“Can I say something, please?” Costello asked.

“No. No. This is not a conversation,” Merchan replied.

After the session, Trump told reporters that Merchan was aiding the prosecution by restricting his attorneys’ questioning.

“Nobody’s ever seen anything like this,” Trump remarked, according to NBC.

In a Truth Social post published just after midnight on Tuesday, Trump called for the trial to be terminated immediately.

“Judge Juan Merchan, who has thus far been the exact Conflicted Democrat Operative his Comrades expected, has a chance to take a real step toward rehabilitating both his Reputation and the Justice System of New York by dismissing the Biden Election Interference Witch Hunt brought by Soros funded D.A. Alvin Bragg,” Trump wrote.

“Every serious Legal Expert and Scholar is unequivocally stating that the ‘prosecutors’ have not come close to putting on a case, THERE IS NO CRIME, which means that the right thing to do is to END THIS SCAM NOW AND FOREVERMORE. It would be a Big, Bold, Beautiful, but Highly Unexpected, yet BRILLIANT, step toward Justice in New York, and our Nation as a whole!” Trump added.

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