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What Michael Cohen said on the stand in Trump hush money case


The fourth week of witness testimony in former U.S. president Donald Trump's hush money trial could be a doozy: Michael Cohen, the prosecution's star witness, has taken the stand.

The long-anticipated testimony from Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer would follow a breathtaking buildup by prosecutors of a case that ultimately hinges on record-keeping. Trump is accused of falsifying internal business records to cover up hush money payments that Cohen made as part of efforts to buy and bury stories that might hurt the former president's 2016 campaign.

Text messages, audio recordings, notes and more have all been introduced or shown to jurors in recent weeks to illustrate what prosecutors say was a scheme to illegally influence the election that year. And sometimes dramatic testimony from witnesses that included former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, ex-Trump staffers and porn actor Stormy Daniels added to the intrigue.

The prosecution could wrap its case this week after telling the judge on Friday that they expected to call just two more witnesses.

The trial is in its 16th day.

In addition to Daniels' recounting of a 2006 sexual encounter she said she had with Trump -- which he denies -- last week saw two failed bids by the defence to have a mistrial declared, attempts to have the gag order squashed or at least altered and more.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts.

The case is the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president and the first of four prosecutions of Trump to reach a jury.

Here's the latest:

Trump speaks to reporters after hush money trial adjourns for the day

Former U.S. president Donald Trump looked annoyed as he left the courtroom after his hush money trial in New York adjourned for the day.

Trump approached reporters in the hallway after court adjourned Monday and read out quotes from pundits critical of the case, as he has done some prior days.

Donald Trump returns to the courtroom after a break at Manhattan criminal court on May 13, 2024. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

Among those he quoted was U.S. Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, who was among the Republican officials who came to support him at the courthouse earlier in the day.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer, who is the prosecution’s star witness, will return to the witness stand on Tuesday.

Cohen says he talked reimbursement for Daniels payment with Trump Organization CFO

As Michael Cohen seethed over his slashed bonus and not being repaid for the $130,000 he shelled out to Stormy Daniels, Trump called him and assured him he’d “take care of it,” Cohen testified in Trump's hush money trial Monday.

Cohen recalled Trump calling him while he was on a holiday vacation in December 2016. He said the then president-elect told him: “Don’t worry about that other thing, I’m going to take care of it when you get back.”

The former Trump lawyer said he then met with the Trump Organization’s longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg to discuss being reimbursed for the Daniels payment.

“I, of course, brought it up to Mr. Weisselberg to ask, ‘When am I getting the money back?’” Cohen testified. “He said, ‘Let’s sit down, let’s meet, let’s do it.’”

Cohen said Weisselberg asked him to provide a copy of the bank statement showing the $130,000 transfer to Daniels’ lawyer.

Cohen said Weisselberg then wrote out various amounts on the statement, including the $130,000 reimbursement, $50,000 for another expense he said he incurred for technology services, plus a $60,000 bonus.

Cohen said Weisselberg suggested he take the money as income rather than a tax-free reimbursement and added additional funds — known as grossing up — to cover his tax bill.

Looking at the note in court, Cohen testified, “I recognize his handwriting but I was also in the room when he was writing it.”

Cohen describes his outrage to receive slashed bonus check in 2016

Michael Cohen did a double take when Trump’s longtime executive assistant Rhona Graff handed him a Christmas card containing 2016's bonus check — as was tradition at the Trump Organization — and saw his usual amount had been cut by two-thirds, Cohen testified in the former president's hush money trial.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Trump's former lawyer said, describing himself as “pissed off,” ”beyond angry” and “personally insulted” to get the slashed check after all he had done, including the US$130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels

“I was truly insulted. Personally hurt by it. Didn’t understand it. Made no sense,” he said. “It was insulting that the gratitude shown back to me was to cut the bonus by two-thirds.”

Cohen said he took the issue to company CFO Allen Weisselberg, laying into him with “quite a few expletives.”

Weisselberg, he said, advised him to calm down and said he’d take care of it.

“Take it easy. You know Mr. Trump loves you. We’re going to do right by you,” he recalled Weisselberg saying.

Trump won the election; Cohen lost his job

After Donald Trump won the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Michael Cohen knew his role as Trump’s personal fixer wasn’t going to last, Cohen said Monday at Trump’s hush money trial in New York.

However, Cohen said he figured, given his unique relationship to the president-elect, he might be considered for one of the most prestigious jobs in the White House: chief of staff.

Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen speaks to reporters after a second day of testimony before a grand jury investigating hush money payments he arranged and made on the former president's behalf on March 15, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

“I just wanted my name to have been included,” Cohen testified, even as he acknowledged he was likely not “competent” enough for the role. “It was more about my ego than anything.”

Instead, Cohen was offered a position as assistant chief counsel, which he turned down.

