Trump trial: From loyal lieutenant to sworn enemy: Trump’s ex-lawyer, a key witness

He was one of his faithful lieutenants, but he swore his downfall: Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer, Michael Cohen, arrived Monday as the prosecution’s key witness at the trial of the former president of the United States for hidden payments to a porn star.

Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about her sexual relationship with Trump (archives).

KEYSTONE

After the crude account given last week by pornographic film star Stormy Daniels about a sexual relationship in 2006 with Donald Trump – which he denies – this testimony is another crucial moment in this historic trial with heavy political stakes.

At 77, the Republican candidate for the White House risks the first criminal conviction of a former president in the history of the United States.

The trial, which is disrupting his campaign by forcing him to silently follow hearings almost every day since mid-April in a New York court, has entered a decisive phase.

He bought Stormy Daniels’ silence

Michael Cohen, 57, one of the last two witnesses called by the prosecution, is at the center of the case and was called to the stand around 9:30 a.m. (1:30 p.m. GMT), looking nervous while Donald Trump remains impassive .

It was he, a faithful among the faithful at the time, nicknamed Donald Trump’s “pitbull”, who paid $130,000 to the actress to buy her silence about this sexual relationship, at the end of the presidential campaign. in 2016.

According to the prosecution, when Michael Cohen was reimbursed in 2017 by the then US president, these expenses were disguised as “legal fees” in the accounts of the Trump Organization holding company, to hide that the money had been used to cover up a scandal.

Donald Trump is being prosecuted for 34 accounting falsification offenses, which could theoretically earn him up to a prison sentence.

A stubborn hatred

When the affair was revealed by the Wall Street Journal in 2018, Michael Cohen initially claimed to have paid Stormy Daniels on his own initiative, without informing his boss.

Caught by the law, the man who once prided himself on being ready “to take a bullet for Donald Trump” turned against the latter, claiming to have acted under his orders.

Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to tax evasion, making false statements to the US Congress and violating campaign finance laws, the latter offense being directly linked to the payment to Stormy Daniels. Sentenced to three years in prison, he spent about a year behind bars.

His testimony promises to spark sparks, because Michael Cohen and Donald Trump now have a tenacious hatred for each other.

On Friday, Donald Trump’s lawyers again deplored videos on TikTok where Michael Cohen appears wearing a t-shirt on which the former president is standing behind bars.

Tik Tok Screenshot – Michael Cohen

Judge Juan Merchan asked the witness to stop such attacks, Donald Trump himself being prohibited from speaking about witnesses or jurors.

“He has no credibility”

Once questioned by prosecutors, the former lawyer is expected to be subjected to a barrage of questions from the defense, which has portrayed him as a pathological liar, an opinion shared by supporters of Donald Trump.

“Cohen, it’s a big joke (…) He has no credibility,” said Lisa Lombardo, 61, during a meeting of the former president on Saturday near New York.

Since the start of the debates, the jurors have been treated by several witnesses to an unflattering portrait of Michael Cohen, capable of abusing or cajoling his interlocutors to get what he wanted.

They were also able to hear an audio recording of a private conversation where Michael Cohen discusses with Donald Trump a payment to obtain the silence of another woman, the model Karen McDougal, who also claimed to have had a relationship with the billionaire.

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