NewsMichael Cohen vs Donald Trump's lawyers: hush-money trial gives Former President a step forward in the trial

Michael Cohen vs Donald Trump's lawyers: hush-money trial gives Former President a step forward in the trial

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: Michael Cohen is seen on May 16, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Andrea Renault/Star Max/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: Michael Cohen is seen on May 16, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Andrea Renault/Star Max/GC Images)
Images source: © GETTY | Andrea Renault/Star Max

5:47 AM EDT, May 17, 2024

Donald Trump's lawyers presented Michael Cohen, a key star prosecution witness, as a dishonest liar whose goal is to see the Former President sentenced. The defence focused on anti-Republican and specifically anti-Trumpian sentiments presented formerly by Cohen.

Former President and Republican Party candidate - Donald Trump - is currently facing four trials, among them the New York Hush Money trial. The trial concerns the alleged payment to Stormy Daniels - an adult film actress - just before the 2016 Presidential election won by Trump. Daniels was convinced that she had been provided $130,000 after having an intimate relationship with Donald Trump. He, however, proclaimed they had not had any affair. Nevertheless, being given "hush money" is legal; the case itself centers around falsifying the business record and claiming the payment was for legal fees. Former President Trump commented on the process before saying his political opponent had targeted him and this was "not a crime."

The most heated moment of the process, which started on April 15th, unfolded yesterday, on May 16th, when a previous Trump loyalist and current foe, Michael Cohen, testified in court. Defendant Todd Blanche aimed to portray Cohen as a person holding a personal vendetta against the former president after not being granted a job in the White House. Cohen mainly appeared calm throughout the process, yet his witness record does not make his testimony credible evidence. Cohen was previously found guilty of crimes over the hush money payment.

How did the trial go?

Todd Blanche presented evidence to the jury to discredit Michael Cohen and underline the personal grudge he had allegedly held against his former employer. Trump's attorneys presented clips from the podcast Mea Culpa (eng. My Fault) in which he sounded optimistic and excited, claiming he hoped Donald Trump "ends up in prison," promising "revenge is a dish best served cold." More of the clips exposed Cohen's hatred toward the Former President; among them were Cohen's words such as "You better believe I want this man to go down and rot inside," or even "Thinking about Trump in Otisville prison makes me giddy with joy."

Micheal Cohen stood up his testimony that he had talked with President Donald Trump about the alleged payment to Stormy Daniels during a phone call on October 24th, 2016. However, Todd Blanche's line of defense resolved around questioning the harassing calls Michael Cohen claimed he had received. As a counterargument, Trump lawyers presented text messages between Cohen and former Donald Trump's bodyguard - Keith Schiller - questioning how to deal with prank calls, not mentioning Daniell's supposed payment. Blanche explained additionally the mentioned phone call. Cohen defended himself by focusing on the fact that he knew President Trump was with his son then; therefore, the question of prank calls must have been more complicated, according to him. As a counterargument, Trump's attorney focused on the length of it - 1 minute 36 sec. - arguing that discussing prank calls and $130,000 payments would have been impossible during such a short period. Therefore, the phone call could have only been between Cohen and Schiller, not the Former President. Previously, Cohen testified that he discussed all questions regarding Stormy Daniels's matters with Donald Trump. The attorney questioned the truthfulness of the testimony since Cohen had changed his mind throughout the trial. At first, he proclaimed he had not remembered the phone call; however, he ensured that he had talked with Schiller and President Trump. As a result, Todd Blanche, in a fiery discussion, called Cohen "a liar." Cohen said, "I believe I also spoke to President Trump and told him everything regarding the Stormy Daniels matter was being worked on, and it’s going to be resolved," which was counteracted by Blanche with words: "We are not asking for your belief – this jury doesn’t want to hear what you think happened." The statement, although objected to by the prosecutor, shed light on Cohen's former falsified testimony in court.

The defense additionally highlighted its argument, based on the perception that Stormy Daniels's case was, as AP News recalls, "essentially a shakedown of Trump, rather than a plot to keep voters in the dark." It is important to remember that Cohen admitted to a former prosecutor that Daniels and her attorney were looking for a compromising way to silence a possible leak of the Trump and Daniels affair from 2006. Finally, the defense asked Cohen about the legality of the agreement between Daniels and Trump concerning the purchase of the rights to her story about the alleged liaison, focusing on the legal character of the NDA and settlement agreement between the two parties. Michael Cohen admitted that nothing exceptional occurred in this deal.

The discrediting of Michael Cohen's testimony may prove crucial in the trial. As a result of the action, the jury may be more prone not to believe Cohen, especially considering his inconsistency and personal motives behind the statements. Due to his role as a critical prosecutor's witness, the court may see the other people testing against Donald Trump as less credible. Nikki Lotze, a criminal attorney, admitted the possibility of turning the jury's mind, not giving the witness any more benefit of the doubt. As she told CNN, "There was testimony previously that this phone call was about X, and now there are texts that suggest it is about Y … and not a lot of time for there to be a conversation about both X and Y." Jim Trusty, a former Trump's attorney has also underlined the breakthrough which may come with the Cohen's testimony, leading the previous President to catch a break in the fire of trials. As Trusty comments, "The defense set the whole trial up to be a referendum on Cohen's honesty. That is exactly where you want this fight to be, so it is a good moment."

Source: CNN, AP, BBC, ABC, The Guardian

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