He then pitched Trump on the role of being his “personal attorney,” compiling a memo on his credentials and bringing in another attorney well-versed in presidential history to highlight the importance of the job.

Before McDougal's story publication, Cohen says he headed a preemptive damage control operation

When Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen found out the Wall Street Journal would be publishing a story days before the election about the National Enquirer’s catch-and-kill efforts, he said he held a series of calls to coordinate strategy and figure out how to “change the narrative” and deal with the fallout.

Among the people he spoke with, he said Monday at Trump's hush money trial in New York, were Trump’s campaign communications director Hope Hicks, then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, and Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels in their hush money deals.

Hicks sent Cohen a series of four different response options in an email shown in court that the campaign was considering releasing to reporters. The proposed responses included painting it as an “attempt by the liberal elite to disparage Donald Trump.”

Cohen said he contacted Davidson to make sure that “Ms. Daniels did not go rogue.”

The Wall Street Journal article published on Nov. 4, 2016, just four days before Election Day. The newspaper reported that the National Enquirer had paid McDougal $150,000 to bury her claim of an affair with Trump.

Cohen also testified about a conversation he had with Trump before The Wall Street Journal’s hush money article was published. He said he spoke to Trump via his bodyguard’s phone.

“This was a real serious — again — problem,” he said in court of the situation.

Cohen said he relayed to Trump that everyone would be on board to deny the story and protect him. But he said Trump was nonetheless upset “because there was a negative story” that could damage the campaign.

Cohen hides hush-money payment from his wife

Michael Cohen, the prosecution's star witness in Donald Trump's hush-money trial, said he agreed to front the money to pay off Stormy Daniels but had to hide the payment from his wife.

Daniels needed to be paid to prevent her from going public about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump, who was running for the White House in 2016. She told jurors last week that she received $130,000.

To get the money for the payment, Cohen testified that he decided to take out a home equity line of credit, in part because the bank would send him updates electronically, rather than to his home, keeping his wife out of the loop.

Cohen said that before he went to First Republic Bank to open up the account that would be used to pay Daniels, he talked to Trump to let him know the plan

“Everything required Mr. Trump’s sign off,” Cohen testified. “On top of that, I wanted the money back.”

On Oct. 27, 2016 — less than two weeks before the 2016 election — Cohen finalized the payments to buy Daniels’ story. Immediately, he went to Trump to inform him the deal was done.

Cohen testifies about payment to Stormy Daniels

In afternoon testimony at Donald Trump's hush-money trial, Michael Cohen said he used the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur — the day of atonement — as one of many excuses to delay completing a deal with Stormy Daniels.

Stormy Daniels arrives at an event in Berlin, on Oct. 11, 2018. (Markus Schreiber / AP Photo, File)

Daniels told jurors last week that the $130,000 she received was meant to prevent her from going public about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in a hotel suite a decade earlier. Trump worried that the story could hurt his 2016 campaign for the White House.

Cohen testified that Trump implored him to delay finalizing the transaction and paying Daniels until after election day so he wouldn’t have to pay her.

Trump approved payments to kill negative stories: Cohen

Michael Cohen's testimony in Donald Trump's hush-money trial has implicated the former president in efforts to buy and then suppress news stories about sex that he feared could hurt his 2016 White House campaign.

"You handle it," Cohen quoted Trump as telling him after learning that a doorman had come forward with a false claim that Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock. The Trump Tower doorman was paid $30,000 to keep the story out of the press.

A similar episode occurred after Cohen alerted Trump that Playboy model Karen McDougal had alleged that she and Trump had an extramarital affair. Cohen said Trump ordered him to "make sure it doesn't get released."

As he worked to secure funding for the $150,000 payment, Cohen said he received guidance from Allen Weisselberg, then the Trump Organization's CFO.

"Allen then said to me, if we do it from a Trump entity that kind of defeats the purpose because the point is not to have the Trump name affiliated with this at all," Cohen said he was told.

The conversation with Weisselberg happened right after he briefed Trump about the deal to acquire McDougal's story from the National Enquirer, Cohen testified.

Cohen says publisher pressed for reimbursement

After the National Enquirer shelled out $150,000 to suppress Karen McDougal's story about Donald Trump, Michael Cohen testified that the tabloid's publisher was hounding him to get Trump to reimburse him for the cost.

Donald Trump, left, during his possible 2012 U.S. presidential run, and attorney Michael Cohen. (Jim Cole/AP Photo)

Cohen, the prosecution's star witness in Trump's hush-money trial in Manhattan, recounted meeting the former publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, at his favorite Italian restaurant and the publisher being upset about not being repaid to bury the story about Trump's alleged affair with McDougal, a former Playboy model.

Pecker was concerned, Cohen said, that "it was too much money for him to hide from the CEO of the parent company" and he'd already laid out $30,000 to suppress another story.

Cohen said at some point Pecker had also expressed to him that his company, American Media Inc., had a "file drawer or a locked drawer as he described it, where files related to Mr. Trump were located."

Cohen said he was concerned because Pecker's relationship with Trump went back years and that Pecker was in the running to head another media company. Cohen feared what would happen to the files if Pecker left.

Cohen describes his work to quash playboy model alleged affair story

Michael Cohen, called to the stand by the prosecution in Donald Trump's hush-money trial in Manhattan, testified he went to Trump immediately after the National Enquirer alerted him to a story being peddled that alleged Trump had had an affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Cohen recalled going to Trump's office, asking Trump if he knew McDougal or anything about the story.

Cohen said Trump then told him to make sure that the story doesn't get released.

Michael Cohen, former attorney to Donald Trump, leaves the District Attorney's office in New York, March 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Cohen said he communicated regularly with National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and editor Dylan Howard to stop the story from getting out. He said the tabloid executives updated him regularly on their discussions and that he kept Trump apprised of developments.

Cohen said he thought the story would have a "significant" impact on Trump's presidential campaign if it became publish.

The McDougal news came on the heels of the National Enquirer paying $30,000 to squash a doorman's false rumor about Trump having a child out of wedlock.

Cohen testifies about how tabloid offered Trump help

Michael Cohen, who is testifying for the prosecution in Donald Trump's hush-money trial in Manhattan, offered his side of an August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower where former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified he'd offered to look out for negative stories before they were published.

Cohen testified that Pecker offered to publish positive stories about Trump and negative stories about his opponents. He said the publisher also offered to "keep an eye out for anything negative about Mr. Trump and that he would be able to help us know in advance what was coming out and try and stop it from coming out."

Cohen said he was seeking to harness the power of the National Enquirer to Trump's benefit, given its high visibility next to the cash registers at tens of thousands of supermarkets across the U.S.

Cohen also testified about his role in brokering a deal to buy a potentially damaging story -- which claimed, falsely, that Trump had a child out of wedlock -- from a Trump Tower doorman in order "to take it off the market."

Cohen, 57, worked for the Trump Organization from 2006 to 2017 as Trump's lawyer and fixer. Cohen broke with Trump after the FBI raided his office, apartment and hotel room in 2018. He has been a fierce critic ever since.

Cohen testifies about his 10 years with Trump

Michael Cohen, the prosecution's star witness in Donald Trump's hush-money trial testified that he reported directly to Trump during his decade-long tenure as his executive vice president and special counsel.

He recalled being tasked to renegotiate bills on Trump's behalf, including a law firm invoice that Trump felt wasn't "fair, reasonable, justified" and outstanding invoices from 50 vendors of Trump's failed Trump University project.

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

Cohen testified that he managed to trim most of the Trump University bills by more than 80 per cent, sparing Trump from having to cover costs behind the $2 million left in the project's bank account.

Cohen also testified he spoke with Trump -- either in person or by phone -- multiple times a day. But Trump was wary of using email, Cohen said.

"Mr. Trump never had an email address," Cohen said. Trump knew too many people who had "gone down" as a result of emails that prosecutors were able to use against them in legal cases, Cohen said.

Though now a fierce critic of Trump, Cohen testified that his decade working for him was largely a "fantastic" experience.

Cohen takes the stand

He once said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump. Now Michael Cohen is prosecutors' star witness in the former president's hush money trial.

Cohen is expected to testify about his role in arranging hush money payments on Trump's behalf during his first presidential campaign, including to porn actor Stormy Daniels, who told jurors last week that the $130,000 that she received in 2016 was meant to prevent her from going public about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in a hotel suite a decade earlier.

Cohen, 57, worked for the Trump Organization from 2006 to 2017 as Trump's lawyer and fixer. Cohen broke with Trump after the FBI raided his office, apartment and hotel room in 2018. He has been a fierce critic ever since.

Cohen first came to Trump's attention as a condo board member who took the developer's side in a dispute between residents and management at a Trump building where he lived in Manhattan.

Trump speaks before trial begins

As Donald Trump entered the criminal courtroom in Lower Manhattan on a pivotal day of his hush-money trial, he stopped to talk to reporters to proclaim his innocence. He also called the case a "political witch hunt."

His comments come moments before the expected beginning of testimony of a pivotal witness: his former lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen, now one of his sharpest critics.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump reacts at a campaign rally in Freeland, Mich., May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Some of Trump's political allies lined up behind him as he spoke, including Republican Ohio Sen. JD Vance. Vance, who has become a close ally of the former president, is considered one of the top contenders on Trump's shortlist of vice presidential candidates.

Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York were also among the crowd. It was by far the biggest showing of support from Trump's Republican allies after one-off appearances in recent days by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and others.

Trump has started inviting supporters to join him in court as he is subject to a gag order that prohibits him from criticizing the witnesses and others.

