Trump would be committing ‘act of near-insanity’ if he testifies in own defence at hush money trial

Exclusive: Former president taking the stand would be ‘all downside with almost zero up,’ according to a criminal lawyer

James Liddell
Monday 20 May 2024 13:32 BST
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Donald Trump would be committing an “act of near-insanity” to testify in his own defence at his hush money trial, according to a leading criminal defence barrister.

Over the last few weeks, the former president touted that he would “absolutely” testify in his criminal trial “if necessary”, adding that he would probably do so.

Interrogation of the prosecution’s final witness, Michael Cohen, will continue on Monday for a fourth – and likely final – day before Trump’s lawyers get an opportunity to present his defence.

But one thing remains ambiguous: will Mr Trump take the stand?

The US constitution guarantees the right for one to testify in their own defence. Mr Trump might desperately want to rise to the stand to address his accusers and to allege his innocence.

Defence lawyer Todd Blanche, who is representing Mr Trump at his criminal trial, said that the former president was undecided whether he would testify in his own defence as of Thursday.

Four people close to the Trump team said the plan does not include him testifying, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

Todd Blanche (left) said it was undecided whether his client would testify in his own defence
Todd Blanche (left) said it was undecided whether his client would testify in his own defence (AP)

Mr Blanche will likely be working tirelessly behind the scenes to dissuade Mr Trump from testifying, legal experts have said.

Tony Wyatt, a leading criminal defence barrister at Ewing Law and author under the sobriquet Tony Kent, believes that it would be “all downside with almost zero up” if Mr Trump did so, he exclusively told The Independent.

“It seems incredibly unlikely that Trump will testify in his own defence and, to be blunt, it would be an act of near-insanity on the part of his legal team if he is permitted to do so,” Mr Wyatt said.

Mr Trump is on trial for falsifying business records over alleged hush money payments to adult star Stormy Daniels to quash claims of an alleged affair ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The presumptive Republican presidential candidate denies all 34 felony counts against him and any accusations of an affair.

Mr Trump’s fiery reaction to criticism might push lawyers to stop him from testifying, Mr Wyatt said
Mr Trump’s fiery reaction to criticism might push lawyers to stop him from testifying, Mr Wyatt said (Reuters)

The same thing that seemingly draws many Maga supporters to Mr Trump could be the very thing that could harm his defence: his superfluous claims and inability to stay on script.

“We have all seen Trump in action. We have all seen his inability to stick to a ‘party line’,” Mr Wyatt continued.

“We have all seen how he reacts to verbal confrontation. Donald Trump is a cross-examiner’s dream, and whilst he would never admit that to himself, his lawyers must know it,” he added.

From defence lawyers’ most recent activity, it does appear unlikely that Mr Trump will testify.

The timetable also suggests that after Mr Cohen is set to finish his testimony on Monday, the trial will likely move directly on to closing submissions, Mr Wyatt explained.

“This is no surprise because, from the tactical point of view of a trial lawyer, the idea of Donald Trump giving evidence on his own behalf is all downside with almost zero up,” he added.

“It won’t happen,” Mr Wyatt concluded with conviction.

Another of Mr Trump’s lawyers, Will Scharf, was less clear cut about whether his client will testify.

“In terms of whether witnesses will be called including President Trump, that is something the defence team is going to have to think about after the prosecution rests,” he told Fox News.

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