HomePoliticsSix big moments from Michael Cohen's testimony during the Trump trial

Six big moments from Michael Cohen’s testimony during the Trump trial

By Luc Cohen and Jack Queen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Donald Trump‘s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified this week at the former US president’s criminal trial, claiming he received Trump’s “signoff” to buy a porn star’s silence and was cross-examined by Trump’s lawyers.

Trump has denied guilty of falsifying company records to cover up Cohen’s $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election about a sexual encounter she said she had in 2006. Trump denies a meeting.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche is expected to resume cross-examination of Cohen, the prosecution’s key witness, on Thursday. Here are five milestones from Cohen’s testimony so far:

* ‘Just do it’

Cohen testified Monday that he received Trump’s “signoff” to pay Daniels. He said he delayed handing over the money to Daniels’ lawyer for weeks after striking a deal in October 2016, hoping to delay it until after the November election, until Trump finally told him to move forward.

“He said to me that he had talked to some friends, some individuals, very smart people, and that, ‘It’s $130,000. You’re like a billionaire. Just pay it,'” Cohen testified. “He told me, just do it.”

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* ‘Disaster for the campaign’

Cohen testified that Trump told him that Daniels’ story would hurt his campaign if released. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to violating campaign finance law with the payment, but Trump’s lawyers have suggested the payout could have been intended to spare Trump and his family from personal embarrassment and not to boost his election chances.

The distinction is critical because prosecutors must prove that Trump tampered with data to cover up a crime — such as an illegal campaign contribution — to obtain a misdemeanor conviction.

“He said to me: ‘This is a disaster, a total disaster. Women are going to hate me,” Cohen testified, adding that Trump performed poorly among women at the time. “Guys may think it’s cool, but this will be a disaster for the campaign.”

* ‘On the market’

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Cohen if he had spoken to Trump about his wife’s dealings Melania Trump would respond to Daniels’ story. Cohen said he did, and that Trump responded that he wouldn’t be “on the market” for long — implying he would recover if his marriage suffered.

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“He wasn’t thinking about Melania. This was all about the campaign,” Cohen said.

* Jury hears tape of Trump discussing payment.

Prosecutors played a tape Cohen secretly recorded of a meeting he said he had with Trump on September 6, 2016, when they discussed acquiring the rights to Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story about a yearslong affair with Trump from tabloid publisher American Media could buy.

“Pay with cash,” can be heard on the tape.

The tape could help prosecutors determine that Trump was involved in an alleged “catch and kill” scheme with Cohen and American Media CEO David Pecker to reward individuals with negative information about Trump for their silence during the 2016 campaign.

* Oval Office meeting

Cohen told jurors about a private conversation he had with Trump at the White House on February 8, 2017, in which he said Trump told him he would soon receive a check for the first two monthly installments of his bonus package, which Cohen said was the refund of the Daniels payment.

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“He asked me if I was okay, he asked me if I needed money, and I said, ‘I’m okay,’” Cohen testified Tuesday.

Prosecutors showed jurors a photo taken of Cohen at the White House to commemorate the occasion.

* ‘Dictator bastard’

As part of his effort to undermine Cohen’s credibility with the jury, Blanche asked Cohen on Tuesday about disparaging comments he made about Trump on social media.

Cohen confirmed that while the trial was ongoing, he called Trump a “dictator douchebag” on TikTok and that prosecutors have repeatedly asked him to stop publicly commenting on the case.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen and Jack Queen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller)

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