Trump's lawyers cite Michael Cohen's insults to undercut his credibility

trump's lawyers cite michael cohen's insults to undercut his credibility

Michael Cohen, a former attorney for Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump, heads to court for second day of cross-examination at Trump's criminal trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, New York City, U.S., May 16, 2024. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado

By Jody Godoy, Jack Queen and Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Donald Trump's lawyers sought to undermine the credibility of his former fixer Michael Cohen on Thursday at the Republican presidential candidate's criminal hush money trial, highlighting his past record of lying and statements celebrating Trump's legal troubles.

Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche played jurors audio clips of Cohen saying the case "fills me with delight" and that he felt "giddy with hope and laughter" imagining Trump and his family in prison.

"Does the outcome of this trial affect you personally?" Blanche asked.

"Yes," Cohen said.

Blanche told jurors that Cohen had lied to Congress and to U.S. Justice Department investigators about Trump's ties to Russia, and also had lied under oath when pleading guilty to tax violations. He pointed out that Cohen had privately sought a pardon from Trump while publicly saying he would not accept one.

trump's lawyers cite michael cohen's insults to undercut his credibility

Michael Cohen, a former attorney for Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump, heads to court for second day of cross-examination at Trump's criminal trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, New York City, U.S., May 16, 2024. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado

Cohen agreed that he had blamed others, including Trump, in the wake of his own criminal convictions on tax and campaign-finance charges.

Cohen maintained his composure while answering questions in contrast to his aggressive and often profane public comments. Blanche's questions suggested Cohen could face another long day on the stand as the defense seeks to cast him as a spiteful turncoat eager to see his former boss behind bars.

Cohen, 57, testified earlier this week that Trump ordered him to pay porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in 2016 to protect Trump's presidential campaign.

trump's lawyers cite michael cohen's insults to undercut his credibility

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 16th 2024 in New York City, U.S. Steven Hirsch/Pool via REUTERS

Blanche noted in cross-examination on Tuesday that Cohen had called his former boss a "dictator douchebag," and other insults on podcasts and in social media posts.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president and denies having a sexual encounter. The New York case, one of four criminal prosecutions he faces, is likely to be the only one with a jury verdict before his Nov. 5 election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

Cohen testified earlier this week that he and Trump discussed a plan to reimburse Cohen for the payout through a series of bogus invoices for legal fees. Their chats included one in the White House Oval Office when Trump was president in 2017, Cohen said.

trump's lawyers cite michael cohen's insults to undercut his credibility

Former US President Donald Trump speaks to the press on arrival at his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 16, 2024. Trump's defense team continues the questioning of Michael Cohen, the key witness in the criminal trial of the former president Angela Weiss/Pool via REUTERS

Trump, 77, faces 34 counts of falsifying business records in New York to cover up a payment to the porn star in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors say the altered records covered up election-law and tax-law violations - since the money was essentially an unreported contribution to Trump's campaign - that elevate the crimes from misdemeanors to felonies punishable by up to four years in prison.

Trump characterizes the case and three other prosecutions as an attempt to interfere with his campaign to take back the White House.

Prominent Republican officeholders have attended the trial in a show of support. On Thursday, several members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, stood behind Trump outside the courtroom as he repeated complaints that the trial was a waste of public resources.

trump's lawyers cite michael cohen's insults to undercut his credibility

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, US, on Thursday, May 16, 2024. JEENAH MOON/Pool via REUTERS

Cohen carries significant baggage as a witness. He pleaded guilty to federal crimes in 2018 for offenses related to the Daniels payment and lying to Congress during an investigation into Trump's Russia ties. He told jurors on Tuesday he lied repeatedly to journalists and others about the Daniels scandal.

But he answered most of Blanche's questions on Tuesday directly and sometimes subverted their intent, such as when he admitted that he previously admired Trump but likened it to being in a cult.

Cohen's testimony has been corroborated by other evidence, including handwritten notes outlining Cohen's reimbursements and a surreptitious recording made by Cohen of Trump seeming to discuss a hush money payment made by the National Enquirer tabloid to another woman.

UNCERTAINTY OVER WHETHER TRUMP WILL TESTIFY

Blanche has said he expects his cross-examination of Cohen to last most of Thursday, meaning the defense would have the opportunity to call its own witnesses when the trial resumes next week. Trump has yet to decide whether to testify, he said.

Trump has argued that his monthly payments to Cohen throughout 2017 were for his work as his personal lawyer to the president, meaning there was nothing improper about the word "retainer" being written on the checks Trump signed.

Prosecutors say the reimbursement payments were falsely labeled as legal expenses in the Trump Organization's records to conceal the Daniels payoff, which they say violated U.S. election campaign finance law.

Cohen is the 20th and final witness to be called to testify by prosecutors with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office at the trial, which began on April 15 in New York state criminal court.

(Reporting by Jody Godoy, Jack Queen and Luc Cohen, writing by Luc Cohen and Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)

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