Michael Cohen returns to testify against Trump as prosecution’s key witness — defense begins cross-examination

News & Politics

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former attorney, returned to the witness stand on Tuesday in the New York criminal case against the former president.

Cohen, the prosecution’s key witness, despite his compromised credibility, offered no additional evidence against Trump during his direct examination on Monday and Tuesday.

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress, tax evasion, and campaign finance violations. He claimed he lied “out of loyalty and in order to protect [Trump].”

‘It wasn’t a lie; it wasn’t truthful.’

“And my family — my wife, my daughter, my son — all said to me, ‘Why are you holding on to this loyalty? What are you doing? We’re supposed to be your first loyalty,” Cohen testified. “I made a decision based again on the conversation I had with my family that I would not lie for President Trump anymore.”

He acknowledged that some of the charges he pleaded guilty to were unrelated to any alleged arrangements with Trump.

“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 stated, referring to the civil fraud trial in New York.

Despite facing up to several decades in prison for the charges, Cohen was sentenced to just 36 months. He was released early due to COVID-19, he testified.

Cohen claimed that he paid porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump. Cohen testified that his payment to Daniels was made “on behalf of Mr. Trump” and that the former president reimbursed him $420,000, paid out in $35,000 increments over a year.

Cohen told jurors about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s April 2018 raid on his hotel room, condo, and office. According to Cohen, he was residing in a hotel at the time because his condo had flooded. When asked to describe the raid, he replied, “How to describe your life being turned upside down: concerned, despondent, angry.”

Cohen was the prosecution’s final witness, according to live updates from the courthouse.

Defense team begins cross-examination

On Tuesday afternoon, Trump’s attorneys began their cross-examination of the prosecution’s key witness.

Cohen admitted that the New York criminal case against Trump was “personally” important to him.

He acknowledged that he has been instructed multiple times not to publicly discuss the case but has continued to do so. Cohen stated that during his twice-weekly podcast, Trump is “mentioned in every one.” His TikTok account “does make money, but it’s not significant,” he testified.

Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, asked Cohen whether he was being truthful when he previously made comments about Trump wanting to “make the country great again.”

Cohen replied, “At that time, I was knee-deep into the cult of Donald Trump, yes. … I was not lying, it’s how I felt.”

He also admitted that he previously described Trump as “a man who cares deeply about his family” and is “kind, humble, and honest.”

Blanche pushed Cohen to confess that he lied to investigators involved in Robert Mueller’s probe of Trump’s alleged links to Russia. Cohen acknowledged that the information he provided was “not accurate.”

“It wasn’t a lie; it wasn’t truthful. If you want to call it a lie, we can call it a lie. I believe the information I gave them is inaccurate,” he told Blanche.

“But you are not testifying it’s a lie?” Blanche asked.

“Sure, I’ll say it’s a lie,” Cohen conceded.

When asked whether he would like to see Trump convicted, Cohen refused to provide a definitive “yes” or “no” response and repeatedly replied, “Sure.”

Blanche questioned Cohen about comments he made on social media on April 23, in which he called Trump a “dictator” who “belongs in a cage like a f***ing animal.” Blanche also showed the T-shirt Cohen recently wore in one of his social media videos. The shirt included an illustration of Trump behind bars, and Cohen said he encouraged his show’s viewers to purchase the shirt from his merchandise store.

Cohen denied that he is “motivated by fame.”

“I don’t think that’s fair to say,” he stated.

“Is it fair to say you’re motivated by publicity?” Blanche asked.

“I don’t know if that’s fair to say. I’m motivated by many things,” Cohen remarked.

Cohen will return for cross-examination on Thursday.

According to court transcripts, the defense is not yet certain whether Trump will testify.

Anything else?

Trump has maintained that no crime was committed. He pleaded not guilty to all 34 charges in the case and repeatedly denied Daniels’ affair allegations.

“I paid a lawyer a certain amount of money. We marked it down as legal expenses. So, I had a legal expense, and I marked it down as a legal expense. I didn’t mark it down as a construction of a wall, construction of a building. I didn’t mark it down as electricity,” Trump said.

“There’s no crime,” he continued. “I’ve been here for almost four weeks in an icebox, they call it the icebox, listening to a judge who is totally corrupt and conflicted.”

Acting Justice Juan Merchan again on Tuesday denied the defense team’s request to appeal the gag order against Trump, which prevents him from speaking about anyone involved in the case. So far, Merchan has fined Trump $10,000 for 10 comments that allegedly violated the order.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) visited the courthouse on Tuesday to show his support for Trump. Before attending the trial, he spoke to the media. He stated that Cohen was “clearly on a mission for personal revenge” and claimed that the case was “not about justice, it’s about politics.”

“The crime they are accusing President Trump of is falsification of business records. But I think everybody knows he is not the bookkeeper for his company,” Johnson said.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum (R), former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, and Florida Representatives Byron Donalds (R) and Cory Mills (R) also attended the trial on Tuesday.

“This trial is a joke. This thing is a farce,” Donalds told reporters. “Where is the crime? There is no crime. The only crime that’s happening here is this Democrat judge and the Democrat party prosecuting their political rival right in the middle of a presidential election.”

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