Home Politics Trump lawyers vie to discredit key witness Cohen at trial

Trump lawyers vie to discredit key witness Cohen at trial

by Selinda Phenyo
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Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Iowa States Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., October 9, 2021. REUTERS/Rachel Mummey

Andréa BAMBINO

Donald Trump’s lawyers took another stab Thursday at his former fixer Michael Cohen, the key witness in the trial in which the former president is accused of fraudulently covering up his alleged encounter with a porn star.

The defense team has sought to cast Cohen as a disgruntled ex-employee out for blood at a trial, which is being heard just six months before election day when Trump hopes to retake the White House.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche kicked his second round of questioning off by emphasizing Cohen’s history of lies — a bid to dissuade jurors from believing Cohen’s account that he broke the law at Trump’s behest.

In addition to listing Cohen’s past lies, the defense also played clips of the witness’s podcast episodes that frequently discussed the former president.

“You better believe I wants this man to go down,” he said in one 2020 episode.

Cohen has said repeatedly under both direct and cross-examination that he takes “responsibility” for his actions and has faced consequences.

Trump, the first former US president to be tried criminally, has complained his current campaign for another White House term is being stymied by the court proceedings, which he has to attend every day.

Branding the case as politicized, he’s taken to bringing an entourage of leading Republicans to New York trial, with his latest crew of allies including congresspeople Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records to reimburse Cohen for a $130,000 hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election, when her account of a sexual encounter with the then-Republican nominee could have doomed his campaign.

– Will Trump testify? –

Blanche appeared to be trying to crystallize his line of questioning after a meandering start this week, when yawns betrayed some jurors’ fatigue.

Cohen has a reputation for a temper that could hurt him on the stand — his testimony during Trump’s civil fraud case last year proved chaotic — but has been largely calm in his testimony.

Prosecutors have indicated Cohen, 57, is their last witness in the case.

His story has generally lined up with both Daniels, and David Pecker, the tabloid boss who said he worked with Trump and Cohen to suppress negative coverage during his 2016 White House run.

Trump denies the one-night stand with Daniels occurred.

After the prosecution rests, the defense has the opportunity to present a case, though they have not specified whether they will. Trump’s lawyers have remained vague on whether their client will testify.

The businessman famously considers himself his own best champion — but analysts believe he could be a liability on the stand.

When the jury begins deliberating, the weeks of oft-salacious testimony will likely linger front-of-mind, but they’ll also have stacks of documents to pore over.

The charges hinge on financial records, and whether falsifying them was done with the intent to sway the 2016 presidential vote.

Prosecutors this week walked Cohen and the jury through the issue of 11 checks — most signed by Trump — in return for invoices Cohen said were falsified to cover up the reimbursement with Trump’s knowledge.

Cohen spent 13 months in jail after pleading guilty in 2018 to lying to Congress and committing financial crimes.

Under direct questioning, he told the court that Trump had reassured him after FBI agents, seeking evidence in 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.

mdo/bgs

AFP


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