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Michael Cohen will return to the witness stand for the third day of testimony in Trump’s secret trial

Michael Cohen is expected to return to the witness stand Thursday to face a full day of cross-examination in which the defense is expected to question the former Trump lawyer’s credibility as the prosecution’s star witness in the criminal trial of Donald Trump.

During his two days on the witness stand, Cohen offered the most incriminating testimony yet that Trump was aware of and directly involved in the criminal conduct alleged by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who accused the former president of falsifying business records. to hide reimbursement for a secret payment Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to improve Trump’s electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen, under direct questioning, described in-person meetings and phone calls with Trump, who he said struck a deal with tabloid publisher David Pecker to detect and kill negative stories before the election, and approved a secret payment of $130,000 from Cohen to Daniels. , and signed a plan to repay Cohen in 2017. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

Defense attorneys, during their cross-examination, are expected to try to use Cohen’s own words against him, including past statements he has made in media interviews, on podcasts and in his books, including his 2020 memoir, “Disloyal.”

Cohen told jurors he made about $3 million from the book, which he wrote while serving 13 months in federal prison — in part for campaign finance violations related to paying Stormy Daniels.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Todd Blanche began confronting Cohen with portions of the memoir suggesting Cohen was “obsessed” with Trump.

“At that time, I was deeply immersed in the cult of Donald Trump,” Cohen said of his decade of working for Trump.

Cohen’s detailed descriptions in “Disloyal” of his meetings with Trump related to the “catch and kill” program could be the focus of cross-examination, as defense attorneys attempt to draw out differences between Cohen’s testimony and what he wrote in the book. .

Cohen’s secret recording

On Monday, jurors heard a recording Cohen secretly made of a conversation with Trump in September 2016, when the two men discussed a plan to reimburse Pecker for his company’s secret $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who alleged a year-old affair with Trump that Trump denied took place.

“We’ll have to pay him something,” Cohen can be heard saying in the recording.

“Pay cash,” Trump responded.

When asked on the stand to explain why he secretly recorded his boss, Cohen told jurors he wanted to provide Pecker with proof that Trump planned to pay him back.

“It was so I could show it to David Pecker, and so he would hear the conversation so he knew we were going to pay him,” Cohen said. “I also wanted him to stay loyal to Mr. Trump.”

In his book, Cohen offers an additional explanation for the recording: He did it in case Trump “threw me under the bus” one day.

“First, to show Pecker that I was asking Trump to repay his bond, and second, to have a record of his participation if the plot ever came to light,” Cohen wrote. “I was certain that Trump would throw me under the bus in this case, claiming ignorance and placing all the blame on a rogue lawyer, namely me.”

Although Cohen wrote the book three years before Bragg indicted Trump, Cohen admitted in the book: “I had no idea how prescient I was. »

Stormy Daniels’ payment

Cohen testified that Trump was angry when Cohen first announced that Daniels was shopping his story in the fall of 2016.

“He was really mad at me,” Cohen told jurors, saying Trump told him, “I thought you had everything under control.”

In Cohen’s book, Trump seemed more reserved.

“He didn’t explode as I expected, perhaps dampened slightly by the Access Hollywood episode and his vulnerable position in the campaign,” Cohen wrote.

In the book, he said that after telling Trump about Daniels’ allegations, they called Pecker for his advice regarding potential damage to the campaign.

“Let’s not forget upstairs,” Cohen said jokingly, referring to his wife Melania, him and Pecker.

The next morning, Cohen said he met with Trump, who confirmed his intention to make the payment, according to the book.

“It’s only $130,000,” Trump said, according to Cohen. “Fuck, Michael. Go talk to Allen and find out all this,” Trump reportedly said, referring to Allen Weisselberg, then the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.

Later that day, Cohen and Weisselberg met with Trump to confirm the plan to pay Daniels, according to Cohen’s 2020 account.

“One hundred and thirty thousand is way less than I should pay Melania,” Trump said, according to Cohen.

PHOTO: Michael Cohen is cross-examined by defense attorney Todd Blanche before Judge Juan Merchan, as former President Donald Trump looks on during Trump's trial at Manhattan State Court in New York, on May 14, 2024, in this courtroom sketch.

Michael Cohen is cross-examined by defense attorney Todd Blanche before Judge Juan Merchan, as former President Donald Trump looks on during Trump’s trial in Manhattan State Court in New York, on May 14, 2024, in this courtroom sketch.

Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Cohen said in his book that he and Weisselberg met with Trump again to confirm that Cohen would make the payment out of his own pocket.

“Wow, Michael,” Trump said of the plan, according to Cohen’s book. “That’s great. Perfect.”

Testifying earlier this week, Cohen told jurors that he initially had two in-person conversations with Trump after learning that Daniels was shopping his story in October 2016. While Cohen said Trump asked him to work with Pecker to To control the story, Cohen did not testify about a phone call with Trump and Pecker.

Cohen testified that during one of these two conversations with Trump, he asked Trump how Melania would react to the story.

“I said to him, how’s it going to be upstairs?” Cohen testified.

“He said, ‘How long do you think I’ll be on the market? Not long,'” Cohen testified.

Cohen told jurors that later in October, Trump approved the payment after Cohen tried to delay paying Daniels the money.

“He told me, ‘Do it. Go meet Allen Weisselberg and find out all this,'” Cohen testified.

Cohen said he and Weisselberg also spoke together to Trump to confirm that Cohen would make the payment out of his own pocket.

“We told him I was going to put up the money for it, which he appreciated and (said), ‘Good, good,'” Cohen testified.

Prosecutors also described a series of calls between Trump and Cohen in October 2016, using phone recordings as evidence.

Cohen’s bonus

Cohen told jurors he was “insulted” and “personally hurt” after Trump in 2016 paid him a vacation bonus that was less than he expected — especially after he used $130,000 in his own money to pay Daniels.

“It was insulting that the gratitude shown to me was to reduce the bonus by two-thirds,” Cohen said.

In his book, Cohen offered a similar account of his frustration with the bonus, but added that he also considered using the rights to Daniels’ story against Trump to create a “biblical-level sex scandal” .

“I owned his rights, after all, through my Delaware company, Essential Consulting LLC, so the story of the newly elected president cheating on his wife with a porn star just weeks after she gave birth to Barron was sure to fetch a pretty penny,” Cohen wrote. “Millions, I thought, maybe several million, as I cursed inwardly and would not allow myself to be treated in such a petty manner. Two can play this game, I thought, imagining the headlines that would turn the nightmare that constituted his transition to the White House into a biblical-level sex scandal.

Cohen, however, ended up keeping these thoughts to himself. In his testimony, Cohen said he raised the bonus issue with Weisselberg, who told him that Trump would resolve the issue in the new year.

“You know Mr. Trump loves you. We’re going to do what’s right for you,” Cohen testified, according to what Weisselberg told him. “We’ll make sure you take care of yourself.”

ABC News

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