‘You Were Actually Obsessed With President Trump, Weren’t You?’ Defense Slams Michael Cohen as Fame-Crazed in Withering Cross-Examination

The cross-examination followed Mr. Cohen describing to prosecutors the breakdown of his long relationship with Mr. Trump. ‘I would not lie for President Trump any longer,’ he said, after his apartment was raided.

Elizabeth Williams via AP
Michael Cohen testifies as a Wall Street Journal article is displayed on a screen in Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at New York. Donald Trump's fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen returned to the witness stand Tuesday, testifying in detail how former president was linked to all aspects of a hush money scheme that prosecutors say was aimed at stifling stories that threatened his 2016 campaign. Elizabeth Williams via AP

Michael Cohen, who once said he would take a bullet for President Trump and is now the key witness for the prosecution in the criminal trial against his former boss, will have to endure more withering cross-examination on Thursday after the defense excoriated him all afternoon on Tuesday.   

“I am having a difficult time sleeping,” Cohen told defense attorney Todd Blanche on Tuesday afternoon, after he was asked why he posts videos on TikTok in which, on several occasions late at night, he denounced Mr. Trump. 

 “I needed an outlet… I needed to vent,” Cohen said. But that was not the answer Mr. Blanche was looking for. 

Attempting to characterize Cohen as someone who is obsessed with Mr. Trump, who talks about him constantly on podcasts, on social media and when giving interviews, and who tries to monetize his antipathy to his former boss, the defense attorney showed the jury some of the merchandise Cohen sells through the website of his podcast Mea Culpa: a mug with the logo “Send Him To The Big House Not The White House”; a t-shirt with the logo “Convict 45,” a reference to the 45th president; and a t-shirt, which is also available as a hoodie, featuring an illustration of Mr. Trump, handcuffed and wearing an orange jumpsuit, behind bars. 

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

Mr. Blanche asked Cohen if he remembered that in an episode on his podcast in October 2020, he had said that Mr. Trump needed to wear handcuffs, needed to do the perp walk, and that “people will not be satisfied until this man is sitting inside a cell.” Cohen shrugged his shoulders. “Sounds like something I would say,” he answered, using a phrase he repeatedly held up like a shield to protect himself from the defense attorney’s fiery questions. Did Cohen remember calling Mr. Trump a “boorish cartoon misogynist” and “a Cheeto-dusted cartoon villain”? 

“Sounds like something I would say,” Cohen said again and again. 

The defense also quoted Cohen saying the opposite about Mr. Trump, before the collapse of their relationship. At one point, Cohen had called Mr. Trump’s #1 bestselling book “The Art of The Deal” a masterpiece, and in 2015 he said Mr. Trump was a man who “cared deeply about this country,” and “a man that tells it straight,” and “a man that speaks from the heart.” 

Michael Cohen has been regularly denouncing President Trump on TikTok. TikTok

Earlier in the day, Cohen had explained to the prosecution how his passionate admiration and boundless loyalty for Mr. Trump, whom he worked for from 2006 to 2018, turned sour after his home was raided by the FBI in 2018. He had become a target of prosecutors who were pursuing Mr. Trump, then a sitting president, and felt he was being thrown under the bus. 

“My family — my wife, my daughter, my son — all said to me, ‘Why are you holding onto this loyalty? What are you doing? We’re supposed to be your first loyalty,’” Cohen testified.

“So what decision did you make?” asked prosecutor Susan Hoffinger.

“That it was about time to listen to them,” Cohen continued. “To my wife, my son, my daughter, to the country.” Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges in August 2018.

Michael Cohen, right, leaves his apartment building in New York, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Cohen, former President Donald Trump’s fixer-turned-foe is returning to the witness stand for a bruising round of questioning from the former president’s lawyers. AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Stormy Daniels leaves Manhattan Criminal Court on May 09, 2024 at New York City. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

“I would not lie for President Trump any longer,” Cohen said.

The hush-money case, brought against Mr. Trump by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, centers around a $130,000 payment Cohen made to the adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, shortly before the 2016 presidential election, to keep her from publicizing a 2006 sexual encounter she claims to have had with Mr. Trump, which he denies. The prosecution alleges that on the eve of the 2016 election, Mr. Trump directed Cohen to make the payment and then reimbursed him by fraudulently disguising the payment as a legal expense.

In the afternoon Mr. Trump told reporters, “Remember this — all over the world they’re watching this trial and they’re saying, ‘what a disgrace.’ This is a big disgrace in New York.” 

Mr. Trump was accompanied by a deeply supportive entourage that included North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, who’s believed to be a leading contender to be Mr. Trump’s vice president; the former presidential candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy; and Eric Trump and his wife, Lara Trump, now co-chair of the Republican National Committee; and two far-right Florida congressmen, Byron Donalds and Cory Mills.  

President Trump appears in court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 14, 2024 at New York City. Mark Peterson-Pool/Getty Images

In the morning, the Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, also made an appearance at the courthouse. According to media outlets, he came to the overflow room. The Sun did not see him inside the courtroom.

On Monday, Mr. Trump was accompanied by another contender to be his running mate, Senator Vance.

Mr. Trump referred to his entourage of politicians as his “surrogates,” who could speak on his behalf since the judge has issued a gag order on him. 

“I do have a lot of surrogates and they are speaking very beautifully,” Mr. Trump said. “They come from all over Washington, and they’re highly respected and they think this is the biggest scam they’ve ever seen. And so do Democrats — they’ve very embarrassed by what’s going on.” 

US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (C) and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy (3-L) listen as former U.S. President Donald Trump (C) sits next to his lawyers Todd Blanche (L) and Emil Bove as he arrives for his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to an extramarital affair with Stormy Daniels, at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 14, 2024 at New York City. Justin Lane – Pool/Getty Images
President Trump’s entourage of what he calls ‘surrogates’, including (L-R) Alina Habba, Vivek Ramaswamy, Boris Epshteyn, Doug Burgum, Lara Trump and Eric Trump, watch as Mr. Trump speaks to reporters at court. Curtis Means – Pool/Getty Images

On Tuesday, a panel of New York appellate judges denied Mr. Trump’s latest request to terminate the gag order, which prohibits him from making public comments about witnesses, court staff, counsel, jurors, or their family members, including the family members of the judge and the district attorney.  

Mr. Trump has been enraged by the gag order, in particular because it proscribes him from condemning Cohen and Ms. Clifford, despite their being able to denounce him with prolixity, which they are doing. He is also angry he cannot criticize Loren Merchan, the Democratic operative who is the daughter of the presiding judge, Juan Merchan. Mr. Trump believes Ms. Merchan’s history of working with his enemies, such as Vice President Harris and Congressman Adam Schiff, leaves her father hopelessly compromised.

Judge Juan Merchan presides over Donald Trump’s trial at Manhattan criminal court. Elizabeth Williams via AP
Loren Merchan, Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter, has worked as a Democratic operative. Facebook

In April, Mr. Trump had challenged the ruling by filing an Article 78 petition, arguing that the gag order violated his First Amendment rights. The appellate judges disagreed. 

“We find that Justice Merchan properly weighed petitioner’s First Amendment rights against the court’s historical commitment to ensuring the fair administration of justice in criminal cases and the right of persons related or tangentially related to the criminal proceedings from being free from threats, intimidation, harassment, and harm.” 

In a side-bar discussion at the judge’s bench, the prosecution said that Cohen is to be their last witness. His cross-examination will continue on Thursday. There is no court on Wednesday, as Judge Merchan presides on that day over Manhattan Mental Health Court, a progressive program that seeks to find alternatives to incarceration for offenders with mental health challenges.  


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