Trump Lawyers Strive to Discredit Key Witness Cohen During Wide-ranging Examination

Fri May 17 2024
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NEW YORK, United States: Donald Trump’s lawyer went after key witness Michael Cohen during a wide-ranging cross-examination on Thursday, challenging his memory and poking at his credibility during the former US president’s first criminal trial.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records when he reimbursed Cohen for a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election, when her story about a sexual encounter with Trump could have destroyed his campaign.

The defence team has sought to cast doubt by casting Cohen as a disgruntled former staffer who habitually lies and is out for blood in a trial that comes just six months before Election Day, when Trump hopes to regain control of the White House.

Under Trump’s tight watch, defence attorney Todd Blanche opened his second round of questioning by highlighting Cohen’s history of lying, particularly under oath.

In addition to listing Cohen’s myriad frauds — to which he has admitted in the past, including under direct questioning — the defence also played clips of the witness’ podcast episodes, which often featured the former president.

“You better believe I want this man to go down,” he said in a 2020 episode.

Cohen has repeatedly said he takes “responsibility” for his actions and has faced consequences. In court, including his books, he did little to hide his disdain for his former boss.

Trump, meanwhile, has complained that his campaign for another term in the White House is being thwarted by the weeks of court hearings he must attend every day.

He called the case politicized and decided to bring an entourage of top Republicans to court in New York with his latest batch of allies, including congressmen Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert.

The defence has not finished questioning Cohen and will continue Monday. There is no graduation hearing for Trump’s youngest son, Barron, on Friday.

Blanche appeared to be trying to crystallize her tactics on Thursday after a tortuous start to the week, where yawns betrayed the fatigue of some judges.

He tried to unsettle Cohen, who has a reputation for a temper that could hurt him on the stand.

But Trump’s fixer-turned-foe remained largely composed and on topic.

As Blanche tried to catch Cohen in a lie about the phone call to Trump’s bodyguard, Blanche worked to turn up the drama and the pitch of his voice rose.

“That was a lie,” Blanche said. “Admit it.”

“No sir,” Cohen replied. “I can’t.”

Prosecutors have indicated Cohen, 57, is their last witness in the case.

Trump, who appeared alert Thursday after spending some time with his eyes closed in recent days, denies ever having sex with Daniels.

After the prosecution rests, the defence can present its case, but Trump’s lawyers have been vague about whether their client will testify.

The businessman famously considers himself his own best champion – but legal analysts believe he could be a hindrance on the stand.

The defence said it wished to call one expert to explain the campaign finance status.

But the prosecution disagreed that only the judge should explain how the law applies.

When the jury begins to deliberate, the often salacious testimony will likely remain at the forefront of their minds, but they will also have piles of documents to deal with.

The charges hinge on financial records and whether their falsification was done with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential vote.

If Trump does not choose to testify, closing arguments could come as early as Tuesday.

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