Prosecution seeks to land Trump hush money case as Cohen cross-examination looms


“do it.”

In three short words, he is more famous for selling sports equipment than exposing conspiracies. Star witness Michael Cohen Monday filming Donald Trump He was ordered to pay a bribe to an adult film star to save his 2016 election campaign.

Prosecutors will seek to build on that His testimony When he returns to the stand Tuesday to make their case that the former president broke the law by falsifying financial records to hide the payment in the culmination of a scheme to mislead voters.

All of this would be a curtain raiser on what looms as a brutal interrogation by the presumptive Republican nominee’s lawyer, with the aim of destroying Cohen’s reputation, exposing him as a liar, and punishing him for turning against his former boss.

The bigger question before Monday was whether prosecutors had established a prior foundation of corroborating evidence with which they could connect Cohen’s testimony and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump acted criminally.

“I think they got it,” Ryan Goodman, a professor at New York University School of Law, told CNN’s Erin Burnett, citing false evidence — such as call logs, including calls between Trump and Cohen, about the proposed payment and attorney compensation, which prosecutors say They have it. It led to forged financial documents. “As of today, it’s holding together.”

Trump has pleaded not guilty, and no one can be sure how the jury will interpret the events in the trial until the fateful moment when the jury foreman delivers his verdict. But former New York prosecutor Bernarda Villaluna said on CNN’s “The Lead” that Cohen, from his extradition to his eye contact with the prosecutor, was “excellent” on the stand and assisted the prosecution. “They finally provided this link that Donald Trump authorized these payments and the payments were for purposes of influencing that campaign,” she added. “Michael Cohen made it happen. …But we have to see how he will stand up to questioning.”

David Schoen, who represented Trump during his second impeachment trial, said that given Cohen’s past, including a conviction for lying to Congress, and his frustrated hopes for a job in the Trump administration that offered a potential motive for retaliation, questioning would be crucial. I think they (the prosecution) feel he’s a critical or crucial witness. I think in real terms, it probably is. “This case will turn significantly when Mr. Cohen is cross-examined. This must be a dream for a halfway qualified attorney.

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CNN’s Cara Scannell breaks down how former President Donald Trump reacted when his former lawyer Michael Cohen testified in the criminal prosecution against him.

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Michael Cohen testifies during Donald Trump's hush money trial on Monday, May 13.

Listen to Trump’s reaction to Michael Cohen’s answer about Melania Trump

The most consequential day of the trial so far saw the presumptive Republican nominee come face-to-face with Cohen, who says he squashed scandals and fixed failed business deals as a ruthless broker for his boss. It was another unfathomable episode in the 2024 election season that has Trump caught up in a legal quagmire, but it could still end with him returning to the White House.

While Monday’s court hearing will play a pivotal role in how the case develops, there is a broader audience given how Trump’s defense turns into campaign logic. It is too early to assess how voters will handle conviction or acquittal or whether devastating new revelations about his behavior will sway voters who are now numb to scandals that would have doomed an ordinary candidate years ago. But new New York Times/Siena polls showing Trump ahead of President Joe Biden in several swing states confirm his very real hopes for a second, non-consecutive term. Cohen’s description on Monday of the former president’s way of doing business added to growing evidence that a second Trump administration is likely to pose a greater threat to the rule of law than his first term in the White House.

Trump is barred from publicly criticizing Cohen and what he sees as his betrayal due to a gag order imposed by a judge who threatened prison if he did not comply after 10 previous violations. But the former president’s tirade outside the courtroom on Monday was angrier than usual, as he criticized Judge Juan Merchan and bitterly claimed he was the victim of political abuse. He added: “The whole world is now laughing at the armed legal system in New York.”

To some extent, the testimony of Cohen — who has written that he was drawn to Trump before he ran for president because of his aura and celebrity — is a lesson in the contortions and legally questionable choices often faced by those in the former president’s orbit. But there is no shortage of Republicans seeking to join him. Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, the vice presidential nominee, and Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville joined Trump outside the courtroom Monday morning, strutting like a pack behind the mayor and reflecting his undiminished power in the Republican Party.

Vance has served as Trump’s spokesman, seeking to discredit Cohen and showcase his credentials as a Trump defender as the former president considers a list of running mates. “Would any sane, rational person believe anything Michael Cohen says?” the Ohio Republican asked. “What is happening inside this courtroom represents a threat to American democracy, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, defending the presumptive GOP nominee who tried to overthrow a free and fair election in 2020.

How was the double act between Trump and Cohen broken?

During hours of testimony, the former president sat, often with his eyes closed, as Cohen, now on a redemption journey after years of service to Trump that ended with a prison stint, detailed a plot to silence porn star Stormy Daniels, with whom he claims he had a sexual relationship. With a reality TV star and real estate mogul. (Trump denies the issue.)

Attorney General Susan Hoffinger spent a grueling day slowly explaining to Cohen his past role in the Trump Organization and his commitment to protecting his boss, with Cohen even appearing on television to lie and orchestrate schemes to silence alleged allegations against Trump from other women. Hofinger sought to prove that the payment to Daniels had actually been made, that Trump had asked Cohen to do so, that Cohen had made the payment using a home equity line of credit to hide it from his wife and that he expected a refund.

Hoffinger also urged Cohen to testify that the real reason Trump was concerned about Daniels’ allegations — which surfaced shortly after the 2016 Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged about grabbing female genitals — was to protect his campaign rather than, as the defense will argue To spare his family embarrassment.

Cohen said Trump told him: “Women are going to hate me. … Men might think that’s great, but that would be a disaster for the campaign.” “He wasn’t even thinking about Melania,” he said, referring to the former first lady. “This was all about the campaign.” Cohen also testified that Trump said he wouldn’t be on the market long, meaning he could get another wife quickly. The former president smiled and shook his head after this comment.

Throughout his testimony, Cohen said he always kept Trump informed of his activities. “Everything required Mr. Trump’s signature,” he said, noting that Daniels’ payment was no exception. “He mentioned to me that he talked to some friends, some individuals, smart people, and ‘It’s $130,000.’ You’re a billionaire, just pay it up. There’s no reason to keep this thing there, so do it. He said, ‘Just do it.'” .

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors say this was done to hide monthly payments Cohen received in 2017 — after his boss became president — in exchange for hush money payments to Daniels.

In an apparent attempt to neutralize an expected attempt by the defense to argue that Cohen was lying because he held a grudge against Trump, the prosecution asked him how angry he was when his annual bonus was cut by two-thirds in December 2016. He testified that he was “angry.” Shortly thereafter, he went to Trump’s then-CFO, Allen Weisselberg, to discuss repaying Daniels the $130,000 he had paid. Cohen also testified that he was disappointed not to be nominated as Trump’s first White House chief of staff.

His testimony was quite the reversal for the man who previously wrote that he became a “thug” to carry out Trump’s wishes and who said Monday of the agent he rejected: “The only thing I had in mind was to get the job done.” Make him happy.”

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