Angry Judge Merchan Clears Courtroom Over Trump Witness
Former US President Donald Trump gestures as he returns from a recess in his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 18, 2024. Trump's criminal trial resumes Thursday with Judge Juan Merchan seeking to complete jury selection. Moving the US into uncharted waters, it is the first criminal trial of a former US president, one who is also battling to retake the White House in November.

Judge Juan Merchan cleared the courtroom on Monday as the Manhattan hush money case against former President Donald Trump continued with defense witness Robert Costello.

Costello, an attorney who had previously advised former Trump attorney — and star prosecution witness — Michael Cohen, was brought in by the defense team to cast doubt on Cohen’s testimony. But as the trial proceeded, Costello’s demeanor apparently got under Merchan’s skin.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper described the scene on Monday afternoon, saying, “What’s going on is, Costello is really expressing disdain for Judge Merchan’s ruling. 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!’ Then, at another time, there was another objection that was sustained, Costello lets out a, ‘Jesus!’”

Tapper went on to explain that Merchan, by then clearly upset with Costello, first scolded him and then ordered the entire courtroom cleared.

“[He] 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!’”

Costello was reportedly called to discredit Cohen’s testimony, but if CNN legal analyst Elie Honig is correct, Cohen may have already discredited himself by admitting in court that he stole some $60,000 while working for Trump. Honig pointed out more than once that larceny in that amount was actually a more serious crime than the charges facing Trump.

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