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Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court May 30, 2024, during jury deliberations in his criminal hush money trial in New York. (AP) Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court May 30, 2024, during jury deliberations in his criminal hush money trial in New York. (AP)

Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court May 30, 2024, during jury deliberations in his criminal hush money trial in New York. (AP)

Madison Czopek
By Madison Czopek May 30, 2024

Trump trial judge didn’t overrule all defense objections and sustain all prosecution objections

If Your Time is short

  • News reports from closing arguments in former President Donald Trump’s Manhattan trial show that on May 28 Judge Juan Merchan sustained at least three objections from the defense and overruled at least two objections from the prosecution. 

  • Trial transcripts also show that throughout the trial, Merchan regularly sustained and overruled objections from prosecution and defense lawyers.

It’s no secret that former President Donald Trump and his allies believe Juan Merchan, the Manhattan judge overseeing Trump’s falsifying business records trial, has it out for the high-profile defendant. 

Trump has called Merchan "highly conflicted" and "Trump-hating." Earlier in the trial, Trump misleadingly claimed Merchan prevented him from attending his son Barron’s high school graduation. At the time, Merchan hadn’t yet decided the trial schedule, and court proceedings were later paused to allow Trump to attend.

Trump was found guilty May 30 on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of an alleged plan to cover up a hush money payment to adult film actor Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.

But before the verdict came, and as Trump’s trial reached closing arguments May 28, Fox News host Jesse Watters claimed that Merchan had shown favor to the prosecution.

Alina Habba, a spokesperson for Trump’s legal team, joined Watters on "Jesse Watters Primetime" on May 28 to discuss the court proceedings. Watters asked Habba to weigh in on the courtroom proceedings. 

"So, we’re hearing from inside the court — and you can confirm this — every time defense raise an objection, overruled," Watters said.

"Overruled," Habba agreed.

Watters said the "judge overrules every objection from the defense and sustains every objection from the prosecution." 

(Internet Archive)

That description doesn’t align with actual events.

News reports show that objections from Trump’s defense team were sustained multiple times May 28 and some objections from the prosecution were overruled. 

Also, a review of transcripts from the trial’s earlier days show Merchan sustained and overruled objections from lawyers on both sides on numerous occasions. 

We contacted Fox News and a spokesperson did not provide evidence for the claim. 

Defense objections were sustained, prosecution objections were overruled

First a note about legal terminology. A lawyer objects when they feel that the opposing counsel has violated rules of evidence. The judge must rule on that objection immediately by either sustaining the objection or overruling. If the judge overrules, that means the judge determined the objection was invalid; if the judge sustains the objection, it means the judge believes it to be valid under the rules of evidence.

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It’s unclear whether Watters’ characterization of Merchan’s objections was limited to the closing arguments, but we started there.

Reporting about the courtroom proceedings showed that Merchan sustained more than one objection from the defense May 28. 

In a live update at about 7 p.m., The Associated Press reported that the defense objected to prosecutor Joshua Steinglass’ argument about threats Stormy Daniels faced. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said the argument was "extraordinarily prejudicial," and Merchan told Steinglass to move along, The Associated Press wrote

At 7:45 p.m., NBC News reported that Merchan sustained another defense objection over comments the prosecution made to the jury about their deliberation process. Merchan interjected after sustaining the objection, saying that he would instruct the jury "on the law and the evidence." 

At about 8 p.m., near the end of the prosecution’s five-hour closing argument, CBS News reported that Steinglass said: "He got his day in court. Donald Trump can’t shoot someone in rush hour on Fifth Avenue and get away with it," referring to Trump’s 2016 remark that he could shoot someone without losing voters

The defense raised an objection that Merchan sustained, according to CBS.

Earlier in the day, The New York Times reported that prosecutors’ objections were overruled at least twice.

"Prosecutors have objected to Blanche twice, with one objection overruled and one sustained, as he tries to refer to (former media executive David) Pecker saying he consulted lawyers about this deal," New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman wrote around 11 a.m. during the defense team’s closing arguments. "Blanche appears briefly flummoxed."

Then, just after noon, Haberman wrote: "Todd Blanche is now arguing that Stormy Daniels was called to testify in order to inflame the jurors’ emotions and to embarrass Trump. Prosecutors object, but Justice Merchan allows it." 

