Michael Cohen returns for more grilling from defense in hush money trial

May 16, 2024
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Michael Cohen has taken the witness stand

Reporting from Manhattan criminal court

Trump’s ex-fixer is wearing a yellow tie. He’s set to be cross-examined for a second day.

Good — and plenty

Reporting from Manhattan criminal courthouse

Awkward dynamic among Trump’s surrogates today as the former president has both Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., and his primary opponent, Virginia state Sen. John McGuire, among his entourage.

The Good vs. McGuire primary has been a battle over loyalty to Trump as Good, chair of the House Freedom Caucus, initially endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign, backing Trump only after the governor ended his bid earlier this year.

Court begins with 19-minute bench meeting

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Court opened today with an almost 20-minute long bench meeting between Merchan, prosecutors and defense attorneys. Trump sat at the defense table for the whole meeting.

It’s not clear what was discussed, but we expect to see a transcript of the meeting later today.

Reps. Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz appear to be staring at George Conway

Boebert and Gaetz, two of Trump’s congressional allies in the courtroom today, keep turning around to stare at anti-Trump attorney George Conway.

Conway is married to former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, though last year they announced plans to divorce.

Trump Organization exec Alan Garten is in the courtroom

Trump Organization executive Alan Garten is in the courtroom. The Trump defense team said earlier this week that it is no longer considering calling him as a witness.

Trump maintains there is ‘no case’ before heading into the courtroom

Before heading into the courtroom, Trump again maintained that there is “no case, no crime,” citing several conservative legal analysts who echoed his claims that the trial is part of an election interference effort by Democrats seeking to limit his availability on the campaign trail.

Trump repeated accusations, without evidence, that Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over the case, is “conflicted” and “should have nothing to do” with the hush money case. 

“It’s a shame what they’re doing, what they’re doing in terms of suppression and election interference has never been anything like that,” he said.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee also slammed the trial as a “Biden trial” and claimed without evidence that the White House and the Justice Department are behind his legal troubles.

“It’s very unfair,” Trump said. “I’d like to be in these various things where I should be campaigning like anybody else.”

Trump dons usual ‘uniform’ in court today

As he settles in for another day of the trial, Trump is wearing a navy suit and red tie — the same outfit his surrogates seemed to copy earlier this week.

Today, none of the surrogates seated behind him are wearing that “uniform,” despite there being a notable group of his allies present in court.

Michael Cohen’s cross-examination resumes as Trump trial nears an end

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Michael Cohen will be back on the witness stand in Manhattan criminal court today to resume facing off against Trump’s defense attorney as the historic criminal case against the former president nears an end.

Prosecutors told Judge Juan Merchan this week that Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, is their final witness in the often-sensational trial, which began April 15.

It’s the first criminal trial involving a former president, but Trump lawyer Todd Blanche didn’t begin his cross-examination of Cohen on Tuesday in highbrow fashion.

“After the trial started in this case, you went on TikTok and called me a ‘crying little s—,’ didn’t you?” he asked.

“Sounds like something I would say,” Cohen responded.

Read the full story here.

Trump and his supporters take their seats

Trump has arrived in a blue suit and red tie. He’s joined by a large contingent of supporters, including Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.

A combative Cohen, a ‘crying little s—‘ exchange, and pressure to stay in the fold were part of Day 17

Defense attorney Todd Blanche grew annoyed and raised his voice as he tried to press Michael Cohen into calling himself a liar and Trump’s former fixer tried to skirt the question — it wasn’t quite the fireworks many had expected for the Tuesday cross-examination, but it did illustrate the tense questioning.

Cohen already testified that he had lied repeatedly for Trump.

“I regret doing things for him that I should not have — lying, bullying people in order to effectuate a goal,” Cohen said. “I violated my moral compass.”

But on cross-examination, Cohen became more recalcitrant.

“Was it a lie?” Blanche asked.

“It wasn’t a lie. It wasn’t truthful. If you want to call it a lie, we can call it a lie. I believe the information I gave them is inaccurate,” Cohen dodged.

