Judge orders Michael Cohen to stay quiet about Trump ahead of testimony in trial

FILE - Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, speaks to the media before departing his Manhattan apartment for prison on May 6, 2019, in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

With Michael Cohen expected to take the witness stand Monday, the judge in the former president’s hush money case issued prosecutors a stern warning: Get Cohen to stop his taunting posts and jabs at Trump.

Judge Juan M. Merchan's comments came as a dramatic and consequential week in the first criminal trial of a former American president drew to a close Friday, the Associated Press reported. 

RELATED: Could Trump really go to jail? Does he expect to?

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends his trial on alleged covering up of hush money payments, at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 9, 2024, in New York City. (Photo by Steven Hirsch-Pool/Getty Images)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends his trial on alleged covering up of hush money payments, at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 9, 2024, in New York City. (Photo by Steven Hirsch-Pool/Getty Images)

Prosecutors have been building up their case ahead of testimony from Cohen, who arranged the $130,000 payout to porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public ahead of the 2016 election about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier. 

The Republican presidential candidate denies ever having sex with Daniels.

Here's a full recap of Friday's testimony: 

1:45 p.m. ET: Trump speaks after court

Talking to reporters in the courthouse hallway, the former president addressed the allegation at the heart of the case: that he falsified his company’s records to conceal the nature of hush money reimbursements to Michael Cohen.

"A very good bookkeeper marked a legal expense as a legal expense," he said. "He was a lawyer, not a fixer, he was a lawyer," he added, referring to Cohen.

1:40 p.m. ET: Court ends early today

Court ended early Friday. 

1:35 p.m. ET: Could Allen Weisselberg make an appearance at the trial after all?

After the jury left for the day, Judge Juan M. Merchan took up an issue related to Allen Weissleberg, the ex-Trump Organization CFO’s, absence from the trial, where he’s been mentioned as a key figure in orchestrating reimbursement payments to ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

Weisselberg, 76, is currently jailed at New York City’s Rikers Island complex, serving a five-month sentence for lying under oath in his testimony in the state attorney general’s civil fraud investigation of Trump. He pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced last month. His plea agreement does not require his cooperation or testimony in the criminal case.

Prosecutors weren’t planning to call Weisselberg, but Merchan encouraged them to at least try to get him to court before seeking to introduce evidence in an attempt to explain his absence.

"Right now it seems to me we’re trying to jump the gun. We’re trying to explain why he’s not here without making any effort to get him here," Merchan said.

Prosecutors sought permission Friday to show jurors Weisselberg’s severance agreement with the Trump Organization, under which he’ll receive $2 million but is barred from voluntarily cooperating with law enforcement or testifying against the company. They previously showed handwritten notes Weisselberg took regarding the payments to Cohen.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove noted, "Mr. Weisselberg’s absence from this trial is a very complicated issue" and may require a jury instruction about uncalled witnesses.

The reason Mr. Weisselberg is not available as a witness is that the DA’s office "initiated a perjury prosecution in the leadup to this case," Bove said.

Prosecutors argued that subpoenaing Weisselberg to testify would probably be a waste of time because he remains loyal to Trump and would likely invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

"If counsel prefers, we’d be willing to stipulate that Weisselberg is in jail for perjury," Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy responded.

"I think that would be one way to resolve it," Merchan said before expressing his desire for prosecutors to first see if they could summon Weisselberg to court.

1:25 p.m. ET: Michael Cohen is expected to take the stand on Monday, two people familiar with the matter told the AP

According to the Associated Press, the individuals could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

1:17 p.m. ET: Judge says Cohen should ‘refrain from making any more statements’

Just before court let out on Friday, Judge Juan M. Merchan told prosecutors they should inform Michael Cohen "that the judge is asking him to refrain from making any more statements" about the case or about Trump, the Associated Press reported. 

The directive came after Trump’s attorneys requested Merchan implement a separate gag order for Cohen, who has continued to post about Trump on social media in recent weeks.

"It’s becoming a problem every single day that President Trump is not allowed to respond to this witness but this witness is allowed to continue to talk," defense attorney Todd Blanche said.

Prosecutors said they had already requested Cohen and other witnesses not talk about the case but had no direct means of controlling their behavior.

12:50 p.m. ET: Prosecutors say there are likely only two witnesses left

With jurors gone for the day, the judge has turned to scheduling matters. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said they expect to call only two more witnesses. "It’s entirely possible," Steinglass added, that the prosecution will rest by the end of the next week.

The trial will meet for three days next week — Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Wednesday is the trial’s usual day off and Friday court will break so Trump can attend his son Barron’s high school graduation.

12:45 p.m. ET: A recorded phone call between Trump and Cohen

Paralegal Jarmel-Schneider’s testimony involves a key recording that was played in court earlier in the trial, which appears to show Trump and Cohen discussing the payments made to Karen McDougal to bury her story of an alleged affair. Trump’s attorneys have suggested Cohen doctored the recording, citing the fact that it cuts off abruptly.

Records show Cohen received a phone call about 22 seconds after the recording was cut off, according to Jarmel-Schneider’s testimony. Prosecutors seem to be eliciting the testimony to back up their claim that the recording wasn’t edited, but was cut short after Cohen received an incoming call.