Aaron Blake, a political reporter covering the trial for The Washington Post, said on X that Merchan had "sustained 6 objections from the defense" and "overruled 8 objections from the prosecution," according to the transcript. 

PolitiFact also reviewed the transcripts from several earlier days of the trial. Throughout the trial, Merchan regularly sustained and overruled objections from prosecution and defense lawyers, the documents showed. 

On April 23, for example, jurors heard testimony from Pecker, whose company published the National Enquirer. Pecker described his efforts to help bury unflattering stories about Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. That day, the defense raised at least 12 objections; Merchan sustained five and overruled seven. 

On May 10, Trump’s former White House assistant Madeleine Westerhout testified, saying she remembered that Trump had been upset and concerned for his family after the Stormy Daniels hush money payments became public. The prosecution objected at least 16 times May 10. Merchan overruled half those objections and sustained the other half. 

Our ruling

Watters said May 28 that during Trump’s trial, Merchan had overruled every objection from the defense and sustained every objection from the prosecution.

News reports from the closing arguments that day show that Merchan sustained at least three objections from the defense and overruled at least two objections from the prosecution. 

Trial transcripts also show that throughout the trial, Merchan regularly sustained and overruled objections from prosecution and defense lawyers. 

We rate this claim False.

RELATED: Fact-checking the False claim that the Trump’s NY jury verdict doesn’t have to be unanimous

RELATED: Trump N.Y. trial countdown: What happens after the jury’s verdict?

Our Sources

Internet Archive Jesse Watters Primetime episode, May 28, 2024 

The Washington Post, Why a Trump lawyer’s prison reference was so ‘outrageous,’ May 29, 2024

Mediaite, Trump Lawyer Alina Habba and Fox Host Complain Judge Overruled ‘Every’ Trump Team Objection — Here’s The Truth, May 29, 2024

Aaron Blake’s post on X, May 29, 2024

Ted Johnson’s post on X, May 28, 2024

PolitiFact, Read the 34 felony charges in the Donald Trump indictment over the Stormy Daniels payoff, April 4, 2023

PolitiFact, Fact-check: Trump misleads on jury selection, request to Judge Merchan for time off, April 17, 2024 

C-SPAN, Former President Trump Speaks to Reporters Ahead of Day 2 of Jury Selection in Hush-Money Trial, April 15, 2024

NBC News, Who's Judge Juan Merchan? Trump says he 'hates me' but lawyers say he's fair, March 31, 2023

ABC News, Trump attends son Barron's high school graduation on day off from court, May 17, 2024

PolitiFact, Fact-checking Trump’s post-indictment speech at Mar-a-Lago about Stormy Daniels payment, April 5, 2023

Politico, Trump keeps his legal team close despite trial drama, May 11, 2024

CNN, Trump: I could ‘shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,’ Jan. 24, 2016

The Washington Post, Closing arguments end in Trump hush money trial, May 28, 2024

NBC news, Takeaways from Trump trial closing arguments: Jurors get dueling portraits of Michael Cohen, May 28, 2024

The Associated Press, Highlights from closing arguments in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, May 28, 2024

CNN, Closing arguments wrap in Trump hush money trial, May 28, 2024 

The New York Times, Power Shifts to Jury as Closing Arguments Finish in Trump Trial, May 28, 2024

CBS News, Trump trial hears testimony from David Pecker about "catch and kill" scheme, April 23, 2024

CNN, Takeaways from Day 15 of the Donald Trump hush money trial, May 10, 2024

The Associated Press, Tabloid publisher says he pledged to be Trump campaign’s ‘eyes and ears’ during 2016 race, April 23, 2024

NPR, Ex-National Enquirer publisher says he pledged to be Trump's 'eyes and ears,' April 23, 2024

ABC News, 3 big takeaways from Day 15 of Trump's hush money trial, May 10, 2024

NBC News, Highlights: Closing arguments wrap in Trump hush money trial, May 28, 2024

Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office, Glossary of Court Terms, accessed May 30, 2024

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Trump trial judge didn’t overrule all defense objections and sustain all prosecution objections

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