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Takeaways from the first day of Michael Cohen’s testimony in the Trump hush money case




CNN

Michael Cohen implicated his former boss Donald Trump In hush-hush money scheme to pay Stormy Daniels just days before the 2016 election, saying he distributed $130,000 at Trump’s direction and received a promise of repayment.

Cohen’s testimony links prosecutors’ claims that Trump violated the law by falsifying business records to compensate Cohen and concealing hush money payments that Cohen said he made at Trump’s direction. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied having an affair with Daniels.

Cohen and Trump mostly avoided eye contact while testifying Monday. Cohen looked directly at prosecutor Susan Hofinger throughout most of his testimony, occasionally scanning the room or looking in the direction of the jury. Trump spent long periods of Cohen’s questioning with his eyes closed or leafing through a pile of news stories.

Trump’s lawyers will likely get a chance to question Cohen on Tuesday. Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, is expected to try to shred Cohen’s credibility to the jury during questioning by portraying him as a convicted perjurer who has changed his story more than once.

Below are excerpts from the 16th day of Trump’s secret money trial:

During nearly five hours of testimony Monday, Cohen walked jurors through how he worked with former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker on Trump’s behalf during the 2016 campaign to kill negative stories; how Trump was kept in the dark about his secret financial negotiations with Keith Davidson, an attorney for Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal; And how Trump agreed and was aware of how Cohen was falsely reimbursed in 2017 for Daniels’ payment for legal services.

Cohen is the glue holding together the other witnesses jurors have heard so far, who have been linked via text, email and phone calls to Baker, Davidson, Dylan Howard, Hope Hicks and others allegedly involved in hush money payments.

Cohen described his conversations with Trump during Daniels’ financial negotiations, which prosecutors supported by using Cohen’s phone records to show when the two spoke. He also linked the payment to the Trump campaign.

“I had to get this done,” Cohen said from the podium. “This would be disastrous for the campaign.”

After Cohen and Davidson agreed to a $130,000 settlement payment on October 11, 2016, Cohen said he tried to delay the process until after the election at Trump’s direction — claiming he would need 10 days to raise the money, and noting that the office was closed on Yom Kippur. .

Hofinger asked why Cohen did that.

“Because after the election, it won’t matter,” Cohen said.

“According to the World Health Organization?” – asked Hofinger.

“Mr. Trump,” Cohen said.

Daniels grew tired of the delay, which led to Davidson briefly canceling the settlement agreement, before they renewed the deal at the end of October.

The day before Cohen transferred the money, he made two phone calls to Trump in the morning in which he said he told Trump he would open an account for an LLC that would transfer the money to Daniels.



01:39- Source: CNN

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

“I wanted to make sure he was OK again with what I was doing because I’m asking for his approval for all of this,” Cohen said.

Hofinger wondered whether Cohen would go to the bank without Trump’s approval.

“No,” Cohen said. Everything requires Mr. Trump’s signature; Moreover, I wanted my money back.

Cohen described how he lied on his bank statements — lies that led to federal charges against him in 2018 — by saying Essential Consultants LLC was being used for real estate consulting.

When asked if his bank would have opened the account if he had been honest, Cohen said: “I think they probably wouldn’t.”

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records — 11 invoices, 12 vouchers and 11 checks — records that prosecutors say stem from monthly payouts Cohen received in 2017 for paying hush money to Daniels.

On Monday, through Cohen, jurors heard for the first time evidence directly linking Trump to those damages.

Cohen described how angry he was in December 2016 when his annual Christmas bonus was cut by two-thirds.

He said he immediately went to Trump’s then-CFO, Allen Weisselberg, “and expressed to him in colorful language how angry and angry I really am. This makes absolutely no sense.”

“I was extraordinarily angry with myself,” Cohen said. “I used quite a few expletives.”

After the new year, Cohen said he went to Weisselberg to collect $130,000. “Let’s do this,” Weisselberg told him.

The jury was then shown Cohen’s First Republic Bank statement, which showed the $130,000 settlement payment and Weisselberg’s handwriting detailing how Cohen was repaid $420,000.

