Trump Trial Enters Its Endgame With Michael Cohen’s Final Grilling

Carlos Barria/Reuters
Carlos Barria/Reuters

Donald Trump’s hush-money trial will resume Monday with more cross-examination of Michael Cohen, the former president’s one-time lawyer and fixer who is at the epicenter of the historic case.

It will probably be Cohen’s final day on the stand after already delivering explosive testimony about his old boss’ alleged involvement in the $130,000 payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about a sexual liaison with Trump. Trump’s defense attorneys will likely continue with questioning designed to chip away at the credibility of Cohen—the last prosecution witness in the trial.

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

Prosecutors claim Trump broke the law by falsifying business records to conceal the hush-money payment to Daniels. He did so, they claim, to protect his 2016 presidential campaign from Daniels’ potentially damaging story of an extramarital one-night stand coming to light. Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges in the case and has denied having sex with Daniels.

In his testimony last week, Cohen directly implicated Trump in the alleged hush-money scheme. He claimed that the former president directed him to make the payment and was kept updated at every stage of the process.

Trump’s attorneys, on the other hand, have sought to undermine Cohen’s credibility with jurors, construing him as a liar who is on a vengeful crusade against Trump. Cohen has previously lied to Congress and served prison time after pleading guilty to federal charges, some of which relate to the hush-money scheme.

The defense team has also accused Cohen of lying during the current trial.

Last Thursday, Trump attorney Todd Blanche grilled Cohen about the nature of a phone call he’d made to Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller in the days before Cohen made the payment to Daniels. Cohen had testified that the purpose of the call was to speak to Trump about the payment, but Blanche cited text messages Cohen sent to Schiller to claim that the call was actually about prank calls Cohen had been getting from a 14-year-old.

“That. Was. A. Lie!” Blanche thundered at Cohen. “You did not talk to President Trump on that night... you admit it!” “No, sir, I can’t,” Cohen replied. “Because I’m not certain that’s accurate.”

Defense attorneys say they expect to be done with Cohen on Monday morning. Prosecutors will then have another chance to question him—in which they’ll likely seek to address any issues they think jurors will have in believing his account—before they rest.

Trump’s lawyers will then have the opportunity to call witnesses of their own, though it’s not certain that they will do so. They have indicated that they may call at least one—Bradley Smith, a former commissioner of the Federal Election Commission—though they might choose not to in light of limitations that Judge Juan Merchan has put on what Smith can address. Merchan has ruled that Smith can speak about the role of the FEC and the definitions of some terms related to campaign finance, but he can’t give his opinion about whether Trump broke the law in the current case.

A question also remains over whether Trump will take the stand to testify in his own defense. As well as being a risky move, his hypothetical testimony could possibly take days and thereby extend the trial.

Otherwise, jurors could begin deliberating later this week.

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