‘Are You Staring Me Down!?’


OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.

Judge Juan Merchan, who is in charge of the hush money trial against former President Donald Trump, told everyone to leave the courtroom and told defense witness Robert Costello to stop being rude.

Monday, after Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen left the stand, the prosecution shut down its case.

Costello was a lawyer who “at one point had advised Michael Cohen,” according to CNN anchor Jake Tapper, and the defense called him in to question Cohen’s credibility.

“What’s going on is, Costello is really expressing disdain for Judge Merchan’s ruling,” Tapper said. “Costello shakes his head as if he were exasperated when Merchan sustained an objection from the prosecution about one of the questions. At another time, when the prosecution objected, Merchan told the lawyers to approach the bench and Costello could be heard saying on the microphone, ‘Ridiculous!’” Tapper added, “Then, at another time, there was another objection that was sustained, Costello lets out a, ‘Jesus!’”

Paula Reid interrupted Tapper to say, “Jake, the judge has just cleared the entire courtroom. It appears that now this has escalated to a security concern.”

She continued, “The fact that this has escalated to this extent, this is why there was disagreement within the Trump World about whether they should call Bob Costello. The only reason that he is being called is that the client insisted that he be called.”

Tapper continued to recount the scene that led to Judge Merchan taking such drastic measures.

The judge told Costello in a raised voice when he told the jury to leave, “Mr. Costello, you’re to remain seated.” The jury leaves, then Costello, after another sustained objection, Costello rolls his eyes, lets out an audible sigh, side-glances the judge. The judge says, “I want to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom.” The judge says, “You don’t give me a side eye, and you don’t roll your eyes. If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say ‘geez,’ you don’t say, ‘strike it.’ “Costello holds a long stare at the judge. The judge asks, “Are you staring me down?!” Then the judge says, “Clear the courtroom!”

Reporters and gallery members were allowed back in the courtroom after several minutes.


“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Tapper asked Reid.

“No, this is unbelievable and I know Bob Costello quite well,” Reid said before suggesting that Costello was probably “posturing” in order to get Trump’s approval.


The sixth week of Trump’s “hush money” trial on allegations of faking company records began on Monday and is almost over.

Justice Juan Merchan of the New York Supreme Court delivered a massive ruling on Monday, saying that closing arguments will take place next week.

Michael Cohen’s testimony is expected to end on Monday. Using Cohen’s past of lying and breaking the law, Trump’s lawyers attempted to undermine Cohen’s credibility last week. Prosecutors claim that other witnesses and financial documents support Cohen’s testimony.

Justice Merchan also gave the defense some direction on the topics on which he would permit former Federal Election Commission chairman Bradley A. Smith to testify. To demonstrate to the jury that Trump wasn’t trying to sway the 2016 election with his purported business record violations, the defense wants Smith to go over how federal election laws operate.

Experts are not allowed to explain or interpret the law, according to Merchan. “However, it seems to this court that it would be impossible for Mr. Smith to testify about” campaign finance law “without discussing or invoking federal law in terms of precedent, agency opinions, or the intent of creation behind some of these rules.”

He said Smith could read the pertinent legislation and regulations but not interpret them, failing which prosecutors might call in their campaign finance expert and make the trial a “battle of the experts.”

When asked by defense lawyer Emil Bove if Merchan intended to give the jury instructions on campaign finance and manipulating an election, the judge said he would not until he had seen proposals from both sides. When Merchan finally instructed the defense to present him with evidence of what Smith would say, Bove complied.

Things have not been going well for District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Hope Hicks, who served as a counselor to the president for Trump, had an emotional breakdown when testifying in Bragg’s hush money case last week.

Hicks worked for Trump beginning a mere two years after she left college and had a long professional relationship with him. She was previously called to testify before the House January 6 Committee, and now the case is about alleged payments made to adult movie actress Stormy Daniels.

Hicks broke down in court, prompting Judge Juan Merchan to call for a short recess. After she testified for the prosecution, the defense attorney, Emil Bove, cross-examined her, and she quickly “broke down,” MSNBC reported.

“I want to talk to you about your time at the Trump Organization,” the attorney said to Hicks before she started to get emotional.

“Sorry about that,” she said after returning to the witness stand.

“No, it’s okay,” the attorney for the former president said.

“Absolutely…I don’t think he wanted anyone in his family to be hurt or embarrassed about anything on the campaign.  He wanted them to be proud of him,” Hicks testified.

Her testimony was an “epic miscalculation that backfired spectacularly” on the prosecution, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said.

“The account by Hicks demolishes District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s primary claim against Trump that he paid porn star Stormy Daniels for her silence with the intent to benefit his campaign and, thereby, influence the election by ‘unlawful means.’  To the contrary, it nicely corroborates the findings of a federal investigation that no crimes were committed, or campaign finance laws broken because there was another purpose for the non-disclosure agreement that Daniels signed,” he said.

“Like the prosecution witnesses before her, Hicks disparaged Bragg’s planned star witness, Michael Cohen, Trump’s one-time personal lawyer.  ‘He used to like to call himself Mr. Fix-It, but it was only because he first broke it.’ Ouch!  But that denigrating remark is tame compared to the other derisive comments that have been leveled thus far at the insufferable Cohen, who is a convicted liar who went to prison,” he said.

“Hicks confirmed that Trump was aware that Cohen paid off Daniels to end what can fairly be described as aggressive blackmail demands. When the election drew near, Daniels ratcheted up her greedy scheme to profit from Trump by threatening to go public about a supposed affair, which he denied.  Not incidentally, she renounced the purported tryst. Then, in a head-spinning maneuver, she recanted her repudiation,” the analyst said.

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