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Trump’s silent trial: Michael Cohen returns for further questioning

NEW YORK (AP) — The secret trial of Donald Trump Head towards the last straight linewith prosecutors’ final and main witness returning to the stand Monday for more grilling before the former president’s lawyers have a chance to present their case.

The historic trial will resume in Manhattan with new cross-examinations from the defense of Trump’s former lawyer. Michael Cohenof which crucial testimony Last week, Trump was directly linked to the alleged hush money scheme. He is the prosecution’s final witness, and it’s not yet clear whether Trump’s lawyers will call any witnesses, let alone the presumptive Republican presidential nominee himself.

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

Defense lawyers have already Cohen questioned for hours on his criminal history and past lies to portray him as a serial fabulist who is waging a revenge campaign aimed at bringing down Trump.

After more than four weeks of testimony on sex, money, tabloid machinations and details of Trump’s corporate record-keeping, jurors could begin deliberating as early as this week to decide whether Trump is guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first criminal trial of a former US president.

The charges stem from internal Trump Organization files in which payments to Cohen were considered legal fees, but prosecutors say they were actually reimbursements for a secret $130,000 payment to the Trump Organization. porn actor Stormy Daniels.

Former President Donald Trump speaks to reporters following the day's proceedings during his trial in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (Steven Hirsch/New York Post via AP, Pool )

Former President Donald Trump speaks to reporters following the day’s proceedings during his trial in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (Steven Hirsch/New York Post via AP, Pool )

Trump has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers say there was nothing criminal about the deal with Daniels or the way Cohen was paid.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg The office is expected to rest its case once Cohen leaves the stand, but prosecutors would have the option to call witnesses in rebuttal if Trump’s lawyers call their own witnesses.

The judge asked lawyers to prepare for closing arguments as early as Tuesday, although the timing will depend on whether the defense calls witnesses, which it is not required to do. Defense attorneys said they had not yet decided whether Trump would testify.

Defense attorneys are generally reluctant to put their clients on the witness stand and subject them to intense questioning from prosecutors because it often does more harm than good.

Cohen is the prosecutors’ most important witness, but he is also vulnerable to attacks.

The now-disbarred attorney admitted on the witness stand to lying under oath and other lies, many of which he said were intended to protect Trump. Cohen served a prison sentence after pleading guilty to various federal charges, including lying to Congress and a bank and engaging in campaign finance violations related to the hush money scheme.

And he has made millions of dollars from critical books about the former president, whom he regularly criticizes on social media in often crude terms.

Cohen told jurors that Trump was intimately involved in the project to pay Daniels to prevent him from going public with his 2016 presidential campaign by alleging a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006. Trump says nothing sexual happened between them.

Cohen told jurors about meetings and conversations with Trump, including one in 2017 in which Cohen said he, Trump and then-Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg discussed how how Cohen would recoup his expense for paying Daniels and how reimbursement would be billed as “legal services.”

Known for his short temper, Cohen remained mostly calm on the witness stand despite the defense’s sometimes heated questioning about his own misdeeds and the allegations in the case.

A key moment came Thursday, when defense attorney Todd Blanche accused Cohen of lying about the purpose of a phone call to Trump’s bodyguard days before Cohen wired $130,000 to the Daniels’ lawyer.

Cohen told jurors he spoke to Trump during that call about the secret payment. Blanche confronted Cohen with text messages to claim that Cohen had actually spoken to Trump’s bodyguard about harassment calls from a teenage prankster.

“It was a lie. You didn’t speak to President Trump that night… Can you admit that? » asked Blanche.

“No, sir, I can’t,” Cohen responded, saying he believed he had also spoken to Trump about the Daniels deal.

Trump’s lawyers said they may call Bradley A. Smith, a Republican law professor appointed by former President Bill Clinton to the Federal Election Commission, to refute the prosecution’s claim that the secret payments constituted campaign finance violations.

Judge Juan M. Merchan, however, limited what Smith can address, and the defense may decide not to call him after all.

There are often guardrails around expert testimony on legal issues, because it is up to the judge – not an expert hired by one party or the other – to instruct jurors on the applicable laws in a case. affair.

Merchan ruled that Smith could provide a general overview of the FEC, the laws it enforces and definitions of terms such as “campaign contribution.” But it cannot interpret how federal campaign finance laws apply to the facts of Trump’s case or rule on whether the former president’s alleged actions violate those laws.

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Richer reported from Washington.

News Source : apnews.com
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