Michael Cohen will take a stand – NBC10 Philadelphia

The star prosecution witness in Donald Trump’s hush money trial will take the stand Monday with testimony that could help determine the outcome of the first criminal case against a U.S. president.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and personal intermediary, is by far the Manhattan district attorney’s most important witness in the case, and his long-awaited appearance signals that the trial is entering its final stretch. Prosecutors say they will likely wrap up their discovery by the end of the week.

Cohen is expected to testify about his role in arranging hush payments on behalf of Trump during his first presidential campaign, including from porn actress Stormy Daniels, who told jurors last week that the $130,000 she received in 2016 were intended to prevent him from making public statements. her about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in a hotel suite a decade earlier.

It’s also important because the refunds he received form the basis of the charges (34 felony counts of falsifying business records) against Trump. Prosecutors say the refunds were recorded as legal expenses to conceal the true purpose of the payments.

Defense attorneys have prepared a forceful cross-examination of Cohen, telling jurors during their opening statements that the fixer-turned-enemy is a “confessed liar” with an “obsession with catching President Trump.”

Testimony from a witness with such intimate knowledge of Trump’s activities could increase the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s legal exposure if jurors find him sufficiently credible. But politically, the fact that prosecutors are relying on a witness with such a checkered past (Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the payments and lying to Congress) could be a boon for Trump as he raises funds from his troubles. legal and presents the case as the best. product of a contaminated criminal justice system.

Either way, his role as the prosecution’s star witness further cements the disintegration of a mutually beneficial relationship that was once so close that Cohen famously said he would “take a bullet for Trump.” After the FBI raided Cohen’s home and office in 2018, Trump showered him with affection on social media, praising him as a “good person with a wonderful family” and predicting, incorrectly, that Cohen would not “go crazy.” .

Months later, Cohen did exactly that, pleading guilty in August to federal campaign finance charges involving Trump. At that point, the relationship broke down irrevocably, and Trump posted on the social media platform then known as Twitter: “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I strongly suggest that you do not retain the services of Michael Cohen!”

Judge Juan Merchán ruled that former President Donald Trump had violated the court’s gag order for his comments about the jury in his criminal case in New York.

Cohen later admitted to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project he had carried out on behalf of Trump during the heat of the 2016 Republican campaign. He said he lied to be consistent with Trump’s “political message.”

Prosecutors are expected to elicit detailed testimony from Cohen about his past crimes in hopes of mitigating the impact of defense attorneys’ questioning and demonstrating that they are not trying to cover up his misdeeds. But it’s unclear how effective that will be, given that defense attorneys will be prepared to exploit all the challenges that accompany a witness like Cohen.

In addition to painting Cohen as untrustworthy, he is also expected to be portrayed as vengeful, vindictive and motivated by an agenda. Since the fallout, Cohen has become a relentless and sometimes crude critic of Trump, appearing as recently as last week on a Tik Tok live wearing a T-shirt depicting a Trump-like figure in handcuffs, behind the bars. The judge on Friday urged prosecutors to tell him to refrain from making further statements about the case or Trump.

“He has spoken at length about his desire to see President Trump go to prison,” Trump attorney Todd Blanche said during opening statements. “He has spoken at length about his desire to see President Trump’s family go to prison. He has spoken at length about President Trump’s conviction in this case.”

No matter how his testimony plays out, Cohen is indisputably central to the case, as evidenced by the fact that his name was mentioned in the presence of the jury during opening statements more than 130 times, more than any other person.

Other witnesses, including former National Enquirer editor David Pecker and former Trump adviser Hope Hicks, have testified extensively about the role Cohen played in orchestrating the squelching of stories that were feared to be damaging to Trump’s 2016 candidacy. And jurors heard an audio recording of Trump and Cohen discussing a plan to buy the rights to a story by a Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who said she had an affair with Trump.

During a massive rally Saturday in the southern New Jersey resort town of Wildwood, Trump revived his criticism of the case, wrongly blaming President Joe Biden for orchestrating the charges in New York and calling the case a “show trial of Biden.”

That argument ignores the reality that the hush money case was brought by local prosecutors in Manhattan who do not work for the Justice Department or any other 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.