Michael Cohen To Face More Brutal Cross-Examination on Monday, After Trump’s Lawyers Tore Gaping Holes in His Account of Payment to Porn Star

Mr. Trump’s attorney accused Cohen of lie upon lie, and may have sowed substantial doubt about the prosecution’s key contention that Mr. Trump knowingly ordered the hush-money payment.

Elizabeth Williams via AP
Defense attorney Todd Blanche cross examines Michael Cohen in Manhattan criminal court. Elizabeth Williams via AP

Prosecutors in President Trump’s hush money trial will have the chance on Monday to put their key witness, Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former ”fixer” and current nemesis, under re-direct examination. It will be a high stakes session for Cohen, after Mr. Trump’s defense lawyers on Thursday, in a spectacular cross-examination, tore apart his credibility on a key point in the prosecution’s case– that Mr. Trump was directly involved in the hush money payment to a porn star.

“This is our judicial system at work, and we should all be very proud of it,” the retired Queens Supreme Court Judge, George Grasso, told the Sun on Friday. Mr. Grasso, who also worked for the New York police department for over 30 years, reaching the highest position any Italian American has ever held in the NYPD, when he became deputy police commissioner in 2002, is a regular spectator at Mr. Trump’s hush-money trial at the Manhattan criminal court.  

In this country, Mr. Grasso explained to the Sun, “the accused are entitled to confront their accusers in front of an impartial jury. And we saw that play out on Thursday afternoon.” Mr. Grasso was referring to the cross-examination by Mr. Trump’s defense attorney, Todd Blanche, of Cohen, during which Mr. Blanche delivered numerous heavy blows to Cohen’s credibility. 

Cohen is the most important witness in the criminal case, brought against Mr. Trump by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg. Mr. Trump is accused of personally instructing Cohen to pay the porn star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, $130,000 on the eve of the 2016 election to stop her from publicizing her claim that she had a one night sexual encounter with Mr. Trump at a celebrity golf event at Lake Tahoe in 2006. Mr. Trump denies ever having had sex with Ms. Clifford. 

President Trump appears in court with his attorneys Todd Blanche (L) and Emil Bove during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 14, 2024 at New York City. Justin Lane – Pool/Getty Images

After Mr. Trump became president, the district attorney alleges, he reimbursed Cohen but fraudulently disguised the payments as legal fees. Mr. Bragg was able to elevate to a felony the misdemeanor charge, falsification of business records, by combining it with another charge, election interference. Mr. Trump has denied all charges. If convicted, he could possibly face prison. 

Cohen, who worked for Mr. Trump from 2006 to 2018 and was once a close ally of the former president, is central to the prosecution’s case because he issued the wire payment to Ms Clifford. Cohen claims he did so at the direction of Mr. Trump, and that Mr. Trump, while president, reimbursed Cohen knowing full well what the money was for. But Cohen has a reputation for lying, and on Thursday, Mr. Trump’s attorney succeeded in showing the jury that Cohen could be lying about his core claim.

Especially daunting for Cohen’s image, Mr. Grasso told the Sun, was “getting Cohen to admit that he referred to prosecutors and late Judge William Pauley as ‘f—— animals.’” Mr. Grasso noted that the judge is deceased and can’t even defend himself.  

On Thursday. Mr. Blanche asked Cohen about statements he made about Judge Pauley, a federal judge, to whom he pleaded guilty in 2018 on charges including those related to the hush-money payment to Ms. Clifford. 

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to President Trump, and attorney Danya Perry leave his apartment building on his way to Manhattan Criminal Court on May 16, 2024 at New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“You also believe Judge Pauley is corrupt as well?” Mr. Blanche asked the witness. 

“I have said that,” Cohen replied. Cohen’s life collapsed around him after he ended up in the crosshairs of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating the Trump campaign for its links to Russia, but could dig up other crimes as well. Cohen would flip on his former boss but he still ended up serving more than a year in prison.

“He is deceased, by the way,” Mr. Blanche added about Judge Pauley, before citing Cohen’s insult when he called the late judge and federal prosecutors “f—— animals.”

