Yale graduates stage pro-Palestinian walkout of commencement

Yale graduates stage pro-Palestinian walkout of commencement
Yale graduates stage pro-Palestinian walkout of commencement

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - NEW YORK: Approximately five weeks, 19 witnesses, reams of documents and a dash of salacious testimony later, the prosecution up against Donald rested its case Monday, handing over to the defense before closing arguments set for next week.

The defense called its first witness, the paralegal of Trump lawyer Todd Blanche, to kick off their case that sees the former president accused of covering up hush money payments to a porn star over an alleged encounter that could have derailed his 2016 White House bid.

Monday featured extended quibbling among the legal teams that, along with the upcoming holiday weekend, means closing arguments that the judge had hoped could start Tuesday are now set for next week.

The defense then called lawyer Robert Costello, who was not a potential witness until Cohen testified at length about exchanges with him.

Trump’s team wanted to question him about the credibility of Cohen, who he has assailed in the past.

The door also remains open for Trump to take the stand, a highly risky move.

Experts doubt he will opt to testify — there’s no requirement to — in his criminal trial, the first ever of a former US president, as it would expose him to unnecessary legal jeopardy and forensic cross-examination by prosecutors.

But Blanche has raised the prospect his client could step up as a witness.

On Monday, Blanche finished his third day of questioning Cohen after hours of at times digressive, at other times bruising, exchanges.

Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer turned tormentor, recounted last week how he kept Trump informed about $130,000 paid to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an alleged affair ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s lawyers set out to paint Cohen as a convicted criminal and habitual liar, recalling his time in prison for tax fraud and lying to Congress.

Blanche also probed Cohen’s loyalty to Trump and then to the prosecution, looking to show jurors that the former fixer is self-serving and willing to go to great lengths to accomplish his aims.

Blanche vied to goad Cohen, who has a reputation for a short temper that could have hurt him on the stand — but the witness largely maintained his composure, dulling the questioning at moments by voicing confusion or nonchalance.

Cohen’s story has generally lined up with Daniels and David Pecker, the tabloid boss who said he worked with Trump and Cohen to suppress negative coverage during the Republican’s 2016 White House run.

After Blanche finished with him the prosecution returned for redirect, with prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asking what the whole experience has meant for him.

“My entire life has been turned upside down,” Cohen said, genuine emotion in his voice. “I lost my law license, my financial security... my family’s happiness... just to name a few.”

Trump meanwhile has complained his 2024 election campaign for another White House term is being stymied by the weeks-long court proceedings, which he has to attend every day.

He did so again Monday, complaining to journalists that he’s “not allowed to have anything to do with politics because I’m sitting in a very freezing cold, dark room for the last four weeks. It’s very unfair.”

Branding the case as politicized, a coterie of leading Republicans have stood in the wings behind him as he gives remarks to reporters outside the courtroom.

The growing list includes several lawmakers eyeing Trump’s vice presidential pick, including Ohio Senator JD Vance and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

The defense also hopes to bring in an election campaign finance expert but calling of that witness was under dispute.

The prosecution has voiced opposition, saying only the judge should explain how the law applies.

When the jury begins deliberating, the often juicy testimony will likely linger — but they will also have stacks of documents to consider.

The charges hinge on financial records, and whether falsifying them was done with intent to sway the 2016 presidential vote.

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