Michael Cohen could make or break Trump as he takes stand on Monday

The prosecution’s star witness in Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial may also have his greatest responsibility.

Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is expected to take the stand Monday to testify against the man he once respectfully called “the boss.”

Cohen paid the hush money at the heart of the case, an amount prosecutors say was fraudulently paid by Mr. Trump. He could provide prosecutors with important evidence.

But outside the courtroom, on podcasts, on television and on social media, Cohen has not helped their case.

He mocked Mr. Trump in X, calling him “sleepy Donald” and using a vulgar nickname referring to the former president. Cohen also posted memes that appear to depict Trump in a prison orange uniform and mocked Trump’s incarceration on TikTok.

“Trump 2024?” he said during a TikTok stream reported by ABC News. “More than Trump for 20-24 years.”

Cohen’s actions went too far for Judge Juan Merchan, who on Friday warned prosecutors to tell Cohen to stop commenting on the case.

One of his lawyers, Jeffrey K Levine, told the BBC: “I have no doubt that Michael will cooperate with whatever the court asks of him. Or not.”

Cohen’s rogue behavior, along with his actual criminal record, opened the door for Trump’s defense to challenge this crucial player.

“He’s a real headache,” said Lance Fletcher, a former Manhattan prosecutor who now practices criminal defense. “He does everything as a prosecutor that you don’t want your witness to do. He has all kinds of credibility problems.”

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felonies, including tax evasion, fraud and campaign finance violations. The latest allegation stemmed from the same hush money payment that was at the heart of Mr. Trump’s case.

He also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, a fact that Trump’s lawyers have emphasized in this trial and in a separate civil case.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying corporate records after he reimbursed Cohen for $130,000 in default payments he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels and then tried to disguise the payment information as legal fees.

Miss Daniels claimed she had sex with Donald Trump in 2006. Trump denied the allegations and denied having sex with Mrs. Daniels.

Trump’s lead attorney, Todd Blanche, tried to downplay Cohen as a witness in his opening statement. He said Cohen remains “obsessed” with Trump “to this day” and that he is “furious and furious” with the former president.

“I submit to you that he is not to be trusted,” said M. Blanche.

Mr. Fletcher agrees with the defense strategy. “You almost want to blame him,” he said.

But prosecutors are likely to use Cohen to link the alleged cover-up of hush money payments directly to the former president. Prosecutors will almost certainly ask him whether he discussed the matter with Trump or whether he took instructions from him to determine his intentions.

While there, Blanche and her colleagues were able to bring up Cohen’s past comments and question his motives for presenting damaging evidence against Trump. His lawyers have already argued that Cohen is profiting from Trump’s legal troubles through his podcasts, TikTok streams and books.

If Cohen testifies, “maybe you can shock him, maybe he’ll yell and scream and snap at you,” Mr. Fletcher said.

It’s a tactic that worked in Mr. Trump’s civil trial last year over corporate fraud. When Cohen testified, he got into a brief shouting match with one of Trump’s lawyers after repeatedly questioning his credibility.

Rolling the Dice
During her tenure as a prosecutor, former New York State Supreme Court Justice Diane Kiesel said, “I don’t centralize my witnesses.”

In other words, prosecutors don’t always get the perfect witness to prove their case—some can provide relevant testimony but are flawed. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is in a similar position to Cohen, he said.

“Who do you think pays the hush money to the porn star?” said former judge Kiesel. “A member of some esteemed bar…regarded by all as a model of legal ethics?”

He said Mr. Bragg’s team would have to “review all the things that Michael Cohen has to say on the stand” and present corroborating evidence to convince the jury.

But prosecutors can’t force Cohen to talk outside of court.

“When I was a prosecutor, I [sometimes] wished I could give the witnesses a stern order, but you can’t,” Mr. Fletcher said. “They have the same rights and powers as ordinary citizens.”

Prosecutors testified Friday after Blanche argued the former president should be allowed to answer Cohen despite an order barring him from talking about witnesses.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said they repeatedly asked Cohen not to comment on the case, but his office had no recourse.

“The judge asks him to refrain” from making statements, Judge Merchan said firmly. “It comes off the bench.”

Prosecutors have already acknowledged Cohen’s shortcomings to jurors.

During opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Michael Colangelo told the jury, “You have to keep an open mind about Cohen” and “keep in mind all the evidence that supports Michael Cohen’s testimony.”

Prosecutors introduced a paper record of text messages, emails, phone calls, bank accounts and legal contacts that Cohen left behind as he funneled payments to Ms. Daniels and another woman, Playboy model Karen McDougal, against them. silence

They called several corroborating witnesses, including former tabloid publisher David Pecker and Daniel’s former attorney Keith Davidson, to shed light on the events surrounding Cohen..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *