Ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen grilled by defense in hush money trial

New York, New York - 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.

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen (pictured) departs his home for Manhattan Criminal Court for the trial of former President Donald Trump for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs in New York City, on Tuesday.
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen (pictured) departs his home for Manhattan Criminal Court for the trial of former President Donald Trump for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs in New York City, on Tuesday.  © TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

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.

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.

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Michael Cohen is a crucial witness 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.

Cohen says he was "knee-deep into the cult of Donald Trump"

Former President Donald Trump returns to the courtroom after a short break during his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday in New York City.
Former President Donald Trump returns to the courtroom after a short break during his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday in New York City.  © Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/AFP Michael M. Santiago / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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.

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

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.

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche apparently took Cohen by surprise as he sought to portray the disgraced lawyer as a one-time disciple of Trump, now out for revenge.

"At that time, I was knee-deep into the cult of Donald Trump," Cohen said. "I was not lying, that's how I felt."

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

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

Cover photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

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