Berliner Boersenzeitung - Ex-fixer Cohen to face defense grilling at Trump trial

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Ex-fixer Cohen to face defense grilling at Trump trial
Ex-fixer Cohen to face defense grilling at Trump trial / Photo: Michael M. Santiago - POOL/AFP

Ex-fixer Cohen to face defense grilling at Trump trial

Donald Trump's arch-foe and former personal attorney Michael Cohen will undergo grueling cross-examination Tuesday, as senior Republicans increasingly politicized the 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 possible vice presidential pick Vivek Ramaswamy.

Johnson gave a speech outside the 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 occupant of the White House.

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."

The dramatic 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 is expected to be turned over to Trump's defense attorneys later on Tuesday for a likely combative cross-examination.

The 57-year-old Cohen is crucial to the Manhattan district attorney's case, and Trump's lawyers have spent the first weeks of the trial 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.

Cohen 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' -

Cohen walked jurors on Monday 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.

"I was doing everything I could and more in order to protect my boss, which was something I had done for a long time," Cohen said.

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.

Daniels 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 asked Judge Juan Merchan for a mistrial on the grounds that her graphic testimony was prejudicial in what is essentially a financial records and election-related case.

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, media reported.

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 large numbers of top secret documents with him after losing in 2020.

(O.Joost--BBZ)