PoliticsTrump on Trial


Michael Cohen, the prosecution’s most crucial witness, testifies in Trump's hush money trial

The core issue revolves around claims that Trump altered business records to hide payments of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels.
A courtroom sketch of Michael Cohen on the witness stand.
Michael Cohen leaves his apartment building on his way to Manhattan criminal court.
Posted at 7:25 AM, May 13, 2024

As Donald Trump’s hush money case stretches into its fourth week, the former president yet again took the opportunity to criticize Judge Juan Merchan.

When he left the Manhattan courtroom after the testimony of Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer-turned-foe, Trump reiterated to reporters that he views the entire case as a "scam."

“This is a scam; I think it’s a terrible thing that’s happening to democracy in this country,” Trump said. “There's nothing illegal. A lot of people say that — they're all saying that — the only person who won't say it is the judge because it's a rigged deal.”

Monday marked a pivotal moment in Trump's hush money trial as Cohen took to the stand, potentially igniting a significant turn of events.

The core issues are accusations that Trump tampered with business records to hide reimbursements to Cohen intended for porn star Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and a former doorman at Trump Tower. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleges Trump did it in an attempt to conceal an "illegal scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election" by trying to cover up extramarital affairs.

Trump has described the nature of the payments to Cohen as "a legal expense."

Former president Donald Trump addresses the media.

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With Cohen on the stand, prosecutors first tried to establish his relationship with Trump, potentially using this to argue that Cohen consistently acted with Trump's approval.

“Working for him those 10 years was an amazing experience in many, many ways," Cohen said. "There were great times, there were several less-than-great times. For the most part, I enjoyed the responsibilities that were given to me. I enjoyed working with my colleagues, the Trump children. It was a big family."

While there wasn't much new information or documentation presented in court, the key points were clear.

The prosecutors understand that the jury might not trust Cohen, who, by his own admission, has lied in court and pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. So, they're working hard to keep the jury focused and not influenced by outside opinions in their decision-making process. They scrutinized every detail he has offered, backed by audio recordings, call records, emails, and transcripts, to verify his statements as factual and true.

Meanwhile, the defense is working hard to portray him as a convicted liar, which he undeniably is, and they're determined to counter his narrative from the outset as vigorously as they can.

Trump faces 34 felony counts for falsifying business records, which are considered a Class E felony — the lowest among felony counts in New York. The charges are arguably the least serious among the four criminal cases Trump faces.