Cohen acknowledges stealing from Trump at hush money trial

Published May 21, 2024
Michael Cohen, former lawyer for Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump, departs his home in Manhattan to testify in Trump’s criminal trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in New York City, US, May 20, 2024. — Reuters
Michael Cohen, former lawyer for Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump, departs his home in Manhattan to testify in Trump’s criminal trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in New York City, US, May 20, 2024. — Reuters

NEW YORK: Donald Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen testified on Monday that he stole money from Trump’s company, an admission that could chip away at his credibility as a star witness at the former US president’s hush money trial.

Questioned by Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche, Cohen acknowledged stealing from the Trump Organisation by including a reimbursement to a technology company in his bonus package and pocketing most of the money.

“So you stole from the Trump Organisation, right?” Blanche asked.

“Yes sir,” Cohen, 57, testified.

Cohen said he paid roughly $20,000 of the $50,000 that Trump’s company owed to the tech company in cash, handing it off in a brown paper bag at his office. He said he kept the rest. He was reimbursed $100,000 total by the Trump Organisation for that payment.

Cohen is the final and most important witness for New York prosecutors as they seek to convince a jury that Trump broke the law by covering up a $130,000 payment that bought the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election.

But as a convicted felon and admitted liar, Cohen is a problematic witness. Prosecutors have buttressed his testimony with documentary evidence, while Trump’s lawyers have sought to undermine Cohen’s credibility through his cross-examination.

After his testimony concludes, Trump’s lawyers will have a chance to present evidence and witnesses of their own.

It was unclear whether Trump would take the witness stand. Defence lawyers often opt not to call witnesses or present their own evidence when they believe prosecutors have failed to make their case.

Though Trump said before the trial began that he planned to testify, Blanche told the judge last week that it was no longer certain. Outside the courtroom on Monday, Trump did not tell reporters whether he would testify or not.

At the outset of Monday’s session, Justice Juan Merchan said he expected the prosecution and the defence to wrap up their presentations this week and make their closing arguments next week. The first former president to face a criminal trial has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up the payment to Daniels, who had threatened to go public with her account of an alleged 2006 sexual encounter — a liaison Trump denies.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2024

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