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Trump silent trial: Defense lawyers question Michael Cohen’s credibility

NEW YORK (AP) — With prosecutors’ hush money case against Donald Trump Near the end, defense attorneys pressed former attorney Michael Cohen on Thursday about his criminal history and past lies as they worked to convince jurors not to believe the star witness’ crucial testimony.

Cohen was back in the hot seat for a third day of testimony as defense lawyers portrayed the fixer-turned-Trump nemesis as a spurned former employee who would say whatever it took to put the presumptive Republican presidential nominee behind bars.

What you need to know about Trump’s secret trial:

Cohen is prosecutors’ final witness — at least for now — as they try to prove that Trump conspired to suppress a damaging story he feared. would torpedo his 2016 presidential campaign then falsified business records to cover up the affair. Cohen’s cross-examination is a crucial moment for Trump’s team to try to undermine Cohen’s credibility, which could determine the former president’s fate in the case.

Under questioning by defense attorney Todd Blanche, Cohen admitted to lying under oath when he pleaded guilty to federal charges, including tax fraud, in 2018 as well as lie to Congress about the work he did on a Trump real estate deal in Russia.

“Was that a lie? Correct?” Blanche asked Cohen if he lied to the late U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III during a court hearing about not being pressured to plead guilty.

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media outside Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Curtis Means/Pool Photo via AP)

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media outside Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Curtis Means/Pool Photo via AP)

Defense attorney Todd Blanche cross-examines Michael Cohen in Manhattan Criminal Court, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in New York.  Cohen returned to the witness stand Tuesday, testifying in detail about how the former president was linked to every aspect of a hush money scheme that prosecutors say was intended to suppress stories that threatened his campaign from 2016. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

Defense attorney Todd Blanche cross-examines Michael Cohen in Manhattan Criminal Court, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

“That’s right,” Cohen said.

During several days on the witness stand, Cohen put Trump squarely in the center of the alleged ploy to suppress negative stories to prevent his White House candidacy 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.

Trump, who insists the lawsuits are aimed at harming his campaign to win back the White House, says the payments to Cohen were properly classified as legal fees because Cohen was a lawyer. The defense has suggested he was trying to protect his family, not his campaign, by suppressing what he calls false and slanderous claims.

“The crime is that they are taking this case,” he told reporters Thursday before entering the courtroom, flanked by a group of congressional allies that included Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. , and Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.

The former president has been joined at the courthouse in recent days by a large number of conservative supporters, some of whom are considered potential vice presidential candidates and others who are seeking future administrative roles. House Speaker Mike Johnson appeared on Tuesday.

Gaetz later posted a photo on social media, showing him standing behind Trump in court, with the words “Back and with you, Mr. President.” It’s a phrase that the Proud Boys, an extremist group whose leaders were convicted of seditious conspiracy after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, have used since Trump, during a campaign debate in 2020, said: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand there.

In questioning Cohen, defense attorneys did not focus on the hush money scheme or the criminal charges involved. Instead, they peppered him with questions about his own misdeeds and his new persona as a fierce critic of Trump to attack Cohen’s credibility and motivations.

Blanche confronted Cohen with crude social media posts, a podcast and books he wrote about the former president, getting Cohen to admit that he made millions of dollars criticizing Trump. In a clip played in court Thursday, Cohen could be heard using an expletive and saying he sincerely hoped “that this man ends up in prison.”

“This will not bring back the year I lost or the damage done to my family. But revenge is a dish best served cold,” Cohen was heard saying. “You better believe I want this man down.”

Cohen acknowledged that he continued to attack Trump, even during the trial.

In a social media post cited by the defense attorney, Cohen called Trump an alliterative and explicit nickname, as well as an “orange-crusted ignoramus.” When asked if he had used that phrase, Cohen replied, “That sounds about right. »

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

Cohen also described a meeting in which he said he and Trump spoke with Allen Weisselbergformer Trump Organization CFO, how reimbursements of Cohen’s secret $130,000 payment to 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.

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 would take the stand.

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

___

Richer reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Jake Offenhartz and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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News Source : apnews.com

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