Cohen testified that he saw Weisselberg writing on the document, while telling jurors that his money would be “added up” for taxes because he was being paid in monthly installments as income, not compensation.

More importantly, Cohen said that after their meeting, he and Weisselberg went to Trump’s office to talk to him about the matter. Cohen said he was given the title of personal attorney to the president around the same time, but he would not be paid for that title.

Hofinger asked if he would be paid for future legal services.

“This is how it was meant to be,” Cohen said.

“What was it actually?” – asked Hofinger.

“Repaying my money,” Cohen said.

Cohen, who had said he would take a bullet for Trump at the height of their relationship, testified Monday about everything he did to protect his former boss.

As Cohen described every media story he killed and the nondisclosure agreement he entered into before the 2016 election, it was always in the name of protecting Trump.

When it came to the settlement agreement with Daniels, Cohen said he retained control of a document revealing the identities of “David Dennison” and “Peggy Peterson” so he could protect Trump.

He testified that he used Essential Consultants LLC to facilitate the payment to Daniels “to protect and insulate him from the deal.”

Hoffinger asked Cohen if he sometimes bullies people. Cohen confirmed that he would do so.

“The only thing I had in mind was to get the job done and make him happy,” Cohen said of Trump.

Cohen also testified that it was “fair” to say he was once Trump’s “go-between,” and told the jury that he sometimes lied for Trump — including his wife.

Cohen said he chose to pay Daniels $130,000 from his home equity line of credit on his personal property because his wife would have noticed the large amount missing from their joint personal bank account.

Cohen portrayed Trump — whom he often called “The Boss” — as a micromanager who insisted on keeping him informed of the developments of any situation, including the most secret cases such as the nondisclosure agreements with McDougal and Daniels.

Cohen admitted that he kept Trump in the loop because he wanted to take credit for handling Trump’s affairs, whether it was negotiating bills or suppressing negative media stories.

Cohen said he always wanted Trump to know that situations were handled and wanted to “take credit for getting the job done.”

In contrast to his typical public persona, the jury saw Cohen as subdued and giving slow, deliberate answers when questioned directly.

Cohen rarely looked at Trump at the defense table, mostly focusing his eyes on the prosecutor questioning him.

Aside from reviewing some documents and passing some notes to his lawyers, Trump spent most of the day with his eyes closed. The former president looked at Cohen several times, but there was never a clear moment of eye contact.

Cohen elicited some head shakes at what appeared to be disapproval on Trump’s part, including when Cohen mentioned Trump’s wife, Melania.

Cohen claimed that Trump was not concerned about his wife’s feelings when the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was released before the election — testimony that contradicted what former Trump aides Hicks and Madeleine Westerhout told the jury.

“Don’t worry, he says, ‘How long do you think I’ll be in the market?'” he testified. Not long.’ He wasn’t thinking about Melania. “This was all about the campaign.”

At one point, it seemed as if Trump had heard enough of Cohen’s loyal employee story, shaking his head with a smile when Cohen testified that he used a shell company to pay Daniels to protect Trump.

Trump shook his head with a sarcastic smile when Cohen admitted that he was disappointed that he was not a candidate for the position of chief of staff when Trump took office.

Throughout the four weeks of the trial, Trump looked forward to having supporters in court — whether in the streets outside the Manhattan courthouse or within the confines of Judge Juan Merchan’s courtroom — and he complained that he was not getting more support.

Last week, Trump’s son, Eric Trump; his senior campaign advisor, Susie Wiles; Senator Rick Scott of Florida appeared in the gallery behind the former president.

On Monday, Trump had his largest entourage of Republican lawmakers yet — including potential vice presidential nominees.

Senators J.D. Vance of Ohio and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama were present in court, as were New York Representative Nicole Malliotakis of Trump-friendly Staten Island, and the attorneys general of Alabama and Iowa.

They joined Trump for Cohen’s high-profile testimony, sitting in the balcony behind the former president at the defendant’s table. Eric Trump and attorney Alina Haba were also present to support Trump.

Republican politicians stood behind Trump as he delivered his new conference before entering the courtroom on Monday morning. After the first break of the morning, they went out to testify in front of the cameras to denounce what they had just witnessed.

This story has been updated with additional details.



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