A star witness in the trial of Donald Trump

USA TODAY

Now Michael Cohen is prosecutors’ biggest piece of legal ammunition in the former president’s hush money trial.
That led to felony convictions and prison for Cohen but no charges against Trump, by then in the White House.
He ultimately functioned as both a Trump lawyer and shark-toothed loyalist.
Those arrangements, which Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office portrays as a multipronged scheme to keep information from voters, are now under a microscope at Trump’s hush money trial.
Moreover, Cohen raised new questions about his credibility while testifying last fall in Trump’s civil fraud trial.
Since splitting with Trump, Cohen has confronted his past lies head-on.
The posts could give Trump’s lawyers fodder to paint Cohen as an agenda-driven witness out for revenge.
“You cannot make a serious decision about President Trump relying on the words of Michael Cohen,” Blanche told jurors.

POSITIVE

NEW YORK (AP) — He previously declared that he would take a bullet for Donald Trump. Michael Cohen is currently the main legal weapon in the prosecution’s arsenal in the former president’s hush money case.

Even though Trump’s former fixer turned enemy is set to provide jurors with an intimate look at the transactions at the center of the prosecution’s case this week, he is also one of the most difficult star witnesses in the business.

He had a difficult relationship with Trump, acting as his personal lawyer and problem solver until the federal government started looking into his business dealings. Cohen was found guilty of felonies and sentenced to prison as a result, but Trump had not yet been charged while he was in the White House.

Cohen, who is scheduled to testify on Monday, will have the opportunity to speak to the jury as someone who has honestly faced up to his own transgressions and paid a price for them with his freedom. Jurors will also probably discover that the now-disbarred attorney has recently claimed, under oath, that he was not truthful even in admitting to some of those falsehoods, in addition to having pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and a bank.

Furthermore, Cohen has adopted a new persona as an unrelenting and occasionally acerbic critic of Trump on social media, in addition to his podcast, books, and posts.

Prosecutors made a point of portraying Cohen as only one piece of evidence against Trump when the Trump trial got underway, informing jurors that additional witnesses, documents, and the former president’s own recorded words would all be used to back up their claims. Yet Cohen has been attacked by Trump and his attorneys as a convicted felon who now makes a living by discrediting his former employer.

Richard Serafini, a criminal defense attorney from Florida and a former federal and Manhattan prosecutor, stated that the defense would like the jury to concentrate on the fact that the defendant is a liar with a troubled past and a short fuse.

“The prosecution will prioritize ‘everything he says is corroborated — you don’t have to like him,'” Serafini stated. And no. 2. This is the person Trump selected. “.

LOYALIST CHANGED TO FOE.

Cohen first met Trump in the early 2000s through a well-known New York real estate tale: Cohen was a condo board member in one of Trump’s buildings and joined Trump’s side in a dispute between the building’s residents and management. Cohen joined the mogul’s company shortly after.

In addition to practicing personal injury law, Cohen had a varied career that included running a taxi fleet with his father-in-law. Cohen declined to comment for this story. In the end, he served as Trump’s attorney and a fervent supporter of the president.

In congressional testimony given after splitting from Trump in 2018, Cohen stated that while he worked on some deal-making initiatives, he also devoted a significant portion of his time to berating reporters, threatening lawsuits, and other maneuvers aimed at neutralizing potential reputational damage for his boss. The break occurred when the FBI searched Cohen’s residence and workplace and Trump started to show less support for the lawyer.

Cohen soon admitted to a federal court that he had assisted candidate Trump in using the tabloid National Enquirer as a kind of house organ, whereby he either bought stories or flagged them to Cohen for purchase, flattering him, trying to deflate his opponents, and bottled up obscene allegations about his personal life. All the stories were untrue, according to Trump.

At Trump’s hush money trial, those agreements—which the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg depicts as a multifaceted plot to conceal information from voters—are currently being closely examined. In an effort to shield Cohen from prosecution for compensating porn star Stormy Daniels, he entered a not guilty plea to 34 counts of falsifying business records. Although the former president has denied it, she claimed to have had a sexual encounter with the married Trump in 2006.

A case centered on how Trump’s company paid Cohen for his involvement in the Daniels payoff is still being pieced together by Cohen, despite other witnesses having testified about the hush money transactions.

According to Trump’s defense, Cohen was compensated for his legal services rather than for orchestrating a cover-up, and the agreements he helped Daniels and others reach were lawful.

A HISTORIC WITNESS.

Many witnesses in criminal trials have a criminal history of their own, have relationships with the defendants, have made contradictory statements in the past, or have other circumstances that could compromise their credibility when they take the stand.

Cohen has some baggage of his own.

He will have to convince the jury that this time he is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth during his testimony, as well as explain why he previously denied certain important details of the hush money arrangements.