12:40 p.m. ET: In a rare appearance, District Attorney Alvin Bragg watches from the front row

As a second witness from the Manhattan district attorney’s office begins his testimony, the head of that office, Alvin Bragg, is watching from the front row. Bragg has attended the trial only occasionally so far. He was not in the room during the dramatic testimony by Stormy Daniels earlier this week.

Since announcing the indictment against Trump last year, Bragg has tried to keep a relatively low profile while facing verbal attacks from Trump, who has accused Bragg of bringing the case for political reasons.

12:30 p.m. ET: What about Michael Cohen’s posts?

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche begins his cross-examination by asking Longstreet to confirm that her review of social media posts does not extend to Michael Cohen. "You’re still not reviewing Mr. Cohen’s TikTok?" Blanche asked. "You’re not aware of anything he TikToked, for example, two nights ago?"

Cohen has continued to post actively throughout the trial. In a live TikTok earlier this week, he wore a shirt featuring a figure resembling Trump with his hands cuffed, behind bars — a piece of merchandise that he sells as part of his podcast.

Longstreet confirmed her review did not include posts sent by Cohen. Her testimony concluded soon after.

12:15 p.m. ET: Stormy Daniels’ lawyer and a National Enquirer editor haggled over payments via text messages

Georgia Longstreet, a paralegal at the Manhattan district attorney’s office, read into the record text messages chronicling months of discussions in 2016 between Daniels’ manager Gina Rodriguez and then-National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard about Daniels’ claim that she had once had sex with Trump, the Associated Press reported. 

Longstreet previously testified about procuring social media posts and other publicly available evidence.

The texts include a back-and-forth on Oct. 8, 2016, the day after Trump’s infamous "Access Hollywood" tape leaked. Rodriguez tells Howard she’s aware of an offer of $250,000 for Daniels’ story and that other news outlets are interested in interviewing her. The next day, text messages show, Rodriguez and Howard haggled over a price for the National Enquirer to acquire the rights to Daniels’ story, finally settling on $120,000.

Rather than the tabloid making the deal, Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen ended up paying Daniels $130,000 — a higher price to add compensation for a lawyer who negotiated on her behalf. The text messages add another dimension to the negotiations that were previously discussed in testimony by former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and others.

12:00 p.m. ET: Prosecutors use tweets to show Trump’s shifting relationship with Michael Cohen

Prosecutors have introduced jurors to tweets showing that Trump initially praised Cohen after the then-lawyer came under federal investigation, then began bashing him after Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, along with other crimes, and said Trump had directed him to arrange the hush money for Daniels. Trump was never charged with any crime related to that federal investigation.

11:15 a.m. ET: Judge will not allow 1999 Larry King interview to be entered into evidence

As court resumed, Juan M. Merchan sided with defense lawyers in excluding a 1999 CNN interview in which Trump discussed his familiarity with campaign finance laws. Merchan said the tape was "too attenuated" to the events at hand and would require jurors to make inferences about how Trump’s views then related to the events involved in the case that happened decades later.

11:00 a.m. ET: Lawyers debate entering 1999 Larry King interview into evidence

While jurors were excused for a morning break, Donald Trump and the lawyers stayed in the courtroom and briefly argued about a video clip from an old interview that the former president’s lawyers want excluded from the case.

Prosecutors are seeking to play a clip of an interview Trump gave to the late CNN host Larry King in 1999 in which he discussed his familiarity with campaign finance laws. Part of their case involves allegations that the hush money payments may have violated such laws, the Associated Press reported. 

Trump’s lawyers argue that the clip is "not relevant with regard to President Trump’s state of mind in 2016," the time of the $130,000 payment to Daniels, in part because campaign finance laws had changed by then.

Merchan said he would rule after a morning break.

10:30 a.m. ET: Madeleine Westerhout: Trump’s personal mail bypassed standard White House security screenings

Under subsequent questioning by prosecutor Becky Mangold, Madeleine Westerhout denied that Trump’s roundabout mail arrangement was an "end run around the White House security protocols," but rather a way to "get things to him fast." But, Westerhout acknowledged that such letters and packages wouldn’t have gone through the normal White House security screenings.

Westerhout’s testimony then concluded.

10:20 a.m. ET: Trump, juggling tasks, signed checks without looking at them

Guided by Trump’s defense attorney, Madeleine Westerhout is painting the former president as a frequent multitasker who spent large chunks of his days signing documents, sometimes without even looking at them.

"Commissions, proclamations, executive orders, memos, letters," Westerhout recalled. She said that she sometimes saw Trump put his signature to checks without reviewing them.

Still, Trump avoided using automated means of signing paperwork. "He felt that if someone was getting his signature, they deserved his real signature, right?" Necheles asked, before a prosecution objection cut off Westerhout’s answer.

10:15 a.m. ET: Madeleine Westerhout appears to shift her story about Trump’s interaction with his company’s former CFO

Madeleine Westerhout, a former Trump White House aide, return to the witness stand Friday. On cross-examination, Westerhout appeared to alter a claim she made Thursday that she remembered Trump calling his company’s then-CFO Allen Weisselberg with questions about certain checks he had to sign for his personal expenses, the Associated Press reported. 

