Judge orders jury and press out of Trump trial, reprimands witness

Judge orders jury and press out of Trump trial, reprimands witness

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U.S. President Donald Trump. (File Photo: IANS)

New York, May 21 (IANS/DPA) The trial against former US President Donald Trump in New York in connection with hush money payments to an adult film star has seen a chaotic day in which the presiding judge cleared the jury and the press from the courtroom and admonished a witness.

Judge Juan Merchan became visibly angry during the questioning of defence witness Robert Costello because he appeared to question Merchan's authority.

Costello, who Trump's defence team brought to the stand to attack the credibility of key prosecution witness Michael Cohen, continued to answer several questions after Merchan had already accepted the prosecution's objection on Monday.

The judge instructed Costello, a former federal prosecutor, that he was not allowed to continue answering after an objection was sustained. In the case of one objection, that was upheld, Costello then said "Jeesh" and rolled his eyes.

Merchan then ordered the jurors out of the courtroom and asked Trump's witness, Costello, to maintain proper decorum in his courtroom.

When Costello continued to scowl at the judge, Merchan blurted out audibly angrily: "Are you staring me down?" He then had the courtroom cleared with the help of loud and cutting instructions from the court staff.

Court transcripts reveal that Merchan forbade comments on his decisions and threatened to have Costello removed from the stand if he did not change his behaviour.

Journalists and observers were allowed to re-enter the room after a few minutes, and the questioning continued.

Trump's lawyers have said they do not plan to call any further witnesses after Costello. Closing arguments are expected on May 28.

The public prosecutor's office in New York accuses Trump of wanting to improve his chances of success in the 2016 presidential election by paying $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

The payment itself was not illegal. However, Trump is said to have manipulated documents when reimbursing the amount to lawyer Michael Cohen in order to conceal the true reason for the transaction, making the payments illegal campaign financing.

Trump, who is campaigning to win re-election in November as the Republican Party candidate, has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. If found guilty, he could face a prison sentence.

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