“Do you believe that Judge Pauley was in on it?” Mr. Blanche asked, referring to Cohen’s claim that federal prosecutors and the judge had conspired together.  

President Trump (R) sits with his attorney Todd Blanche (L) during his criminal trial. Mark Peterson – Pool/Getty Images

“I do,” Cohen said, insisting that he did not believe he “should have been charged” with federal crimes in 2018, such as tax evasion, election campaign violations, and other charges. 

It was in front of the same federal judge, Judge Pauley, that Cohen also admitted having lied to Congress in a sworn testimony he gave in 2017. Mr. Blanche reminded Cohen of that incident as well. 

“That’s one of the times you have lied under oath?” Mr. Blanche said, referring to his testimony at the congressional hearing. 

“That’s correct,” Cohen said.  

Stormy Daniels testifies on the witness stand as a promotional image for one of her shows featuring an image of Trump is displayed on monitors in Manhattan criminal court, Thursday, May 9, 2024, at New York. Elizabeth Williams via AP

Mr. Blanche listed more instances where Cohen lied. “Each time you met with the federal agents, you were told that if you made a false statement that was a felony — a federal crime?” Mr. Blanche asked.

Cohen nodded and confirmed that he gave at least 17 sworn interviews to federal agents, that he was well aware of the penalty for perjury, that he testified under oath numerous times, and that he lied anyway. 

In November 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, after he agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and Mr. Mueller. Cohen admitted that he lied in a letter he sent to the House and Senate intelligence committees in August 2017 regarding the “Moscow Project,” a possible real estate deal for the Trump Organization, which was looking to buy property in Russia. Cohen said he lied to protect Mr. Trump, who was president at the time. 

Mr. Blanche now suggested that Cohen had not accepted responsibility for his crime and was instead blaming Mr. Trump.

Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels (L) and her fourth husband, the adult film actor/director Barrett Blade, attend the 2023 Adult Video News Awards at Resorts World Las Vegas on January 07, 2023 at Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

“The reason why you lied was because of your loyalty to President Trump?” Mr. Blanche said.

“We crafted this document — a two page document — in order to stay on the message we all knew Mr. Trump wanted, including Mr. Trump’s attorney at the time,” Cohen testified.

“Are you saying you accept responsibility or blaming the joint defense agreement,” Mr. Blanche pressed. 

“Accepting responsibility…” Cohen said.

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Intelligence Committee about his report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in the Rayburn House Office Building July 24, 2019 at Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

“No one threatened you to plead guilty, correct?” Mr. Blanche asked.

Cohen now admitted that he was pressured to plead guilty by federal prosecutors, who said they would also charge his wife with various financial violations they’d dug up if he didn’t collaborate.   

“As I stated previously, I was provided with 48 hours within which to accept the plea or the Southern District of New York was going to file an 80-page indictment that included my wife, and I elected to protect my family,” Cohen testified.

“You do feel you were induced to plead guilty?” Mr. Blanche asked. 

Michael Cohen reacts as he testifies during direct examination in Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at New York. Elizabeth Williams via AP

“I never denied the underlying facts, I just do not believe I should have been criminally charged for either of those two — or six — offenses,” Cohen repeated.

Then Cohen backtracked, and said prosecutors never actually told him that his wife would be indicted; instead they told his lawyers, who then told him. 

But Mr. Blanche, who was wielding his sword, didn’t budge. He pointed out that Cohen was contracting himself again, because he explicitly told Judge Pauley that he had not been forced by anyone to take a guilty plea in 2018. 

“That was a lie?” Mr. Blanche asked. 

“That was not true, correct,” Cohen said.

“It was a lie?” Mr. Blanche pushed the witness. 

“Correct,” Cohen said.

Cohen appeared exhausted as he left the courtroom on Thursday afternoon. The trial resumes on Monday. Mr. Blanche told the court he still has a few more questions for Cohen but expects to finish before noon. The prosecution will then begin its re-direct examination. 


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