Trump arrives at court

Donald Trump's motorcade has arrived at the criminal courthouse in Lower Manhattan for the start of the 16th day of the former president's hush money trial.

The trial involves allegations that he falsified his company's records to hide the true nature of payments to Michael Cohen, who helped bury negative stories about him during the 2016 presidential campaign. He's pleaded not guilty.

Cohen, who was once Donald Trump's personal lawyer and fixer, is expected to take the stand as the prosecution's star witness.

Prosecutors have spent weeks building up a case that largely hinges on record-keeping. They've presented witnesses, text messages, notes and audio recordings to illustrate what prosecutors have said was a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and burying negative stories that might hurt Trump's campaign.

Trump's campaign trail

While Donald Trump seized on his legal woes Saturday in front of a Jersey Shore campaign rally crowd, a judge's gag order -- and the threat of jail -- limit Trump's ability to comment publicly on witnesses, jurors and some others connected to the New York trial, which is expected to consume much of the month. The judge in the case already has fined Trump $9,000 for violating the order and warned that jail could follow if he doesn't comply.

The order doesn't include references to Judge Juan M. Merchan, whom Trump called "highly conflicted" or District Attorney Alvin Bragg, both of whom Trump said are "doing the bidding for crooked Joe Biden."

Trump's responsibilities as a defendant have limited his ability to win over voters on the campaign trail.

Cohen leaves his New York home

Michael Cohen has left his New York home on Monday morning.

Donald Trump's fixer-turned-foe is expected to take the witness stand in the former president's hush money case.

In criminal trials, many witnesses come to the stand with their own criminal records, relationships with defendants, prior contradictory statements or something else that could affect their credibility.

Cohen has a particular set of baggage.

In testimony, he will need to explain his prior disavowals of key aspects of the hush money arrangements and to convince jurors that this time he is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

A 'Biden show trial': Trump

Sandwiched between his appearances in court, Donald Trump headed on Saturday to the Jersey Shore, where he repeatedly blamed President Joe Biden for the criminal charges he's facing as the presumptive nominees prepare to face off in the November election and called his New York hush money case "a Biden show trial."

Blasting the Democratic president "a total moron," Trump before a crowd of tens of thousands repeatedly characterized the cases against him as politically motivated and timed to harm his ability to campaign.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to court after a break in his trial at Manhattan criminal court in New York, Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (Eduardo Munoz/Pool Photo via AP)

"He's a fool. He's not a smart man," Trump said of Biden. "I talk about him differently now because now the gloves are off."

Trump has repeatedly accused the Biden administration and Democratic officials in New York of using the legal system to block his return to the White House.

The hush money case was filed by local prosecutors in Manhattan who do not work for the Justice Department or any White House office. The Justice Department has said the White House has had no involvement in the two criminal cases against Trump brought by special counsel Jack Smith.

Trial will meet for three days this week

Court proceedings in Donald Trump's hush money trial will be held on just three days this week -- Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Wednesday is the trial's usual day off during the week and court will not be in session on Friday to allow the former president to attend his son Barron's high school graduation.

Weisselberg could make an appearance

Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's former chief financial officer, could make an appearance at Donald Trump's hush money trial after all.

On Friday, Judge Juan M. Merchan asked prosecutors to see if they could get him to court before seeking instead to introduce evidence to explain his absence.

Weisselberg, 76, is currently jailed at New York City's Rikers Island complex, serving a five-month sentence for lying under oath in his testimony in the state attorney general's civil fraud investigation of Trump. He pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced last month. His plea agreement does not require his cooperation or testimony in the criminal case.

"Right now it's seems to me we're trying to jump the gun. We're trying to explain why he's not here without making any effort to get him here," Merchan said.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove noted that his absence "is a very complicated issue" and may require a jury instruction about uncalled witnesses.

Prosecutors had argued that subpoenaing Weisselberg to testify would probably be a waste of time due to his loyalty to Trump and the likelihood that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Witness testimony enters fourth week

Donald Trump is due back in court on Monday morning as witness testimony in his criminal trial enters its fourth week.

Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer, is the star prosecution witness in Trump's hush money trial. Cohen is set to take the stand Monday and is by far the Manhattan district attorney's most important witness in the case.

Prosecutors say they may wrap up their presentation of evidence by the end of the week.

Cohen is expected to testify about his role in arranging hush money payments on Trump's behalf during his first presidential campaign, including to porn actor Stormy Daniels, who told jurors last week that the $130,000 that she received in 2016 was meant to prevent her from going public about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in a hotel suite a decade earlier.

Defence lawyers have teed up a bruising cross-examination of Cohen, telling jurors during opening statements that the fixer-turned-foe is an "admitted liar" with an "obsession to get President Trump."

The trial is in its 16th day. Top Stories

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