Report: Trump unlikely to testify in his New York criminal trial

 May 19, 2024

Former President Donald Trump's New York criminal trial is drawing near a conclusion but one major remaining question is whether or not he will testify in his own defense.

However, based on his team of defense attorneys' preparations, it looks increasingly unlikely that he will be among the handful of witnesses they plan to call to the stand next week, The Washington Post reported.

The report follows multiple statements from Trump himself over the past month that vacillated back and forth on whether he intended to deliver testimony.

Doesn't look like defense plans for Trump to testify

The Post reported that one of former President Trump's defense attorneys, Todd Blanche, informed the court on Thursday that he intended to call a small handful of witnesses to testify next week, including Brad Smith, a federal election law expert, but said of whether his client would be among those called, "That’s another decision that we need to think through."

The outlet also cited four unnamed sources described as "close" to the former president that Trump is not expected to be called to testify, though the possibility that he could demand to take the stand was not ruled out.

"Taking the stand to testify in your own defense is a high-stakes gambit that generally does not end well for the defendant," former federal prosecutor turned private attorney Robert Mintz told The Post. "While it provides an opportunity for the defendant to look the jury in the eye and tell their side of the story, it also essentially allows prosecutors to retry their entire case on cross-examination."

In this particular case, the attorney added, Trump especially has "little to gain" from testifying and instead faces a heightened risk that his taking the stand will distract the jury away from the at-times disastrous and backfiring testimony of the prosecution's star witnesses -- porn actress Stormy Daniels and Trump's ex-personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Trump's "evolving stance" on if he will testify

According to U.S. News and World Report, former President Trump has had an "evolving stance" on whether or not he would testify since the trial began in mid-April.

"Yeah, I would testify, absolutely," Trump told an NBC News reporter just a few days before the trial. "I'm testifying. I tell the truth, I mean, all I can do is tell the truth. And the truth is that there is no case." Yet, just a couple of weeks later, he told Newsmax that he would only testify "if it’s necessary."

Then, on May 2, while addressing reporters outside the courtroom, Trump implied that the gag order imposed on him would prevent him from testifying, and said, "Well, I'm not allowed to testify, I'm under a gag order I guess, right? I’d love to answer that question. It’s a very easy question. The easiest question so far. But I'm not allowed to testify. This judge, who is totally conflicted, has me under an unconstitutional gag order."

He later clarified in a Truth Social post the next day that the gag order wouldn't prohibit his testimony but rather would limit him from taking the stand and "talking about people and responding when they say things about me."

Finally, less than a week later, Trump told Spectrum News that he "probably" would take the stand and "would like to" testify in his own defense before launching into another rant about the unconstitutional limitations, in his view, that the presiding judge had imposed on him with the gag order.

Legitimate arguments for and against Trump testifying

U.S. News observed that there were valid arguments on both sides of the debate over whether or not former President Trump should testify in his New York criminal trial before it is finished within the next week or two.

On the one hand, testifying would provide Trump an opportunity to tell his side of things and respond to some of what the prosecution's witnesses had said, but on the other, it would open him to potentially damaging cross-examination, detract from the prosecution's shortcomings, and could even undermine the narrative carefully crafted by his defense team.

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