Trump trial judge BLOWS his stack after another bad day for the prosecution: ‘Are you staring me down?!’

Witness testimony contradicting the prosecution set the stage for an “unbelievable” scene that left the judge in former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial asking, “Are you staring me down?!”

(Video: CNN)

Monday afternoon at the Manhattan trial, a fiery exchange between Judge Juan Merchan and defense witness Robert Costello resulted in a courtroom clearing decision from the bench. CNN’s Jake Tapper broke down the reported behavior that sent the judge over the edge while journalists and gallery members could be seen waiting to be allowed back in to the court.

“What’s going on is, Costello is really expressing disdain for Judge Merchan’s ruling. Costello shakes his head as if he were exasperated when Judge Merchan sustained an objection from the prosecution about one of the questions,” explained Tapper. “At another time, when the prosecution objected, Merchan told the lawyers to approach the bench and Costello could be heard saying on the microphone, ‘Ridiculous!'”

“Then at another time, there was another objection, which was sustained, Costello lets out a ‘Jesus!’ That’s my interpretation,” the CNN anchor added.

The behavior prompted Merchan to instruct the jury to leave, leading to orders for the witness, “Mr. Costello, you’re to remain seated.”

“I want to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom,” he added after the witness reportedly rolled his eyes and audibly sighed. “You don’t give me a side eye and you don’t roll your eyes.”

“When there’s a witness on the stand, if you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say ‘jeez,’ you don’t say strike it,” Merchan was quoted as saying while Costello reportedly held a glare in the judge’s direction. “Are you staring me down?”

“I’m putting you on notice that your conduct is contemptuous. If you try to stare me down one more time, I will remove you from the stand,” the judge told the witness before directing his ire at defense attorney Emil Bove, “I will strike his entire testimony; do you understand me?”

When asked for her opinion on the exchange, CNN chief legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid who relayed knowing Costello for years expressed, “No, this is unbelievable and I know Bob Costello for years.”

Prior to the judge’s blowup, reports from inside the courtroom detailed that Costello, a former attorney for a key prosecution witness, Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, had contradicted testimony from the latter about the president’s knowledge of payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

“Michael Cohen said numerous times that President Trump knew nothing about those payments, that he did this on his own, and he repeated that numerous times,” said Costello.

Earlier Monday, Cohen had admitted to stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the Trump Organization, a point prompting many to suggest a non-guilty verdict may be on the horizon for the president.

As to the defense’s witness testifying at all, Reid had told Tapper after the court cleared, in what appeared at the time to have “escalated to a security concern,” that, “The fact that this has escalated to this extent, this is why there was a disagreement within the Trump world about whether they should call Bob Costello. The only reason that he is being called is that the client insisted that he be called.”

Kevin Haggerty

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