Defense attempts to undermine Michael Cohen’s credibility, depicting him as a serial liar seeking vengeance

Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was grilled for a second day by Todd Blanche, Trump’s defense attorney. This is Yahoo News’ succinct update on the criminal and civil cases against Trump. Here are the latest developments.

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer and so-called fixer, was back on the witness stand Thursday for a second day of cross-examination by the defense, which is trying to undermine the credibility of the prosecution’s star witness.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche wanted to portray to the jury that Cohen has an axe to grind with Trump and started grilling him about insulting remarks he made about his former boss on his podcast and social media accounts, which Cohen confirmed.

The defense also tried to show that Cohen can’t be trusted. In Blanche’s line of questioning, he depicted Cohen as a serial liar, citing instances when he lied under oath, essentially arguing that if Cohen lied then, why should the jury believe his testimony under oath now.

Perhaps one of the biggest moments of the day was when Blanche attempted to sew doubt into Cohen’s testimony regarding an October 2016 call Cohen made to Trump’s former bodyguard, Keith Schiller, to talk to Trump about the hush money payment. But message and call logs indicate that the short call was actually Cohen asking Schiller how to deal with a prank caller.

Remember: the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump not only knew about the hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels who alleges she had sex with Trump in 2006, but that he directed them.

Trump is facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of a larger scheme to disguise the payments to protect his presidential campaign ahead of the election. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges and denies the sexual encounter with Daniels.

Mud-slinging and vengeance: The defense wants to show that Cohen — who once admired his former boss and sought his praise — now hates Trump and wants vengeance.

Blanche shared a Truth Social post that Trump posted in mid-March in which he called Cohen a “convicted liar and felon, jailbird.” According to NBC News, Cohen confirmed that he shot back at Trump in a post on X. “You called him ‘Dumba** Donald’?” Blanche asks. “Sounds correct,” Cohen replied.

During cross-examination Thursday, the defense also played a clip for the jury from Cohen’s Mea Culpa podcast reacting to Trump’s criminal hush money trial.

“I truly f***ing hope that this man ends up in prison,” Cohen was heard saying in the podcast clip, according to CNN. “But revenge is a dish best served cold and you better believe I want this man to go down and rot inside for what he did to my family.”

Cohen later acknowledged to Trump’s attorney that he “took some credit” for Trump’s indictment in the criminal hush money trial.

Defense says liar, liar, pants on fire: The defense wants to undermine Cohen’s credibility as a witness testifying against Trump, and highlighted the many instances of when he lied in years past, even under oath.

Trump’s attorney focused on Cohen’s 2017 House Intelligence Committee testimony when he lied under oath during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s links to Russia.

“Was that oath that you took every single time, so going back to all the depositions, the same oath that you took Monday morning in this courtroom?” Blanche asked Cohen, according to CNN. “Yes sir,” Cohen replied. “The oath doesn’t change, depending on the location, does it?” Blanche asked. “No,” Cohen said.

“And each time you met with a federal agent you were told that if you made a false statement that that was a felony, a federal crime, correct?” Blanche asked. “Yes sir,” Cohen said.

Cohen was ultimately charged with perjury in 2018. He pleaded guilty and served time in federal prison.

The Oct. 24, 2016 call: Trump’s defense attorney referred back to Cohen’s testimony on Monday regarding a call he had with Keith Schiller, Trump’s then-bodyguard, on Oct. 24, 2016. Cohen previously testified that he called Schiller that evening so he could talk to Trump about moving forward with the Daniels hush money payment.

Blanche said in court that according to text message logs that evening, Cohen actually was contacting Schiller to ask about how he could deal with a 14-year-old prank caller. Schiller then asked to call him. According to the call logs, the conversation lasted less than two minutes.

Blanche is trying to undermine Cohen’s credibility and testimony to show that the brief call Cohen made to Schiller on Oct. 24, 2016 could have only been about dealing with a prank caller, and was not a detailed conversation with Trump about the hush money payment.

Trump’s political posse: Throughout the hush money trial, Trump’s allies have appeared at the Manhattan courthouse in a show of support for him. On Thursday, nearly a dozen Republican lawmakers showed up, including members of the House Oversight Committee, like Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, which postponed a vote on a contempt citation against Attorney General Merrick Garland so that they could attend Trump’s trial.

Trump’s gag order: Trump is looking to have New York’s highest court weigh in on the gag order against him in the hush money trial. His attorneys filed a notice of appeal on Wednesday after a New York appeals court on Tuesday rejected Trump’s request to overturn the gag order. Judge Juan Merchan has held Trump in contempt 10 times for violating the gag order and has threatened the former president with jail time for future violations.

Court will not be in session on Friday, May 17, so that Trump can attend his son Barron’s high school graduation. The defense will resume its cross-examination of Cohen on Monday. It’s unclear if the defense will call any witnesses when the trial resumes next week, or if Trump will testify in his own defense.

Live24 updates

  • Courts ends for the week

    Judge Merchan stopped the proceedings for the day. The cross-examination of Cohen is not over; defense attorney Todd Blanche seemed to have been getting ready to move into a different line of questioning after asking Cohen about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.