Questioned by Trump lawyer Susan Necheles, the former White House secretary acknowledged she had no specific recollection of Trump speaking with Weisselberg at all during his first year in office and only a vague recollection that they’d ever spoken about a check. "But you’re not even sure if it’s true?" Necheles asked. Westerhout said it was hard to recall because Trump "spoke to so many people."

9:15 a.m. ET: The process of crafting Trump's tweets as president

On Thursday, Trump’s former personal secretary Madeleine Westerhout offered insight into the process of crafting Trump’s tweets while he was president.

"My recollection was that there were certain words that he liked to capitalize. Words like country, and he liked to use exclamation points … It’s my understanding that he liked to use the Oxford comma."

Trump used Twitter as a primary form of communication throughout his White House years: pushing policies, announcing major developments and attacking foes. 

He was suspended from Twitter, now known as X, after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

9 a.m. ET: Trump's GOP allies show up to talk about his court case

Former President Donald Trump is limited in what he can publicly say as he fights charges that he made payments to a porn actor to illegally influence the 2016 election. But he’s getting help from some GOP allies who are glad to show up and talk.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida was the latest surrogate to accompany Trump, joining him Thursday for the 14th day of his hush money trial in New York. Last week, it was Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who joined the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

The Republicans’ courtroom presence can help Trump connect with constituents while he’s stuck in court and feeling the pressure of a gag order placed on him by the judge. Both Scott and Paxton have been through legal troubles of their own, and have railed against what they call politically motivated prosecutions — a message that echoes Trump’s own.

Trump's hush money case

The indictment against Trump centers on payoffs allegedly made to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Trump’s former lawyer and "fixer," Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 and arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000.

Trump's company, the Trump Organization, then reimbursed Cohen and paid him bonuses and extra payments – all of which, prosecutors say, were falsely logged as legal expenses in company records. Over several months, Cohen said the company paid him $420,000.

Payments were also allegedly made to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged Trump had out of wedlock.

The indictment, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, made Trump the first ex-president ever to face criminal charges.

Trump has denied the accusations.

Who are the jurors?

After being forced to release a seated juror, the judge ordered the media not to report on where potential jurors have worked – even when stated in open court – and to be careful about revealing information about those who would sit in judgment of the former president. Here's what we can report.

Juror 1 and foreperson: A man who lives in New York City and has no children. Loves the outdoors and gets his news from The New York Times, Daily Mail, Fox News and MSNBC. 

When asked by Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche if he was aware Trump is charged in other cases and jurisdictions, and how that affects him, the man said, "I don’t have an opinion." 

Juror 2: A man who said he follows Trump’s former lawyer, Cohen, on "X," formerly known as Twitter. He also revealed he follows other right-wing accounts including Trump’s former adviser, Kellyanne Conway. 

He has said he would unfollow Cohen as he may be a witness in the trial. 

Juror 3: A middle-aged man who lives in Manhattan. He grew up in Oregon. He gets his news from The New York Times and Google. 

Juror 4: A man who lived in New York City for 15 years. He is originally from California. He is married with three children and a wife who is a teacher. He has served on a jury before – both on a grand jury and a jury in a criminal trial. 

The juror said he gets his news from "a smattering" of sources and does not use social media. 

Juror 5: A young woman who is a New York native. 

She gets most of her news from Google and Tiktok. 

Juror 6: A young woman who lives in Manhattan and likes to dance. 

Juror 7: A man who is married with two children. 

He gets most of his news from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and The Washington Post. The man has said he is aware there are other lawsuits but said, "I’m not sure that I know anyone’s character." 

Juror 8: No information has been released about this juror. 

Juror 9: A woman who lives in Manhattan. She is not married and has no children. 

She has never served on a jury before and does not watch the news. However, she said she does have email subscriptions to CNN and The New York Times. She follows social media accounts and listens to podcasts. She also enjoys watching reality TV. 

Juror 10: A man who lives in Manhattan. He is not married and has no children. He does have a roommate who works in accounting. He rarely follows the news but he does listen to podcasts on behavioral psychology. 

Juror 11: No information has been released about this juror. 

Juror 12: No information has been released about this juror. 

How long will the trial last? 

The trial is expected to last anywhere from six to eight weeks. Trump is expected to attend court each day.

How can I watch the Trump trial?

The trial is not being televised. Instead, news reporters and producers will have the ability to sit inside the courtroom and deliver information to the public.

How many court cases is Trump involved in?

As of this report, Trump is currently involved in four criminal cases, which includes the hush money case. 

A second case out of Fulton County, Georgia, has charged Trump, as well as 18 others, with participating in a scheme to illegally attempt to overturn the former president’s loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. 

Trump is also involved in a third criminal case in Washington, D.C., which charged him with allegedly conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

And his fourth case involves classified documents that Trump illegally retained at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left the White House. 

RELATED: A guide to Trump’s court cases

The Associated Press, FOX News, FOX 5 NY and Catherine Stoddard contributed to this report.