‘That Was a Lie!’: Trump Lawyer Brawls With Michael Cohen

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Reuters
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Reuters

Donald Trump calls them “Perry Mason moments.” The 77-year-old likes to reference the TV series from his childhood and the dramatic legal showdowns in real life which so far seem to be the only things keeping him fully awake during his own trials.

That altercation finally came midday Thursday, as his lead lawyer Todd Blanche eventually shed the apologetic tone he’s maintained during two days of questioning Michael Cohen. The former prosecutor replaced his milky tone with an aggressive bark as he turned up the heat on the Manhattan District Attorney’s star witness against his former boss.

“That. Was. A. Lie!” Blanche raised his voice, jabbing the pen in his right hand accusatorily at Cohen. “You did not talk to President Trump on that night... you admit it!”

“No, sir, I can’t. Because I’m not certain that's accurate,” Cohen responded.

Boebert, Gaetz, and a Clown Car of Trump Wannabes Show Up to Trial

The 18 jurors have heard all about the Trump-signed checks that paid Cohen’s fake invoices for non-existent legal work that were really meant to handsomely reimburse him for fronting $130,000 to silence Stormy Daniels so she wouldn’t expose their sexual affair in the closing days of the 2016 presidential election.

As a case that at its core is about falsifying business records, it mattered that Cohen on Tuesday told prosecutors he specifically recalled phoning Trump’s bodyguard on Oct. 26, 2016, having him pass the phone to the boss and getting the politician to personally greenlight the hush money deal.

But the jury was treated to a surprise on Thursday, when Blanche cast doubt on whether Cohen really spoke to Trump that night about the hush money deal—if he spoke to Trump at all.

Blanche did so by bringing up an unexpected topic: the way a prank caller who had bombarded Cohen with calls but slipped up by accidentally forgetting to mask his number on a single attempt. In a string of seemingly aimless questions, Blanche soon revealed the point of bringing it up: In reality, Cohen had an entirely different reason to call Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller that night.

“This number has just been sent to secret service,” Cohen texted the other person, citing “your ongoing and continuing harassment.”

The person on the other line freaked out, rapidly texting “it wasn’t me,” then “my friend told me to call,” followed by “I’m sorry for this,” and “I won’t do it again.”

Laura Ingraham Scolded for Using Binoculars at Trump Trial

But Cohen, then a take-no-shit lawyer who was accustomed to intimidating journalists who would ever criticize Trump, leveraged his newfound power as personal attorney to the presidential candidate.

“You will need to explain this to secret service as we’ve been receiving dozens of these harassing calls over the past 3 days. I suggest you notify your parent or guardian,” Cohen texted back.

“I DIDNT DO IT,” the other person pleaded. “Im 14.”

“Please have your parent or guardian contact me,” Cohen texted, before following up with “before secret services reaches out to them.”

After reviewing the exchange in court, Blanche then directed the jury’s attention back to that pivotal hour on a Wednesday evening in October 2016. That’s when, digital documents show, Cohen reached out to the real estate mogul’s bodyguard.

“Who can I speak to regarding harassing calls to my home and office,” Cohen texted Schiller at 7:48 p.m.

Cohen missed Schiller’s call 13 minutes later, then phoned him right back at 8:02 p.m. Records show the call lasted one minute and 36 seconds. Immediately thereafter, Cohen sent him the prankster’s number.

“OK,” Schiller responded seconds later.

The next morning, Cohen followed up.

“Did you reach the family?” he texted Schiller at 7:58 a.m.

These phone records—which tell a wider story than the one prosecutors presented earlier this week—gave Trump’s team an opening to accuse Cohen of fabricating the true purpose of the call.

“That was a lie, because you were actually talking with Mr. Schiller,” Blanche told him.

Michael Cohen is asked about taking an oath as he is cross-examined by defense lawyer Todd Blanche.

Michael Cohen is asked about taking an oath as he is cross-examined by defense lawyer Todd Blanche during former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in Manhattan state court in New York City on May 16, 2024.

Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

“Part of it was the 14-year-old,” Cohen demurred, for the first time claiming that the brief call actually had two purposes.

As Cohen spoke, Blanche left the podium and turned left to start pacing in his mid-blue suit and periwinkle tie, holding his left hand to his forehead with an incredulous look on his face. When Cohen was done, Blanche returned to the microphone.

“I asked you five minutes ago if you remember harassing phone calls, and you said no. Then I refreshed your recollection,” Blanche said, racing. “But now your memory is that you were testifying truthfully on Tuesday about a one-minute, thirty-second phone call, and you had enough time to update Mr. Schiller about all the problems you were having... and also update President Trump about the status of the Stormy situation because you always ran everything by the boss? Is that your testimony?”

Cohen asserted that was enough time to cover both issues, pushing the defense lawyer further into overdrive.

Blanche, for the first time since he began cross-examining Cohen on Tuesday, repeatedly called Cohen a liar. While the Trump team has repeatedly brought up the fact that Cohen is a convicted perjurer who has lost his bar license—without mentioning that he did so allegedly at Trump’s direction and for his benefit—this was now a chance to insult him to his face.

‘Crying Little Sh*t’: Sparks Fly in Cohen’s Cross-Examination

Cohen defended himself.

“I believe I told him everything was being resolved,” he said.

“We are not asking for your belief,” Blanche said, referencing the 18 New Yorkers watching the heated argument. “This jury does not want to know what you think happened.”

When the back-and-forth was cut short with the day’s lunch break, Blanche sped back to his chair next to the former president, who was watching intently. When the jury and Cohen left the courtroom, Trump exited out the back while toying with the end of his red tie—which hung comically long three inches below his belt buckle.

The former president was closely followed by Alina Habba, who clearly enjoyed the show. She’s the only other Trump lawyer present who similarly tore into Cohen at the businessman’s previous bank fraud trial last year. She was smiling ear to ear and licking her lips.

Blanche, still feeling the heat of the moment, followed behind while flexing his jaw and gripping two large black binders in his left hand.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.