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Defense rests without ex-President Trump taking the witness stand in his New York hush money trial

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NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s lawyers rested their defense Tuesday without the former president taking the witness stand in his New York hush money criminal trial, moving the case closer to the moment the jury would begin deciding his fate.

“Your honor, the defense rests,” Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told the judge following testimony from a former federal prosecutor who had been called to attack the credibility of the prosecution’s key witness.

The jury was sent home until May 28, when closing arguments are expected, but the attorneys would return later Tuesday to discuss how the judge will instruct jurors on deliberations. Trump, the first former American president to be tried criminally, did not stop to speak as he left the courthouse and ignored a question about why he wasn’t testifying. He had previously said he wanted to take the witness stand to defend himself against what he claims are politically motivated charges.

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After more than four weeks of testimony, jurors could begin deliberating as soon as next week to decide whether the former president is guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

After the defense rested, Judge Juan M. Merchan told jurors the court session could run late Tuesday to accommodate both prosecution and defense summations — the last time the jury would hear from either side. Merchan told jurors he then expects his instructions to them on deliberations would take about an hour, after which they can begin discussing the case, possibly as early as next May 29. Until now, they have been told not to discuss the case with anyone outside court and not to discuss the case among each other.

Merchan noted that normally summations would immediately follow the defense resting its case, but he expects summations in this case will take at least a day and, given the impending Memorial Day holiday, “there’s no way to do all that’s needed to be done” before then.

“I’ll see you in a week,” Merchan said.

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Prosecutors have accused Trump of a scheme to bury negative stories to fend off damage to his 2016 presidential campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton and then falsifying internal business records to cover it up. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing in the case.

The charges stem from internal Trump Organization records in which payments to Cohen were marked as legal expenses. Prosecutors say they were really reimbursements for a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public before the 2016 election with claims of a sexual encounter with Trump. Trump says nothing sexual happened between them.

“They have no case,” Trump said in the morning Tuesday before court adjourned. “There’s no crime.”

After jurors left for the day Monday, defense attorneys pressed the judge to throw out the charges before jurors even begin deliberating, arguing prosecutors have failed to prove their case. The defense has suggested that Trump was trying to protect his family, not his campaign, by squelching what he says were false, scurrilous claims.

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Defense attorney Todd Blanche argued that there was nothing illegal about soliciting a tabloid’s help to run positive stories about Trump, run negative stories about his opponents and identify potentially damaging stories before they were published. No one involved “had any criminal intent,” Blanche said.

“How is keeping a false story from the voters criminal?” Blanche asked.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo shot back that “the trial evidence overwhelmingly supports each element” of the alleged offenses and said the case should proceed to the jury.

The judge didn’t immediately rule on the defense’s request. Such long-shot requests are often made in criminal cases but are rarely granted.

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