“But you are not testifying it’s a lie?” Blanche responded.

“Sure, I’ll say it’s a lie,” he finally conceded, still keeping his cool and defying his well-earned reputation as a hothead.

Here’s what else you missed during Day 17.

Trump heads to court for more Michael Cohen testimony

The former president has left Trump Tower for the courthouse downtown, where his former fixer and lawyer will be cross-examined in more detail about the events surrounding the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.

Expect Trump’s lawyers to focus on Cohen’s explanations for pleading guilty to tax evasion

When Michael Cohen testified in the New York attorney general’s civil fraud trial in October, he said that in pleading guilty to federal tax evasion charges, he had lied to spare his family.

But asked about that episode Tuesday, Cohen was more nuanced. Specifically, he acknowledged that in October he testified he lied in federal court when he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and bank fraud. But he tried to explain that testimony, noting that he took responsibility because “the underlying fact he never disputed” and that he pleaded guilty to protect his wife. That doesn’t quite explain why he testified he lied in pleading to those counts — something he has said publicly too.

Count on the defense team to return to this today and to exploit the various accounts Cohen has given about his plea to the counts that, by his own admission, do not involve crimes he committed in coordination with or at the direction of Trump.

And note that while his story about his plea to those tax evasion and bank fraud counts has shifted, it’s complicated. Why? Because his narrative about the campaign finance counts — which underlie the DA’s felony charges — haven’t moved at all.

GOP Sen. Mitt Romney says Biden should have pardoned Trump

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, argued that President Joe Biden should have pardoned Donald Trump after the Justice Department brought indictments against the former president and pressured New York prosecutors not to pursue Trump’s ongoing hush money trial.

In an exclusive interview on MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle,” Romney expressed his dismay in response to Republican lawmakers, including the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s vice presidential prospects, rallying to Trump’s defense outside the Manhattan courthouse where Trump’s hush money trial is taking place.

“How does that make you feel about Republicans?” Ruhle asked Romney.

Romney, a vocal critic of Trump, said, “I think it’s a terrible fault for our country to see people attacking our legal system — that’s an enormous mistake. I think it’s also demeaning for people to quite apparently try and run for vice president by donning a red tie and standing outside the courthouse. It’s just — I’d have felt awkward.”

The Utah Republican argued that Biden should have pardoned Trump when the Justice Department announced charges against him and that the president “made an enormous error” by not pressuring New York prosecutors to drop their case against Trump. (Presidents can pardon only in federal cases.)

Read the full story here.

Trump’s criminal hush money trial is also serving as an audition of sorts for potential vice presidential hopefuls who are flocking to fundraisers and gathering at the courthouse. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports for “TODAY.”

What to expect in court today

Cohen returns to the witness stand today as the defense continues its cross-examination, which began Tuesday. Court was not in session yesterday.

The cross-examination will focus on Cohen’s prior lies under oath and his repeated lies about events from 2016 and 2017, according to a source with direct knowledge of the line of questioning.

Cohen is the prosecution’s final witness. It’s not yet clear whether Trump will testify in his own defense, and his lawyers have not said definitively whether they’ll call any witnesses after the prosecution rests.

Depending on whether additional defense witnesses are called, closing arguments could start early next week. Court will not be in session tomorrow so that Trump can attend his son Barron Trump’s high school graduation.

What you missed Tuesday

Trump’s team began its grilling of Cohen during cross-examination Tuesday after prosecutors finished questioning their key witness in the hush money case.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche walked through a series of Trump investigations and implied that Cohen changed his story as he tried to get his sentence reduced.

Judge Juan Merchan admonished Blanche early on in the cross-examination after Blanche brought up Cohen calling him a “crying little sh—” on social media. Merchan instructed Blanche to not “make it about yourself.”

Before cross-examination, the former Trump attorney-turned-critic told prosecutors that he had made a decision with his family not to lie for Trump anymore.

“We’re supposed to be your first loyalty,” Cohen recalled his family saying as they questioned why he held such deep loyalty to Trump.



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