La Gaceta De Mexico - Ex-fixer Cohen grilled by defense at Trump trial

Ex-fixer Cohen grilled by defense at Trump trial
Ex-fixer Cohen grilled by defense at Trump trial / Photo: © POOL/AFP

Ex-fixer Cohen grilled by defense at Trump trial

Donald Trump's arch-foe and former personal attorney Michael Cohen endured grueling cross-examination Tuesday, as senior Republicans increasingly politicized the criminal trial by attending court to support the former president.

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Trump, who is running to retake the White House, was joined by his most high-profile entourage to date, including House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson and political allies vying to be on the defendant's vice presidential shortlist.

Johnson gave a speech outside court, reiterating Trump's constant claim that the justice system was "weaponized" against the scandal-embroiled Republican.

Cohen, who served as Trump's "fixer" for years, is the prosecution's star witness at the first criminal trial of a former White House occupant.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records to reimburse Cohen for a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election, when her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump could have doomed his campaign.

A prosecutor asked Cohen if he received 11 checks -- most signed by Trump -- in return for 11 false invoices he submitted to be reimbursed for the payment, to which Cohen answered "yes."

Cohen said he made the payments "to ensure that the story would not come out, would not affect Mr Trump's chances of becoming president of the United States."

The prosecutor then asked Cohen if he would have paid the money if it was not for the campaign.

"No," said Cohen adding that he broke the law "on behalf of Mr Trump."

The courtroom faceoff is taking place ahead of the November presidential election in which Trump is hoping to avenge his 2020 defeat by Joe Biden.

Cohen answered questions from prosecutors for more than five hours on Monday and was then turned over to Trump's defense attorneys for a combative cross-examination.

Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche opened by reminding Cohen that he had called his former boss an expletive, apparently startling Cohen.

"Sounds like something I'd say," Cohen retorted.

The 57-year-old witness is crucial to the Manhattan district attorney's case, and Trump's lawyers have spent the trial's first weeks seeking to undermine his credibility.

Cohen spent 13 months in jail and another year and a half under house arrest after pleading guilty in 2018 to lying to Congress and committing financial crimes.

He revealed that Trump had reassured him after FBI agents, seeking evidence of the bank fraud and hush money payments at the heart of the case, raided his hotel room and office in April 2018.

"Don't worry, everything's going to be fine, I'm the president of the United States," Cohen recalled Trump saying.

"I felt reassured because I had the president of the United States protecting me," Cohen testified.

- 'Protect my boss' -

On Monday, Cohen walked jurors through how he arranged the payment to Daniels to prevent her from going public about her alleged 2006 tryst with the married Trump, a revelation that could have been "catastrophic" to his White House bid.

Cohen told the jury how the Trump campaign would seek to buy unflattering stories, a practice known as "catch and kill," which is what is alleged to have happened with Daniels.

She and Trump -- under the respective pseudonyms Peggy Peterson and David Dennison -- were parties to a nondisclosure agreement prepared by Cohen that has emerged in court filings.

Daniels last week testified about the sexual encounter she said she had with Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, and then the financial settlement.

Trump, 77, has denied having sex with Daniels, and his lawyers last week unsuccessfully asked Judge Juan Merchan for a mistrial arguing her testimony was prejudicial.

If he is convicted in the hush money case, Trump could still run in the November election and be sworn in as president.

An appeals court ruled Tuesday against Trump's challenge to a gag order that has limited what he can say about witnesses, the jury, and family members of the judge and prosecutor.

In addition to the New York trial, Trump has been indicted in Washington and Georgia on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

He has also been charged in Florida with illegally taking and storing secret documents when he left the White House.