Michael Cohen resumes testimony in Trump hush-money trial

Trump’s former lawyer set to face tough cross-examination after testifying ex-president took part in hush-money scheme.

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen departs to testify at Trump's hush-money trial at Manhattan state court in New York City, May 14 [Cheney Orr/Reuters]

Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has continued to testify in a New York City courtroom, a day after he accused the ex-United States president of taking part in a scheme to suppress negative media coverage before the 2016 elections.

Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness, told the jurors on Tuesday that he had a meeting with Trump at the White House in 2017 to discuss a repayment plan for a hush money payment Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Cohen testified this week that the former president ordered him to pay Daniels, who said she had a sexual encounter in 2006 with the married real estate developer-turned-politician. Trump has denied any encounter took place.

The $130,000 payment in October 2016 is at the heart of Trump’s trial, the first for a former US president, which began in New York state criminal court in Manhattan last month.

Trump was joined in the courtroom on Tuesday by an entourage of Republican supporters, including House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Their presence as Cohen returned to the stand was a not-so-subtle show of support meant not just for Trump – who is seeking re-election in November – but also for voters tuning in from home and for the jurors who are deciding the former president’s fate.

The case is one of four criminal indictments against Trump, who is the presumptive Republican Party nominee heading into November’s presidential election despite his legal troubles.

In the New York indictment, the former president faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in relation to payments made to Daniels.

Prosecutors have zeroed in on the political dimensions of the payments, arguing that Trump engaged in a conspiracy that aimed to “undermine the integrity” of the 2016 presidential election, which he won.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and slammed the case as a politically motivated “witch-hunt”.

During his first day on the witness stand, Cohen, 57, described multiple episodes in which he said Trump approved payments to keep damaging sex-scandal stories out of the public eye, in an effort to prevent them from hurting his campaign for the White House.

“Everything required Mr Trump’s sign-off,” Cohen said on Monday.

Michael Cohen is questioned by a prosecutor as Donald Trump looks on, in this courtroom sketch
Cohen is questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger as Trump sits with his eyes closed during the New York trial, May 13, in this courtroom sketch [File: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters]

Cohen also told jurors that Trump was furious that Daniels was shopping a story about their alleged sexual encounter.

“He said to me, ‘This is a disaster, a total disaster. Women are going to hate me,’” Cohen testified. “‘Guys, they think it’s cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign.’”

Trump’s defence team is expected to challenge Cohen’s credibility during cross-examination later on Tuesday, and attempt to paint him as a liar who cannot be trusted.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges related to the hush-money payments, as well as for lying to Congress. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from outside the courthouse on Tuesday morning, said “it all really comes down to [Cohen’s] word”.

“And his word has been highly suspect from the beginning of this case, given that he’s gone to jail for lying under oath in the past,” Saloomey said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies