Trump lawyer tries to show Michael Cohen as liar in hush-money trial

Republican presidential candidate's former fixer faces heated cross-examination

A courtroom sketch hows Michael Cohen as he is cross-examined by defence lawyer Todd Blanchre. Reuters
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Donald Trump's lawyer on Thursday tried to show star witness Michael Cohen as a motivated liar in an intense cross-examination during the former US president's hush-money criminal trial in New York.

During hours of testimony, Todd Blanche accused Mr Cohen of lying about the topic of a phone conversation he said he had with Mr Trump.

Mr Blanche said the call concerned harassment from a prank caller and was not, as Mr Cohen asserted in previous testimony, about a $130,000 payment that bought the silence of adult film star Stormy Daniels, which is at the centre of the trial.

“That is a lie,” Mr Blanche said, according to Reuters. “You can admit it.”

“No sir, I can't, because I am not certain that is accurate,” Mr Cohen replied.

Mr Blanche retorted: “We are not asking for your belief.”

Mr Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He is accused of scheming to cover up payments made to three people, including Daniels, so their scandalous stories would not be released before the 2016 presidential election. He has pleaded not guilty.

Mr Trump's legal team played audio clips to jurors in the Manhattan court in a bid to suggest Mr Cohen had motivation to see his former boss jailed.

“You better believe I want this man to go down,” AFP reported Mr Cohen as saying in a podcast clip that was played for the jury.

Mr Blanche also told jurors that Mr Cohen has lied to Congress and the US Justice Department.

Mr Cohen testified earlier in the trial that he regretted the lies he told while working for Mr Trump, as well as those he told out of loyalty to the former president in the years after.

The former “fixer” for Mr Trump served time in prison for his pivotal role in the hush-money scheme.

Earlier this week, Mr Cohen said that Mr Trump ordered him to pay Daniels and discussed how he would reimburse Mr Cohen through invoices for legal fees.

Prosecutors argue that financial reimbursements for the hush-money payments were falsely labelled by the Trump Organisation as legal expenses, which they say breaches campaign finance law.

Mr Trump's legal team claims the payments to Mr Cohen were for his legal work through 2017.

The court proceedings may be nearing their conclusion, as the prosecution has announced that Mr Cohen is the final witness they will be calling.

It is not yet clear if the defence will call any witnesses, including Mr Trump.

Court will adjourn until Monday so Mr Trump can attend his son Barron's high school graduation.

The Republican presidential candidate faces charges in three other criminal cases, but the month-long New York hush-money case is likely to be the only one to go to trial before the November election, in which Mr Trump will face President Joe Biden.

Mr Trump has said the criminal cases are efforts to hinder his campaign for presidency.

“We're seeing today what lengths the Democratic Party will go to to try to rig or steal another election,” Republican House representative Bob Good said outside the court on Thursday, flanked by other far-right members of his party.

Republicans including House Speaker Mike Johnson have travelled to New York to attend the trial in a show support for Mr Trump.

Some of those attending may be trying to curry favour with the former president as he considers who he might name as his running mate this year.

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Updated: May 17, 2024, 7:46 AM