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USA

Trump lawyer attacks Michael Cohen in secret trial

  • By Kayla Epstein and Mike Wendling
  • Report from the New York court

Video caption, Watch: BBC’s Nada Tawfik explains defense strategy during cross-examination of Michael Cohen

Donald Trump’s legal team sought Tuesday to dismantle the credibility of the star witness in the ex-president’s criminal trial, Michael Cohen.

Mr. Trump showed no reaction when his lawyer, during cross-examination, portrayed Cohen as a man with a personal vendetta against his former boss.

Throughout the weeks of legal confrontation in the making, Cohen remained calm.

He also said he hoped Mr. Trump would be convicted of fraud in the secrecy case.

Cohen was on the stand for a blockbuster second day of testimony. He was called by prosecutors to testify about the secret payment of $130,000 (£104,300) to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election, to prevent her from telling a story about an alleged sexual relationship with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump now faces 34 counts of business fraud for allegedly disguising repayments of the payment to Cohen as legal fees. The former president has pleaded not guilty to the charges and denies having sexual relations with Ms Daniels.

At one point, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, asked bluntly whether Cohen wanted to see Mr. Trump convicted in the case.

After being pressed, Cohen replied, “Of course.”

For two hours, Mr. Blanche tried to undermine Cohen, who was jailed after pleading guilty to tax evasion, fraud and campaign finance violations. He pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and sought to portray Cohen as motivated by hatred and fame. He also sought to show that Cohen is seeking to profit from the legal woes of a man he castigates daily in public.

Mr. Blanche unearthed Cohen’s prolific social media posts, podcasts and media appearances attacking his former boss, often in unprintable language.

BBC News journalists are in the Manhattan courtroom to cover the historic first criminal trial of a former US president. You’ll find their updates and analysis on the BBC website and news app, as well as on TV, radio and podcasts.

At the start of the cross-examination, Mr. Blanche asked about a comment Cohen had made about him on social media.

Is it true, Mr. Blanche asked, that Cohen had called him a “little crybaby (expletive).”

Cohen quickly responded: “That sounds like something I would say. »

Judge Juan Merchan quickly struck the response from the official record, but the exchange set the tone for the afternoon.

Mr. Blanche then demonstrated some products from Cohen’s podcast, including a T-shirt showing Mr. Trump in an orange jumpsuit, handcuffed.

But by the close of Tuesday’s session, Mr. Blanche had not cross-examined Cohen on the most damaging testimony he had given to prosecutors: that he had kept Mr. Trump informed at every step of the payment to Ms. Daniels, and that Mr. Trump had approved the payment. Allegedly fraudulent repayment plan.

Despite previous testimony testifying to Cohen’s belligerent nature, Cohen remained calm during cross-examination.

Jeffrey Levine, a lawyer who represents Cohen, said in a statement that “it is my understanding that Mr. Cohen appeared credible.”

His testimony will continue when the court resumes work on Thursday.

Prosecutors took a risk in calling Cohen, given his online posts and criminal record. But as the man who actually made the secret payment to Ms. Daniels, his testimony was crucial to the New York prosecutor’s case.

Prosecutors also hope it will help prove another element of their case: that the alleged concealment of the payment constituted election interference.

At a pivotal moment, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Cohen why he made the payment.

“Preventing the story from breaking would not affect Mr. Trump’s chances of becoming president of the United States,” he told the court.

Ms. Hoffinger asked in whose name he had committed this crime.

“In the name of Mr. Trump,” Cohen responded.

Legend, Mr. Trump enters courtroom Tuesday

Although Cohen said he did not regret working for Mr. Trump or his organization, he said he had “violated my moral compass” in order to carry out Mr. Trump’s orders.

The FBI raided Cohen’s apartment in April 2018. He spoke to then-President Trump, who told him “stay tough, everything will be fine.”

“I felt reassured because the President of the United States was protecting me,” Cohen testified.

But that was the last direct conversation between the two men. Cohen – who once said he would “take a bullet” for Mr Trump – said that after talking to his family about being the target of a federal investigation, he decided not to continue lying on behalf of his most famous client.

After the trial concluded Tuesday, Mr. Trump told reporters that his team had had “a very good day” and criticized the silence order limiting what he could say publicly about the judge’s family and others. involved in the affair.

A number of Mr. Trump’s Republican allies and possible running mates for the November election attended the trial this week.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, currently the top Republican in the U.S. government and in line to succeed the president after the vice president, was in attendance Tuesday and spoke with reporters outside.

Former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida also attended the trial.

Legend, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum speaks outside the courtroom

Prosecutors indicated during Tuesday’s proceedings that Mr. Cohen would be the last witness they would call.

Mr. Trump has indicated that he wants to take the witness stand to testify in his own defense – but it remains to be seen whether he will actually do so.

News Source : www.bbc.com
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