Trump Trial Day 14: Michael Cohen Cross-Examined by Trump Lawyer

NEW YORK—The 14th official day in testimony in the hush money trial against former President Donald Trump saw fireworks during the defense's cross-examination of Michael Cohen, the chief witness in the case brought by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Trump was indicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in what the prosecution presented as a scheme to silence Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal from selling their stories of Trump's infidelity to the press during the 2016 election.

Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, played a key role in paying off Daniels a sum of $130,000 that he borrowed against his home's equity line of credit.

Cohen made the payment through a shell corporation and a bank account to circumvent any potential legal or regulatory scrutiny.

Cohen testified he was paid $420,000 for his services in paying Daniels. The $420,000 was paid out by former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg and other payroll officials in the form of a 12-month retainer of $35,000 to cover a reimbursement, a bonus for Cohen, a technical fee, and funds to cover any state and federal taxes.

Note that Weisselberg was indicted and recently sentenced to five months in prison for committing perjury during Trump's civil fraud case.

Based on testimony from former and current Trump Organization employees, White House and campaign staffers, bankers, digital forensic analysts, Daniels' former Los Angeles-based lawyer Keith Davidson, and the award-winning adult star herself, prosecutors did their very best to directly link Michael Cohen's actions to Trump's direction and coordination.

As expected, Trump's defense lawyer, Todd Blanche, had a field day portraying Cohen as a disgruntled former felon and disbarred attorney looking for revenge against a former client.

For example, Cohen was found guilty in the Robert Mueller probe in 2018 for campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and lying to Congress. These are felonies. One of the reasons he was charged with campaign finance violations was for making payments to an "adult film star" for $130,000.

There is ample evidence to suggest that Cohen did this at Trump's direction, but an aggressive Blanche called into question the former lawyer's credibility.

Earlier this week, Cohen testified to the prosecutors on direct examination that he contacted a former bodyguard, Keith Schiller, to speak to Trump about Stormy Daniels on October 24, 2016. On Thursday, Cohen was off kilter when Blanche raised doubt about that phone call by referencing text messages between him and Schiller used to challenge Cohen's account of the call. Blanche implied, "That was a lie, you did not talk to President Trump, you talked to Keith Schiller—you can admit it."

“No sir, I don’t know that it’s accurate," Cohen told him.

The witness said that he remembers the call about the "Stormy Daniels matter" because he has been talking about it for years.

“Because these phone calls are things that I have been talking about for the last six years," Cohen said. "They are, and they were extremely important, and they were all-consuming."

Cohen also had to account for years of inconsistent statements, including lies he told to protect Trump. Blanche presented Cohen as unreliable and someone who has yet to be held accountable for the crimes that he committed. Well before testifying against his former boss, Cohen already expressed dismay for lying on behalf of Trump and said he was upset with him.

Cohen's frustration after Trump's election in 2016 was also discussed in cross-examination. It's been said that Cohen was angry that he wasn't asked to join Trump at the White House. Keith Davidson recalled during his testimony earlier in the trial conversations with Cohen where he was "despondent." 

Judge Juan Merchan adjourned the court for the remainder of the week. Other developments related to the case include Trump's lawyers informing the court that they are asking New York's highest court to decide on the constitutionality of Trump's gag order. Merchan issued a gag order to prevent Trump from intimidating witnesses such as Cohen and Daniels.

Trump has already violated the order ten times and has been fined $1,000 per violation. Lawyers representing Trump have appealed the gag order, but a recent ruling found the order to not be in violation of Trump's First Amendment rights during a time he would much rather be campaigning as the presumptive Republican Party nominee for the U.S. presidency.

Merchan also informed counsel that they should have summations prepared on Tuesday.

This signals that the trial is coming to an end and that the jury could decide the case next week. Prosecutors have no other witnesses to call after Cohen.

Defense counsel says they plan to bring up a campaign finance expert and there is scuttlebutt that Trump himself will be called to the stand to testify.