Trump trial comes at pivotal moment with Michael Cohen’s testimony

Trump trial comes at pivotal moment with Michael Cohen’s testimony
Trump trial comes at pivotal moment with Michael Cohen’s testimony

NEW YORK — The main prosecution witness in Donald Trump’s trial is expected to appear Monday with testimony that could help shape the outcome of the first criminal case against a U.S. president.

Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer and personal adviser, is by far the Manhattan prosecutor’s most important witness in the case and his expected appearance signals that the trial is entering its home stretch. Prosecutors say they could finish presenting their evidence by the end of the week.

Mr. Cohen is expected to testify about his role in arranging secret payments on behalf of Mr. Trump during his first presidential campaign, including to porn actress Stormy Daniels, who told jurors last week that the 130,000 $ she received in 2016 was intended to prevent her from speaking publicly about a sexual encounter she says she had with Donald Trump in a hotel suite a decade earlier.

Michael Cohen is also important because the reimbursements he received form the basis of the charges — 34 counts of falsifying business records — against Mr. Trump. Prosecutors say the reimbursements were recorded as legal fees to conceal the true purpose of the payments.

Defense lawyers staged a bruising cross-examination of Mr. Cohen, telling jurors during opening statements that the ally-turned-enemy is a “proven liar” with an “obsession with going after President Trump “.

Testimony from a witness with such intimate knowledge of Donald Trump’s activities could increase the legal case against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, if jurors find it sufficiently credible. But politically, prosecutors’ reliance on a witness with such a checkered past — Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the payments and lying to Congress — could be a boon for Donald Trump as he collects funds for his legal troubles and presents the case as the product of a corrupt criminal justice system.

Prosecutors are expected to obtain detailed testimony from Michael Cohen about his past crimes in hopes of softening the impact of defense attorneys’ questioning and showing they are not trying to hide his misdeeds. But it is unclear how effective this will be, given that defense lawyers will be ready to exploit any challenges that come with a witness like Mr. Cohen.

In addition to portraying him as untrustworthy, they should also portray him as vindictive, vengeful and driven by hidden ambitions.

However his testimony plays out, Michael Cohen is undoubtedly at the heart of the case, as evidenced by the fact that his name was mentioned in the presence of the jury during opening statements more than 130 times, more than any other person.

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