Trump’s Lawyers Cite Cohen’s Insults To Undercut His Credibility

Trump Lawyers Grill Cohen

On Thursday, Donald Trump’s lawyer accused star witness Michael Cohen of lying at the former U.S. president’s trial about a phone conversation he claimed to have had with Trump regarding a hush money payment to a porn star before the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, asserted that the conversation was about harassment from a prank caller, not about the $130,000 payment to silence porn star Stormy Daniels, as Cohen had testified previously.

Blanche confronted Cohen, saying, “That is a lie. You can admit it!” Cohen responded, “No sir, I can’t, because I am not certain that is accurate.” He maintained that he believed he spoke with Trump’s then-bodyguard, Keith Schiller, about the harassment and also briefly discussed the payment with Trump. Blanche, raising his voice, insisted, “We are not asking for your belief.”

During several hours of questioning, Blanche aimed to portray Trump’s former fixer as a spiteful turncoat eager to see his former boss behind bars. Blanche played jurors audio clips of Cohen expressing delight at the case and feeling “giddy with hope and laughter” at the thought of Trump and his family in prison.

He reminded jurors that Cohen had lied to Congress, the U.S. Justice Department, and in court. Blanche also noted that Cohen privately sought a pardon from Trump while publicly claiming he would not accept one.

When Blanche asked Cohen if the trial’s outcome affected him personally, Cohen replied, “Yes,” while maintaining composure in contrast to his aggressive and often profane public comments. Cohen will return to the witness stand for more questioning when the trial resumes on Monday.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president and denies having sex with Daniels. The New York case, one of four criminal prosecutions Trump faces, is likely to be the only one with a jury verdict before his Nov. 5 election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

Cohen, central to the case, testified earlier this week that Trump ordered him to pay Daniels to protect Trump’s presidential campaign and discussed a plan to reimburse Cohen through bogus invoices for legal fees. Cohen recounted a chat in the White House Oval Office in 2017, when Trump was president.

Cohen’s baggage

Cohen carries significant baggage as a witness, having pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the Daniels payment and admitted to lying repeatedly about the scandal.

However, some of Cohen’s testimony aligns with other evidence, including records from Trump’s company. Cohen recalled several conversations from the hectic 2016 campaign, including one where he spoke with Trump about another effort to silence a woman who claimed to have had sex with him. “These phone calls are things that I’ve been talking about for the past six years,” he said.

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records in New York to cover up the payment to Daniels. Under questioning by Blanche, Cohen acknowledged that the hush-money deal itself was legal. However, prosecutors argue that the altered records concealed election-law and tax-law violations, elevating the crimes from misdemeanors to felonies punishable by up to four years in prison. Trump characterizes this case and three other prosecutions as attempts to interfere with his campaign to reclaim the White House.

Members of the far-right U.S. House of Representatives Freedom Caucus attended the trial on Thursday and echoed Trump’s complaints. “We’re seeing today what lengths the Democratic Party will go to to try to rig or steal another election,” said the group’s chairman, Republican Representative Bob Good, outside the courthouse.

Trump has argued that his monthly payments to Cohen throughout 2017 were for his work as Trump’s personal lawyer, making the “retainer” label on the checks Trump signed appropriate. Prosecutors, however, claim the reimbursement payments were falsely labeled as legal expenses in the Trump Organization’s records to conceal the Daniels payoff, violating U.S. election campaign finance law.

Cohen is the 20th and final witness called to testify by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office at the trial, which began on April 15. It remains unclear whether Trump will testify next week when the defense presents its case. Although Trump initially said he would testify, Blanche has stated that Trump has yet to decide. The defense is not required to present a case, and Trump does not have to decide ahead of time whether he will testify.