Michael Cohen tells hush money trial he lied, bullied on boss’s behalf

of Donald Trump fixer-turned-enemy Michael Cohen characterized his celebrity client as a hands-on manager and said he sometimes lied about him and harassed others on his behalf.

Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and the Manhattan District Attorney’s most important witness in the case, took the stand on Monday (late Monday and early Tuesday AEST) to give much-anticipated testimony. in the trial of the former president for secret money.

The appearance signals the first criminal trial against an ex American president is entering his final stage. Prosecutors say they may finish presenting evidence by the end of the week.
Michael Cohen (left) and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, on a 2016 visit to a pastors’ leadership conference. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, file)

Testimony from a witness with such intimate knowledge of Trump’s activities could boost the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s legal exposure if jurors find him credible enough.

But politically, Trump is likely to benefit from prosecutors’ reliance on a witness with such a controversial past — Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the payments and to lying to Congress — while cashing in on his legal troubles and painting the case as a product of tainted criminal justice system.

Cohen is expected to testify about his role in arranging secret cash payments on behalf of Trump during his first presidential campaign, including porn actor Stormy Daniels told jurors last week that the US$130,000 (about $197,000) she received in 2016 was intended to prevent her from going public about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in a hotel suite a decade earlier early.

Cohen also matters because the refunds he received are the basis of the charges against Trump — 34 counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors say the refunds were recorded as legal expenses to disguise the true purpose of the payments in what they say was an attempt to illegally interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has denied the sexual relationship and pleaded not guilty.

Donald Trump, left, and attorney Michael Cohen are pictured at a stop at the Roundabout Diner in April 2011. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, file)

Trump did not appear to make eye contact with Cohen as the lawyer began his testimony, recounting growing up in Long Island as the son of a Holocaust survivor and his career with Trump, including a decade-long tenure as a top executive at the Trump Organization.

Cohen testified that Trump wanted to be informed immediately of any developments in the tasks he assigned.

“When he was charging you with something, he’d say, ‘Keep me posted. Tell me what’s going on,’” Cohen testified.

He said that’s especially true “if there’s an issue that’s bothering him.”

“If he finds out about it any other way, it’s not going to reflect well on you,” Cohen said.

Cohen said Trump had an “open door policy,” allowing executives to meet with him in his office without an appointment and brief him on developments.

Michael Cohen leaves his apartment building on his way to Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday, May 13, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Asked how he and other executives addressed Trump, Cohen said, “We would call him boss, Mr. Trump.”

While he spoke warmly of his time with Trump, he also acknowledged that his job required him to lie and bully on behalf of his boss.

“The only thing on my mind was to get the job done and make him happy,” Cohen said, referring to Trump.

Defense attorneys began a harrowing cross-examination of Cohen, telling jurors during opening statements that he is an “admitted liar” with an “obsession with winning over President Trump.”

Prosecutors are expected to try to blunt those attacks by eliciting detailed testimony from Cohen about his past crimes. They have called other witnesses whose accounts they hope will support Cohen’s testimony.

Those witnesses included an attorney who arranged hush money payments on behalf of Daniels and a Playboy model; a tabloid publisher who promised to be the “eyes and ears” of the Trump campaign; and Daniels herself.

Cohen’s role as the prosecution’s star witness further cemented the breakdown of a mutually beneficial relationship that was once so close the lawyer said he “would take a bullet for Trump.”

After Cohen’s home and office were raided by the FBI in 2018, Trump showered him with affection on social media, praising him as a “good guy with a wonderful family” and predicting — incorrectly — that Cohen would not “mess up.”

Months later, Cohen did just that, pleading guilty in August to federal campaign finance charges in which he implicated Trump.

By this point, the connection was irretrievably broken.

“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I highly recommend not hiring Michael Cohen!” Trump posted on the social media platform then known as Twitter.

Cohen later admitted he lied to Congress about a Moscow real estate project he pursued on Trump’s behalf during the height of the 2016 Republican campaign. He said he lied to comply with “ Trump’s political message.

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Defense attorneys are expected to use all the peremptory challenges that come with a witness like Cohen. Besides portraying him as untrustworthy, they are also expected to portray him as vindictive, vindictive and agenda-driven.

Since their breakup, Cohen has emerged as a relentless and sometimes harsh critic of Trump, appearing last week on TikTok Live wearing a shirt depicting a Trump-like figure with handcuffed hands behind bars. On Friday, the judge urged prosecutors to tell him to refrain from making any further statements about the case or Trump.

“He’s been vocal about his desire to see President Trump go to prison,” Trump attorney Todd Blanch said during opening statements.

“He’s talked a lot about wanting to see President Trump’s family go to jail. He has spoken widely about President Trump being convicted in this case.”

No matter how his testimony unfolds, Cohen is undeniably central to the case, as evidenced by the fact that his name was mentioned in the presence of the jury during opening statements more than 130 times — more than any other person.

Michael Cohen leaves his apartment building. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Other witnesses, including ex National Enquirer publisher David Packer and former Trump adviser Hope Hicks testified at length about the role Cohen played in arranging to suppress stories he feared would damage Trump’s 2016 candidacy.

Jurors heard an audio recording of Trump and Cohen discussing a plan to buy the rights to a story by a Playboy model, Karen McDougall, who said she had an affair with Trump.

At a mass rally Saturday in the southern New Jersey resort town of Wildwood, Trump renewed his criticism of the case, incorrectly accusing President Joe Biden of orchestrating the New York indictments, calling the case a “show trial against Biden.”

This argument ignores the reality that the hush money case was brought by local Manhattan prosecutors who do not work for the Justice Department or any White House office. The Justice Department said the White House is not involved in the two criminal cases against Trump brought by special counsel Jack Smith.

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