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Trump decides not to testify in hush money case

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Donald Trump’s defense team rested, wrapping up its side of the case after calling two witnesses, including one who contradicted testimony provided former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness.

Trump had said he would testify at his trial if necessary, but decided not to take the stand in the history-making trial. His defense team rested Tuesday, clearing the way for jury deliberations to begin next week.

Justice Juan Merchan told jurors to return for closing arguments next Tuesday after the Memorial Day weekend. Deliberations could begin the next day, Reuters reported.

Trump’s lawyers called Robert Costello, a defense attorney Michael Cohen spoke to in 2018 while under federal investigation. Costello refuted Cohen’s testimony that Trump knew about the $130,000 hush money payment to adult actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts related to charges he paid hush money to Daniels through Cohen and covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.

Costello said Cohen told him that Trump didn’t know about the hush money payments, The Washington Post reported.

“He said President Trump knew nothing about those payments” Costello said. “He repeated this numerous times.”

Trump, 77, is the first former U.S. president to be charged with a felony.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to money paid to Daniels and McDougal. Bragg has alleged Trump broke New York law when he falsified business records with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Prosecutors allege Trump falsified internal records kept by his company, hiding the true nature of payments that involve Daniels ($130,000), McDougal ($150,000), and Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen ($420,000). Prosecutors allege the money was logged as legal expenses, not reimbursements. Both Cohen and Daniels testified during the trial.

Earlier in the trial, Daniels detailed the alleged 2006 sexual encounter and testified she “blacked out.” She also said Trump didn’t wear a condom. Defense attorneys asked for a mistrial after that testimony, which they argued was prejudicial. Merchan denied the request from the defense.

Under New York state law, falsifying business records in the first degree is a Class E felony that carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Trump’s attorneys had asked Merchan to dismiss the case before it goes to the jury. Merchan did not immediately rule on the request, but he suggested that savvy jurors would be able to assess Cohen’s credibility, Reuters reported.

Trump summed up his feelings on his social media platform: “KANGAROO COURT!”