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The judge in Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial personally asked key witness Michael D. Cohen to stop speaking out against the former president. Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, has been outspoken in his criticism of Trump and wore a shirt mocking the former president in a recent TikTok video. The judge’s directive to Cohen came amidst preparations for Cohen’s upcoming testimony, which is expected to be crucial to the case against Trump. The prosecutors’ focus tightened as they introduced important documents and witnesses to authenticate evidence related to the hush-money payment made by Cohen to a porn star.

One witness, Madeleine Westerhout, a former executive assistant during Trump’s presidency, testified about the flow of documents in and out of the Oval Office. She provided details about how Trump signed checks related to reimbursements for the hush-money payment to the porn star. While the defense tried to paint Trump as a caring boss protecting his family’s reputation, Westerhout’s testimony did not fully support that narrative. The trial also heard from Stormy Daniels, who detailed her encounter with Trump in 2006, which led to the hush-money payment orchestrated by Cohen.

Cohen, once a close confidant of Trump, has become a bitter enemy who openly mocks the former president and his legal troubles. Trump, in turn, has attacked Cohen online and in public statements. The judge has admonished Trump for attacking witnesses and jurors, levying fines and threats of jail for violations. Cohen, a convicted felon, is expected to testify in person in the coming week, adding to the drama of the trial. The prosecution presented evidence of a conspiracy involving Trump, Cohen, and the National Enquirer to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has characterized the trial as a political persecution orchestrated by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg. Throughout the trial, Trump has been a glum figure in the courtroom, often ignoring the testimony around him. His defense team has sought to discredit witnesses like Daniels, claiming they are liars seeking personal gain. Despite attempts to call for mistrials, the judge has allowed the trial to continue. As the trial progresses, Cohen’s testimony is expected to bring intense scrutiny on both him and Trump, who once believed Cohen would never turn against him.

The trial has set the stage for a dramatic confrontation between Trump and his former lawyer, with both sides seeking to prove their version of events. Cohen’s testimony is seen as critical to the case against Trump, as he alleges that records were falsified at the former president’s direction. The judge’s intervention regarding Cohen’s public statements added to the anticipation of the testimony to come. The trial, the first of its kind for an American president, has been marked by high drama and intense scrutiny, with both sides presenting their arguments in a bid to sway the jury’s decision.

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