Donald Trump’s Attorney Fumes At Michael Cohen In Effort To Discredit Testimony Of Prosecution’s Star Witness: “That Was A Lie”

donald trump’s attorney fumes at michael cohen in effort to discredit testimony of prosecution’s star witness: “that was a lie”

Donald Trump in court on Thursday. Photo by Steven Hirsch-Pool/Getty Images

As Michael Cohen returned to the stand for cross-examination this morning, Donald Trump‘s attorney loudly accused him of lying about the nature of a phone call eight years ago, which Cohen said was to discuss with then-candidate Trump a payoff to the porn star Stormy Daniels.

“That was a lie,” said Todd Blanche, his voice rising. “You did not talk to President Trump on that night.”

The moment was a highlight of today’s proceedings in the hush money trial of the former president.

Cohen was Trump’s former attorney and so-called fixer. He testified on Tuesday that he reached Trump by calling the bodyguard, Keith Schiller, that day, October 24, 2016, and that he spoke to Trump on Schiller’s phone to let him know that a deal with Daniels was close. Cohen said this afternoon that his recollection was based on his review of phone records provided by prosecutors. But he admitted that he didn’t remember the problem with the prankster until seeing the texts with Schiller today.

“I believe I also told Trump — ” Cohen began, referring to the 90-second call over Schiller’s phone.

“We are not asking your for belief,” Blanche snapped, cutting him off. “This jury doesn’t want to hear what you think happened.”

The comment drew an objection from Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Susan Hoffinger. The trial paused for lunch shortly after that exchange.

On his second day of cross-examination, Cohen faced more skeptical questions from Blanche about his character, motives, past lying under oath, and penchant for sounding off about the man he used to affectionately call “Boss” before legal troubles partly tied to the $130,000 payment landed him behind bars.

Blanche had jurors listen to Cohen saying “revenge is a dish best served cold” last October in a podcast. Cohen said in the same podcast that he wanted Trump to go to prison, just as he had.

Prosecutors in New York say — and Cohen has testified — that Trump ordered Cohen to pay off Daniels in the home stretch of the 2016 presidential campaign to stay silent about her claim of an extramarital sexual encounter years earlier with Trump, who used falsified business records to secretly reimburse Cohen.

Blanche, plowing through multiple prosecution objections, took repeated aim at Cohen’s testimony this week in an apparent effort to damage his credibility with jurors — as when Cohen testified on Tuesday that he never wanted to work in the Trump White House. Blanche confronted Cohen with conversations and correspondence that showed his interest in becoming Trump’s chief of staff or attorney general.

Cohen today repeated that he just wanted to be asked about those roles. “That was for my ego,” Cohen said.

Cohen did admit to lying under oath on previous occasions: He said he lied in 2018 to the federal judge accepting his guilty plea on tax and banking charges.

Cohen said that he should not have faced criminal charges as a first-time tax offender but felt pressured by federal investigators who were threatening to also charge his wife — information Cohen admitted he didn’t share with the judge.

“I believe you still feel you did not engage in tax fraud, but you felt you had to protect your wife and family,” Blanche said. “Correct,” Cohen replied.

Cohen said he still thinks that judge — William H. Pauley III, who died in 2021 — colluded with federal prosecutors from New York who were targeting him on orders from the Trump White House. That’s largely the thesis of Cohen’s book, Revenge.

Blanche said that Cohen, far from “accepting responsibility” for his crimes — as he has said under oath that he did — had at different points blamed his accountant, banker, federal law enforcement officials or the Trump White House for his legal woes.

“I don’t dispute the facts of the case but I should not have been prosecuted,” Cohen testified today.

Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 2017 about Trump’s business activities in Moscow. Today, Blanche reminded Cohen of problems with a written statement that Cohen delivered under oath to Congress two years later. Cohen declared in that 2019 appearance on Capitol Hill that he would never ask for, or accept, a pardon from then-President Trump.

In truth, Cohen had previously directed his lawyers to explore the possibility of a pardon. Cohen said today that his congressional statement was true when he made it, but acknowledged that his lawyers went back to Congress to correct the record.

The prosecution’s case against Donald Trump is winding down in court, but the background noise around the proceedings may be getting louder. This morning, on his way into the courtroom, Trump singled out Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo, a former U.S. Department of Justice official before joining the local DA’s office and its Trump prosecution team.

Trump baselessly called Colangelo’s involvement proof that President Biden “is running this trial.”

Trump is still contesting the gag order imposed by Judge Juan Merchan: He’s appealed to New York state’s highest court to remove a restriction that has already seen him fined $10,000 and threatened with jail for public statements about jurors, witnesses and other trial participants or their families.

On Tuesday, Trump supporters led by Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson — the third-highest ranking elected official in government — stood with Trump in the hallway outside the courtroom and also held a press conference in front of the courthouse to denounce the trial as a “sham.”

This morning’s entourage included Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz, Republican House members known for bashing the former president’s critics and regularly making news themselves for their own behavior. Boebert and Gaetz took seats directly behind Trump in the gallery next to Trump’s oldest son, Eric Trump.

One question this week is whether Trump is using surrogates to get around Judge Merchan’s gag order, and whether the Manhattan District Attorney’s office will make an issue of it. A reporter covering the trial for New York magazine told MSNBC on Tuesday evening that he saw Trump in court that day marking up a document with talking points used by his allies outside the courthouse.

Merchan’s gag order forbids Trump from criticizing trial participants, or directing others to do so, but it’s not clear if prosecutors will again ask the judge to intervene and sanction the defendant.

Johnson on Tuesday was openly critical of Merchan’s daughter, a Democratic campaign worker who is protected under the gag order but remains the unnamed source of Trump’s ongoing complaints about a “conflicted” trial judge. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, told reporters he was “disappointed in looking at the American — supposedly American — citizens in that courtroom,” a remark widely interpreted as a dig at the jury.

Tuberville later clarified that he meant other people, not jurors, “trying to transition this country into something that it’s not.” He also said he hopes to “overcome this gag order.”

On Tuesday morning, as Trump entered court, a hallway pool reporter asked if he was directing surrogates to speak on his behalf. “I do have a lot of surrogates and they are speaking very beautifully,” Trump replied.

Cohen, the former Trump lawyer and self-styled “fixer,” spent Tuesday afternoon on the stand quietly parrying questions from Blanche about his credibility. So far the particulars of the DA’s case against Trump haven’t come up in cross examination.

The core allegation is that Trump sought to illegally influence the 2016 election using falsified invoices, checks and pay stubs to disguise the repayment to Cohen as ongoing legal work. Trump denies Daniels’ claim that they had sex in 2006 at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, when he was married and had a newborn son.

Trump’s lawyers defend the non-disclosure agreement with Daniels as routine business and a legal exercise of his right as a candidate to head off bad news in the heat of a political campaign.

Cohen is reportedly the prosecution’s last witness before the defense gets its turn to put on a case in a trial that has gone by more quickly than many observers expected. In a sidebar conference with the judge on Tuesday, out of earshot of jurors, Blanche said he still didn’t know whether his client will decide to testify.

The trial has gotten quieter by one measure: Since testimony began, public protests outside the courthouse have been low-key to nonexistent. This morning Trump blamed the heavy security. “Outside, if you take a look, it looks like Fort Knox. So many police and they don’t allow people to come. You’re not allowed to have friendly protests, we’re not allowed to have anything here.”

The park across the street from the courthouse, in fact, remains open to protestors. But their numbers, small to begin with compared to the throngs that showed up for Trump’s arraignment last year, have dwindled down to single digits or zero on any given day.

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