    There will be no court tomorrow, May 17, because Trump will be attending his son Barron’s high school graduation.

  • Defense questions Cohen about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels

    After returning from break, defense lawyer Todd Blanche went into cross-examining Cohen about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.

    Blanche continued to ask Cohen about his relationship with reporters and referred to Cohen’s conversations with ABC News journalist John Santucci, who, at the time, was also interested in the Daniels story.

    Blanche then pulled up the non-disclosure agreement Cohen used with Daniels and had Cohen confirm it was a “perfectly legal contract.”

    📸 Big picture: The $130,000 hush money payment Cohen made to Daniels is at the center of the prosecution’s criminal case against Trump, and any questions the defense can raise about it for the jury could be pivotal in its quest for an acquittal.

  • Court is back in session

    After a 10-minute break, the court is back in session. Judge Merchan updated the room on next week’s schedule, given an alternate juror has a 1:30 p.m. conflict on Thursday, and said the court plans to play it by ear instead of making a decision today.

  • Cohen admits it was unethical to secretly record his conversation with Trump

    Under cross-examination, Cohen was pressed about the September 2016 conversation he secretly recorded of him and Trump discussing the hush money payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

    The jury heard a tape of the recording earlier in the trial.

    Trump’s defense attorney Todd Blanche asked Cohen whether he knew it was unethical for a lawyer to record a conversation with their client.

    Cohen agreed, adding that such a recording is permitted under the crime-fraud exception.

    “Just so I understand, you surreptitiously recorded your client so you could play a privileged recorded communication between you and your client with a third party?”

    “That’s correct,” Cohen replied.

  • Court takes afternoon recess

    The court has been dismissed for the afternoon recess. Judge Merchan asked for a representative from each side to join him in the robing room to talk to a juror who said they had a conflict next Thursday afternoon, which could affect the court schedule.

  • Michael Cohen’s 3rd day of testimony, as seen through courtroom sketches

  • Cohen describes his relationships with journalists

    Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked Cohen about the positive stories he planted in the press about himself and Trump leading up to the 2016 election.

    Cohen claimed that reporters would either contact him or someone at the Trump Organization for comments on stories. Cohen alleged that he would collaborate with Trump to come up with a response because, if Trump didn’t like the story, “it would cause him to blow up” at Cohen. According to CNN, Trump shook his head “no” in the courtroom while hearing the testimony.

    Diving into his relationship with the press, Cohen claimed he had a “close relationship” with New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman and said he recorded around 40 phone calls with several journalists before the 2016 election. He testified that he did not tell the journalists he was recording the calls. New York is a “one-party consent” state, which means that you can legally record phone calls if you have permission from one of the parties.

    📸 Big picture: Blanche is trying to argue that Cohen, considering his relationship with journalists, would give interviews and statements to the press without consulting Trump, which Cohen denied. By doing this, Blanche is attempting to convey to the jury that Cohen would make decisions independently of Trump — including the hush money payment to Daniels.

  • Court is back in session

    Court is back in session after a lunch break, and Michael Cohen is back on the stand.

  • What to remember about the October 2016 payout to Stormy Daniels

    According to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s indictment against Trump, Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 through a shell company in exchange for her silence about an affair she claims she had with Trump in 2006.

    Prosecutors claim that Daniels initially tried to sell her story about the affair to American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, and AMI executives alerted Cohen.

    During the first day of his testimony, Cohen alleged that he paid Daniels $130,000 days before the 2016 election under Trump’s direction and with a promise for reimbursement. The prosecution claims that Trump then falsified business records to reimburse Cohen.

    Trump has denied the allegations against him.

  • Why is the defense asking Cohen about a series of prank calls in 2016?

    Before court broke for lunch, Todd Blanche went over call logs between Cohen and Trump’s former bodyguard Keith Schiller.

    Cohen testified earlier this week that he made a call to Schiller in October 2016 to speak to Trump and confirm the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.

    Blanche questioned Cohen about a series of “harassment calls” Cohen claimed he received around the same time. Referring to text messages between Cohen and Schiller, Blanche pointed to a message exchange where Cohen said a 14-year-old prank-called him. In the message exchange, Schiller asked Cohen to call him.

    According to the logs, the call Cohen made to Schiller was less than two minutes long. Blanche argued that the call was too short for Cohen to have both explained the prank call and shared confirmation about the hush money payment.

    📸 Big picture: Blanche is trying to argue that the call Cohen claims was him informing Trump about the hush money payment to Daniels was actually about him dealing with a prank caller.

  • Court is taking its lunch break

    Judge Merchan has called for a lunch break. When court resumes around 2 p.m. ET, Michael Cohen is expected back on the witness stand to face more cross-examination by the defense.

    Cohen has so far testified for more than 10 hours over three days.

  • Cohen says he had a hard time getting Trump inauguration tickets

    From above, Donald Trump on a blue carpet that leads to a podium surrounded by a crowd of people with the National Mall and Washington Monument visible in the background.From above, Donald Trump on a blue carpet that leads to a podium surrounded by a crowd of people with the National Mall and Washington Monument visible in the background.

