May 20, 2024

After a full day on the witness stand on Monday, former attorney for Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, retook the stand on Tuesday to face further direct examination from the prosecution, followed by a sharp cross-examination by the Trump defense team in the case wherein Trump is charged with falsifying business records. 

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) attended the trial on Tuesday in a show of support for the former president. Johnson blasted the proceedings as a sham. Johnson was joined by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum (R), Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL), and former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Trump’s son, Eric, and his wife, Lara, were also in attendance. 


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Monday in Manhattan: Prosecution’s ‘Star’ Witness, Michael Cohen, Takes the Stand (Trump Trial – Day 16)


Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger resumed her questioning of Cohen when trial got underway on Tuesday. Cohen testified regarding his meeting with Trump in the Oval Office in February 2017. 

“I was sitting with President Trump and he asked me if I was OK. He asked me if I needed money. And I said, ‘no all good.’ He said because I can get a check. I said, ‘no, I’m OK.’ He said, ‘Alright, just make sure you deal with Allen.'”

Following the meeting, Cohen asserts he submitted invoices for “legal services” which he maintains were false as they were actually for reimbursement for the payment to Stormy Daniels (to secure the non-disclosure agreement) as well as for some tech work from a company called Red Finch, a bonus, and to cover his taxes. He also asserts that the 11 checks he received (for $35,000 each) contained false descriptions on the stubs (referencing a retainer agreement). Cohen testified there was no retainer agreement — he did minimal work for Trump in 2017, and the $420,000 he was paid had nothing to do with that work. 

Cohen testified to numerous times he lied. 

He continued to lie for Trump: Cohen said he continued to lie for Trump “out of loyalty and in order to protect him.” He confirmed he continued to pressure people like attorney Keith Davidson to lie about the deals with Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels in 2018, and he said it was done to protect Trump.

He made false statements to Congress: Cohen said he felt “a tremendous amount of pressure” when he was subpoenaed to testify to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees during the Russia investigations in 2017. Cohen’s attorney was being paid by the Trump Organization

While on the stand, Cohen said he made false statements to Congress. When asked why, Cohen said:

“Because I was staying on Mr. Trump’s message that there was no Russia, Russia, Russia, and again in coordination with the joint defense team that’s what was preferred.”

In a letter to the FEC in February 2018, Cohen’s attorney wrote: 

“In a private transaction in 2016, before the U.S. presidential election, Mr. Cohen used his own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford. Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the payment directly or indirectly.”

Cohen characterized this statement as “true but misleading,” noting that neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign were Trump himself. 

Cohen was raided by the FBI in April 2018. They seized two cell phones and various records. He believed Trump was communicating with him via tweets, encouraging him to remain loyal. His legal fees were still being paid by Trump at that time. 

Ultimately, Cohen pleaded guilty in August 2018 to charges of tax evasion, making false statements to a federally insured bank, and campaign finance violations. (The campaign finance violations were the charges pertaining to Trump.) Cohen testified he decided to plead guilty after discussing the matter with his family. 

“I made a decision based again on the conversation I had with my family that I would not lie for President Trump anymore.”

Judge Merchan instructed the jury that Cohen’s guilty plea could be considered as to his credibility but not as to Trump’s guilt. 

“Mr. Cohen’s plea is not evidence of the defendant’s guilt, and you may not consider it in determining whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charged crimes.”

In November 2018, Cohen also pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress. 

Wrapping up the direct examination, Cohen confirmed to Hoffinger that he paid Daniels to ensure the story would not impact the 2016 presidential election and that he did so at the direction and on behalf of Trump. 

Cohen testified that his statement about lying to a federal judge referenced his guilty plea to the tax charges, not to the campaign finance crimes. 

Michael Cohen is being asked to explain why his testimony during Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York, in which he said he lied when he pleaded guilty

“What I was saying is I was going to take responsibility, because the underlying fact I never disputed, but it goes back again to the issue that I was given 48 hours to accept their plea offer or they were going to file an 80-page indictment that included my wife and I was going to protect my wife,” Cohen explains

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger clarifies that when Cohen said he lied to the federal judge, he was not saying he falsely pleaded guilty to the campaign finance crimes tied to Trump.

After a lunch break, Trump attorney Todd Blanche began his cross-examination of Cohen. Right out of the gate, things got testy. 

Blanche also asked Cohen about comments he made about Trump. 

“You also talked on social media, during this trial, about President Trump, have you not?” Blanche asks.

“Sounds correct, yes.”

Blanche asks Cohen whether he called Trump a “dictator douchebag” on TikTok. Cohen responds, “Sounds like something I would say.”

Blanche continues:

“On that same TikTok on April 23 you referred to President Trump when he left the courtroom – you said that he goes right into that little cage which is where he belongs in a f**king cage like an animal?” Blanche asks.

“I recall saying that,” Cohen says.

Blanche explored the seeming contradiction between Cohen’s perfect recall of conversations with Trump from 2016 and his forgetfulness regarding more recent conversations with the DA’s office. 

Cohen confirmed he does four podcasts a week and that Trump comes up in every one. He talks about Trump six days a week on TikTok. He confirmed he wants to see Trump convicted. He sells prison-themed merchandise on his site regarding Trump. 

Cohen testified his feelings on Trump changed around August 2018, around the time he did an interview with George Stephanopoulos. Asked if he was obsessed with Trump, Cohen said: 

“I wouldn’t say obsessed. I admired him tremendously.”

“I can’t recall using that word. I wouldn’t say it would be wrong.”

Cohen also acknowledged prior positive statements he made about Trump, saying that was how he felt at the time. He described Trump’s family as his “surrogate family.” 

Cohen was questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team on August 7, 2018, and asserts initially his answers were deceptive in order to “protect” Trump. He was asked to cooperate. 

Some more of Cohen’s inconsistencies were highlighted: 

Cohen denied that he is motivated by fame, but he did acknowledge these were his words (from his book, “Disloyal”):

“I wanted it all: power, the good life, public acclaim, fame, big deals, fast cars, private planes, the excess and glamor and zest for life.”

Court wrapped for the day and will be off on Wednesday. On Thursday, court will be breaking at 4:00 pm Eastern, and there will be no court on Friday (the day of Barron Trump’s graduation). 

Blanche advised Judge Merchan that he believes he’ll be able to complete his cross-examination of Cohen on Thursday. The prosecution has also now indicated they don’t plan to call any other witnesses after Cohen. This means the defense will likely start presenting their case on Monday and puts the case on pace to be submitted to the jury the last week of May. 

Stay tuned…


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