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Michael Cohen returns to the witness stand – NBC Chicago

As prosecutors’ secret case against Donald Trump draws to a close, their star witness will be back in the hot seat Thursday as defense attorneys attempt to chip away at Michael Cohen’s crucial testimony involving the former president.

The trial, now in its fourth week of testimony, will resume in Manhattan with a potentially explosive cross-examination of Cohen’s defense, whose credibility could determine the fate of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in the case.

Cohen is prosecutors’ latest witness — at least for now — as they try to prove that Trump plotted to suppress a damaging story he feared would torpedo his 2016 presidential campaign, then falsified documents. business records to hide it.

While the defense doesn’t expect to call many witnesses, Cohen’s cross-examination is a pivotal moment for Trump’s team, which must convince jurors that their once-loyal lawyer and fixer cannot be believed . The defense suggested that Cohen was on a mission to bring down the former president and would say whatever he needed to put Trump behind bars.

Over two days on the witness stand, Cohen placed Trump squarely at the center of the alleged plan to suppress negative stories to prevent his White House bid from being damaged. Cohen told jurors that Trump promised to repay the money he paid and that he was constantly briefed on efforts to silence women who alleged sexual relationships with him. Trump denies women’s claims.

Cohen also described a meeting in which he said he and Trump spoke with Allen Weisselberg, a former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, about how refunds of the $130,000 paid by Cohen to the porn actor Stormy Daniels would be paid in the form of legal services on monthly installments. That’s important because prosecutors say the reimbursements were falsely recorded as legal fees to conceal the true purpose of the payments.

Trump claims the payments to Cohen were properly classified as legal fees and that the lawsuits are intended to torpedo his campaign to win back the White House. His defense suggested Trump was trying to protect his family — not his campaign — by suppressing what he calls false and slanderous claims.

Cohen told jurors how his life and relationship with Trump were turned upside down after the FBI raided his office, apartment and hotel room in 2018. Trump first showered him with affection on social media social and predicted that Cohen would “not turn around.” His tone changed when, months later, Cohen pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance charges and implicated Trump in the hush money scheme. Trump has not been charged with a crime related to the federal investigation.

Prosecutors tried to soften the defense’s attacks on their star witness by getting him to upfront admit his past crimes, including lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project he pursued in the name of Trump during the height of the 2016 campaign. Cohen admitted on the witness stand to a host of other lies, many of which he said were intended to protect Trump. The defense should rely on his history of lies to cast doubt on his testimony.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche began questioning Cohen on Tuesday with questions unrelated to the criminal charges but intended to show that Cohen went after Trump because he wanted glory and revenge. Blanche confronted Cohen with crude social media posts, a podcast and books about the former president, getting Cohen to admit that he made millions of dollars from his new persona as one of the country’s most vocal critics. ferocious of Trump.

Defense attorneys are expected to question Cohen until late Thursday. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said it would rest its case once he finishes on the stand, although it may have the opportunity to call witnesses in rebuttal if the Trump’s lawyers call their own witnesses.

The defense is not required to call witnesses, and it is unclear whether attorneys will do so. Blanche told Judge Juan M. Merchan on Tuesday that the defense could call an expert witness and that there was still no decision on whether Trump himself would take the stand.

Regardless, the trial will take place Friday so Trump can attend the high school graduation of his youngest son, Barron.

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Richer reported from Washington.

NBC Chicago

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