    President-elect Donald Trump arrives at his inauguration ceremony on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2017. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    Under cross-examination by the defense, Cohen confirmed text messages with his daughter that showed he was having a hard time getting tickets for Trump’s 2017 presidential inauguration.

    📸 Big picture: Cohen insisted he was not “despondent” about not being offered a position in the Trump White House. The defense is using text exchanges with his family members to suggest he was.

  • Republican lawmakers criticize Cohen during morning break

    Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks during a press conference after attending the trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on May 16, 2024. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks during a press conference after attending the trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on May 16, 2024. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

    Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks during a press conference after attending the trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on May 16, 2024. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

    During the morning break while speaking to reporters, Rep. Matt Gaetz called Cohen a liar “who committed these lies for his own benefit” and described the case against Trump as the “Mr. Potato Head of crimes, where they had to stick together a bunch of things that did not belong together.”

    Gaetz and others, including Reps. Anna Paulina Luna and Ralph Norman, criticized Judge Merchan’s daughter, who formerly worked at a progressive consulting firm and is a Democratic fundraiser.

    The criticisms, which echo what Sens. J.D. Vance and Rick Scott and Speaker Mike Johnson said earlier this week, are statements the court’s gag order forbids Trump from saying himself.

  • Cohen acknowledges previous remarks that he wanted chief of staff role ‘for ego purpose’

    Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked Cohen about whether he wanted a job in the Trump White House, referencing Cohen’s 2019 testimony that he didn’t want one. However, witness Keith Davidson testified earlier in this trial that he thought Cohen was genuinely interested in the role.

    Cohen insisted that he didn’t seriously want the chief of staff role but wanted to be considered “for ego purpose,” which he said in court earlier this week.

    📸 Big picture: Blanche is trying to suggest that Cohen really wanted a White House role and is vindictive against Trump because he was never considered nor offered one. Blanche tried to suggest Cohen is downplaying his interest during testimony by referring to text messages Cohen exchanged with his daughter at the time of the election, once Trump won.

  • Cross-examination of Cohen continues as court returns from break

    Court has resumed after a short break.

    Judge Merchan announced that court will not be in session next Wednesday because the jurors will not be available. A sidebar with the judge earlier this morning may likely have been about scheduling issues and discussing whether the court could be in session next Wednesday, which is usually the day of the week the trial has a break.

    Because of this, the New York Times suggests that the trial could continue past Memorial Day weekend.

  • Court is taking a break

    The court is taking its midmorning break. When it resumes, Michael Cohen is expected to continue his testimony under cross-examination.

  • Trump will appeal gag order to New York state’s highest court

    Attorneys for Donald Trump have filed court documents indicating that they will ask New York’s Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, to weigh in on the gag order that has been imposed on him during his hush money trial.

    Earlier this week, a New York appeals court denied a motion by Trump’s defense team to lift the gag order, which was issued by Judge Juan Merchan to prevent the former president from attacking witnesses and court employees or commenting on the jury.

    Trump’s attorneys submitted court filings on Wednesday indicating they will appeal. According to CNN, the Court of Appeals clerk’s office said it had not received the Trump team’s motion as of Thursday morning.

  • Blanche argues Cohen has history of shifting blame onto others for his actions

    Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche’s questioning is attempting to portray Cohen as someone who has committed crimes independent of his loyalty to Trump.

    By going through the list of people Cohen admits to blaming over the years, Blanche aims to paint a pattern of how Cohen not only lies under oath but also regularly shifts responsibility off himself and onto others.

  • Defense presses Cohen about his lies

    Continuing with his cross-examination, Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche pressed Cohen about his previous lies under oath. In 2018, Cohen was charged with perjury for lying during testimony to the House Intelligence Committee.

    “You lied under oath, correct?” Blanche asked

    “Yes sir,” Cohen replied.

    Cohen also acknowledged he lied in his 2018 testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller.

    📸 Big picture: The defense wants to portray Cohen as not only vengeful but also someone who has repeatedly lied under oath and could easily do so again. The prosecution tried to get out ahead, questioning Cohen prior to cross-examination about his lies to Congress and the special counsel.

  • Cohen’s podcast response to Trump’s indictment is played for the jury

    During Thursday’s cross-examination, Michael Cohen was asked about remarks he made on his Mea Culpa podcast reacting to Trump’s indictment in the hush money case.

    “I truly f***ing hope that this man ends up in prison,” Cohen is heard saying in a clip from one of the podcasts played for the jury, according to reporters in the courtroom. “But revenge is a dish best served cold, and you better believe I want this man to go down and rot inside for what he did to my family.”

    On another episode, before Trump was indicted, Cohen predicted the former president was “about to get a taste of what I went through, and I promise you it’s not fun.”

    Cohen later acknowledged to Blanche that he “took some credit” for Trump’s indictment.

    📸 Big picture: The defense wants to portray Cohen as a vindictive former employee motivated by vengeance.



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