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Trump hush-money trial: Michael Cohen faces testy cross-examination

By Chris Benson
Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Tuesday. Before entering Judge Juan Merchan’s court room and accompanied by House Speaker Mike Johnson, Trump told a crowd of reporters “there’s no crime.” Pool photo by Michael M. Santiago/UPI
1 of 9 | Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Tuesday. Before entering Judge Juan Merchan’s court room and accompanied by House Speaker Mike Johnson, Trump told a crowd of reporters “there’s no crime.” Pool photo by Michael M. Santiago/UPI | License Photo

May 14 (UPI) -- Donald Trump's former lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen on Tuesday underwent cross-examination in a Manhattan court room as the day's sole witness in the former president's alleged hush-money payment scheme.

"Today I think we had a very good day in court," Trump told reporters as he left for the day. "I think it was a very, very good day."

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The trial is to resume Thursday. For his part, Cohen likely "will continue until the end of the day Thursday" on the stand, Trump's attorney Todd Blanche said during afternoon testimony that got testy in the afternoon between the two.

Cohen took the stand to continue his at times intensive testimony for a second day about on the specifics of his role supposedly at the direction of Trump himself, as the defense tried to repeatedly paint Cohen as a liar or otherwise unreliable witness in the case.

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Blanche, at one point, asked Judge Juan Merchan if they could discuss what is admissible, in light of the judge's pretrial rulings, on Thursday when court resumes.

Blanche indicated he might finish cross-examining Cohen on Thursday.

"If I finish, it's the end of the day, I anticipate, your honor," he told Merchan.

Merchan replied, "No rush, take your time, do what you need to do."

As the cross-examination began around midday, Blanche asked Cohen, "You went on TikTok and called me a crying little [expletive]."

"Sounds like something I would say," Cohen replied with a nod.

Blanche also asked Cohen to confirm his allegedly calling Trump a "dictator douchebag," to which Cohen replied "Sounds like something I said."

The morning hours largely focused on the invoices Cohen filed to be reimbursed for the hush-money payments he allegedly facilitated to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to cover up the alleged affair she had with Trump and suppress the story ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

He admitted to prosecutors that he made the payments to Daniels, and others, "to ensure that the story would not come out, would not affect Mr. Trump's chances of becoming president of the United States," and said he believed it would not have happened if not for the 2016 election.

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Cohen, who added that he did not regret working for the Trump Organization and went on to detail his 13 months in a New York prison for his 36-month sentence, testified that he had worked on that particular deal "at the direction of Donald J. Trump" and "for the benefit of Donald J. Trump."

"I regret doing things for him that I should not have," Cohen said. "Lying, bullying people in order to effectuate a goal. I don't regret working with the Trump Organization."

"As I expressed before, some very interesting great times," he added. "But to keep the loyalty and to do the things that he had asked me to do, I violated my moral compass and I suffered the penalty, as has my family."

In the morning, the jury saw emails dating to as far back as 2017 from Trump Organization controller Jeff McConney to Cohen to remind him about a $35,000 payment.

Cohen had asked McConney to remind him the monthly amount he is supposed to invoice, to which he replied and confirmed it was a $35,000 payment.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger had Cohen confirm he did not have a legal retainer agreement at the time with Trump, and that the invoices had been consistent with directions given by then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, to receive compensation for the payments.

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Hoffinger asked Cohen if the description in the invoices for legal services rendered had been true, and he replied no. She then asked what the series of payments laid out by the invoices actually were for.

"Reimbursement to me of the hush money fee along with Red Finch and the bonus," Cohen replied. He then confirmed that the invoice was a false record, that he had received 11 checks totaling $420,000 and that Trump signed all of them from April 2017 onward.

Cohen had detailed a February 2017 White House meeting during which he testified he had a conversation in the Oval Office with Trump, then the president, in which Trump allegedly asked Cohen if he needed money.

"He said I could get a check," Cohen testified. "I said, 'No I'm OK.'"

Cohen said Trump directed him to "deal with" Weisselberg and that there would be a check for that month and January, the month prior.

Cohen said he did not get paid in 2018 when "as a result of the Stormy Daniels matter and her electing to go public, Mr. Trump wanted an arbitration action filed against" Daniels' breach of her nondisclosure agreement.

Trump, accompanied by House Speaker Mike Johnson, his son, Eric, and Republican National Committee Co-Chair Lara Trump, told a crowd of reporters outside the courthouse that "there's no crime."

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"I've been here for almost four weeks in an icebox -- they call it the icebox -- listening to a judge who is totally corrupt and conflicted," the former president said.

He described his payments to Cohen as "a certain amount of money we marked it down as legal expenses."

"So I had a legal expense and I marked it down as a legal expense," Trump said. "I didn't mark it down as a construction of a wall, construction of a building, I didn't mark it down as electricity."

Trump also said that "signing a [non-disclosure agreement] is not a crime."

Trump was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up the alleged affairs with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and has denied the affairs.

A New York appeals court on Tuesday also denied an attempt by Trump's legal team to overturn the gag order against him.

"We find that Justice Merchan properly weighed petitioner's First Amendment Rights against the court's historical commitment to ensuring the fair administration of justice in criminal cases and the right of persons related or tangentially related to the criminal proceedings from being free from threats, intimidation, harassment and harm," the court ruled.

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On Monday, Cohen testified that he had arranged paying $125,000 for Playboy model McDougal's life rights to a story about her affair with Trump at the former president's direction.

He said he arranged to buy the rights to the story under direction from Trump, adding he did not personally have any intent or reason to own McDougal's life rights.

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