While still affiliated with Trump, he first told The New York Times that he had not received any compensation for the Daniels deal. Later, he acknowledged payment, as did Trump, who had earlier claimed he was unaware of the Daniels payout.

Subsequently, during the course of two federal guilty pleas, Cohen acknowledged to Congress that he had lied to them about his involvement in a potential Trump real estate project in Moscow, that he had orchestrated illegal campaign contributions in the form of hush money payments, and that he had dodged taxes. Along with understating his financial obligations, he also admitted guilt to having approved a home equity loan application.

Even though a witness’s credibility may be called into question by a variety of convictions, Serafini noted that when crimes involve dishonesty, “there’s a treasure trove of stuff there for a cross-examiner.”.

Furthermore, during Cohen’s testimony in Trump’s civil fraud trial last autumn, fresh doubts were expressed regarding his reliability. Cohen insisted he was not entirely guilty of tax evasion or the false loan application during a contentious cross-examination, answering some questions with a lawyerly “objection” or “asked and answered.”. In the end, he admitted in court that he had lied to the federal judge who had accepted his plea and is now deceased.

The judge in the fraud trial considered Cohen’s testimony credible, pointing out that additional evidence supported it. However, Cohen may have lied to the court or to himself during his testimony or guilty plea, according to a federal judge.

Cohen has faced his past lies head-on since parting ways with Trump. In the foreword of his 2020 memoir, he acknowledged that some people view him as “the least reliable narrator on the planet.” His podcast title, “Mea Culpa,” alluded to a reckoning with his crimes. “.

During his 2018 sentencing, he claimed that his “blind loyalty” to Trump had made him feel that it was his responsibility to hide his wrongdoings rather than following his moral compass and inner guidance. His persona as an anti-Trump symbol has been established outside of the court. During the trial, Cohen attacked Trump on social media by giving him a derogatory moniker, calling him a “petulant defendant” who “keeps whining, crying, and violating the gag order,” and making harsh remarks about his defense.

These postings might provide Trump’s legal team with material to portray Cohen as a vindictive and agenda-driven witness. To show his respect for the judge and prosecutors, Cohen announced on social media two days after the opening statements that he would not be discussing Trump again until after he testified. This move was a hint at that vulnerability.

However, Cohen wore a shirt this past week during a live TikTok that showed a picture of a man who looked like Trump and was handcuffed. Judge Juan M. Merchan ordered prosecutors to advise Cohen that the court was requesting that he refrain from speaking about the case or Trump on Friday after receiving complaints from the lawyer representing the president.

Jeremy Saland, a former Manhattan prosecutor and New York criminal defense attorney, believes that prosecutors do not need to be deterred by Cohen’s past.

Cohen’s failing, according to Saland, is that he never closes his trap. “He just keeps making excuses to undermine his own credibility.”. “.

According to Saland, if prosecutors don’t convince Cohen to be honest, own up to his past transgressions, and control his wild commentary, the case might turn into “the Michael Cohen show.”. “.

Todd Blanche, the Trump attorney, did in fact focus heavily in his opening remarks on Cohen’s acknowledged history of lying under oath and his “obsession” with Trump.

Blanche told the jurors, “You cannot make a serious decision about President Trump based on the words of Michael Cohen.”.

Nonetheless, Cohen was described by the prosecutor, Matthew Colangelo, as having made “mistakes,” but juries could still believe him.

A gag order prohibiting Trump from speaking about witnesses, juries, and certain other individuals associated with the case has been repeatedly violated, according to prosecutors, who have cited statements the president has made about Cohen and other individuals. In addition to fining him $10,000 in total and holding him in contempt, the judge threatened to put Trump in jail should he disobey the order once more.

Additionally, the prosecution has not held back when discussing Cohen’s combative demeanor. According to a banker’s testimony, Cohen was regarded as a “tough” client who insisted on the urgency of everything. Daniels’ first phone call with Cohen was a yelling “barrage of insults and insinuations and allegations,” according to Keith Davidson, Daniels’ former attorney. “.

Although these incidents may not be flattering to Cohen, John Fishwick Jr. suggested that prosecutors may use them as a subtle means of implying that Cohen is not a teammate but rather a source of information. an earlier U.S. s. lawyer for the Virginia Western District.

He proposed, “It’s a way to try and build up his credibility while you distance yourself from him.”.

Professor Anna Cominsky of New York Law School suggested that when Cohen takes the stand, prosecutors should address his troubled past before defense attorneys do. Before Bragg was appointed district attorney, she co-taught a course with him, but her observations were based on her observation of the law, not on knowledge of his office’s tactics.

“During the prosecutor’s closing arguments, I envision the prosecution addressing the jury and stating, ‘This witness isn’t flawless, but then, none of us is,'” Cominsky stated. “.”

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