Trump’s hush-money trial: here’s what’s happened in the case so far

<span>Donald Trump speaks after a break during his hush-money trial on 21 May.</span><span>Photograph: Michael M Santiago/Reuters</span>
Donald Trump speaks after a break during his hush-money trial on 21 May.Photograph: Michael M Santiago/Reuters

Donald Trump is the first US president to be tried on criminal charges – and could face prison if convicted. Trump allegedly falsified the financial transaction behind the $130,000 hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. He denies 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in spring 2023.

Here’s what you need to know about the case:

21 May: what is happening today

  • Donald Trump’s lawyers rested their defense on Tuesday morning, without the former president himself testifying. The jury was sent home and instructed to return next Tuesday. After a lunch break on Tuesday, the judge, prosecutors and the defense discussed the instructions that will be given to jurors before they start deliberating.

  • Trump declined to testify at his own criminal trial. Trump had previously railed about being silenced and falsely claimed he was not allowed to testify, but ultimately elected of his own volition not to take the stand in his own defense.

  • Trump was joined by a huge entourage of supporters, including his sons Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, the former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker, the former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, the actor Joe Piscopo and Republican members of Congress.

  • The trial resumed earlier on Monday with continued cross-examination of Robert Costello, whom the defense has used to try to discredit the former president’s one-time fixer, Michael Cohen. Costello was a defense lawyer with whom Cohen met after federal authorities raided his hotel room and apartment. Cohen told jurors that he was leery of Costello, who had described a close relationship with Trump ally Rudy Giuliani. Cohen said he didn’t trust Costello, concerned that anything he said would get to Giuliani and thus, Trump.

  • Here are the key takeaways from the trial on Monday. Cohen, the prosecution’s most important witness, saw his testimony end on Monday and Costello’s behavior on the stand almost spun the courtroom into chaos, and prompted a rebuke from the judge.

  • The prosecutor Susan Hoffinger showed emails Costello sent to Cohen in which he repeatedly dangled his close ties to Giuliani in the aftermath of the FBI raid. In one email, Costello told Cohen: “Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places,” and relayed that there were “some very positive comments about you from the White House”.

  • Judge Merchan told jurors to return on Tuesday 28 May for closing arguments. Merchan said he would also announce his instructions to jurors the next day and expected that they would then start deliberating.

  • Donald Trump Jr defended his father’s decision not to testify. “There’d be absolutely no reason, no justification to do that whatsoever. Everyone sees it for the sham that it is,” he said at a news conference alongside other Trump allies near the courthouse.

Key characters and facts

Trump hush-money trial status: Trump pleaded not guilty; the trial began on 15 April 2024.

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Charges: 34 felony charges of falsifying business records.

Hush-money case summary: The case involves a hush-money scheme during the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to the adult film star Stormy Daniels to quash her story about an alleged extramarital affair with the former president. Trump has denied the affair took place. Prosecutors accuse the former president of illegally reimbursing Cohen for the hush-money payment by falsely classifying the transaction, executed by the Trump Organization, as legal expenses.

Verdict before election? Likely.

Key moments in the trial so far