‘Are you staring me down?’: Furious judge clears courtroom after Trump defense witness sighs and rolls eyes from the stand

The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan cleared the courtroom and reprimanded a defense witness for his heavy sighs, eye rolls and audible reactions to a series of objections to his testimony on Monday.

New York Justice Juan Merchan excused the jury to school Robert Costello about “proper decorum” in the courtroom moments after his testimony began.

“You don’t like my rulings? You don’t say ‘jeez’,” he said. “You don’t roll your eyes. Do you understand that?”

While in the middle of asking the jury to return, the judge fired back: “Are you staring me down right now? Clear the courtroom.”

Members of the press and public along with the former president’s entourage were asked to leave, with court officers shouting out “get out” to journalists who were abruptly forced out of an open court.

Mr Costello, an attorney with ties to Rudy Giuliani, is likely the trial’s final witness, offering testimony intended to undermine critical evidence from Mr Trump’s one-time “fixer” Michael Cohen, who described what he called Mr Costello’s “pressure campaign” to open a “back channel” of communication to Mr Trump while Cohen was under federal investigation.

After Cohen’s office and home were raided and phones were seized by federal agents in April 2018, Mr Costello suggested that Cohen would retain him as counsel, what Cohen said was an effort to keep him close to Mr Trump to prevent him from “flipping” against him with information to federal investigators.

“This is part of the pressure campaign that, ‘everyone is lying to you, that you are still regarded, the president still supports you, do not speak, do not listen to what the journalists or anyone is saying, and stay in the fold,’” Cohen said last week. “’Don’t flip, don’t cooperate.’”

Cohen didn’t trust him, he said, yet he remained “loyal to Mr Trump.”

This is a developing story

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