All the Bad Things Witnesses Have Said About Michael Cohen – Trump’s Former Fixer Set to Testify Today | VIDEO

By
Jeremy Herb, Kara Scannell and Lauren del Valle, CNN

*(CNN) — Nobody has anything nice to say about Michael Cohen. The former fixer and lawyer for Donald Trump is expected to take the stand Monday (05-13-24) as the key witness in the Manhattan district attorney’s case against the former president, prepared to give testimony connecting to Trump the $130,000 hush money payment Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

Through three weeks of testimony, jurors have already heard plenty about Cohen through numerous witnesses, who have painted an unflattering portrait of an aggressive, impulsive, and unlikeable attorney.

David Pecker, former head of National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc., said Cohen was “prone to exaggeration.” Former Trump aide Hope Hicks said Cohen liked to call himself a “fixer” – a role she said was possible only because “he first broke it.” And Daniels’ former attorney Keith Davidson said he only worked with Cohen because he was a “jerk” whom Daniels’ then-manager Gina Rodriguez – along with everyone else – didn’t want to deal with.

“Gina called me up to tell me that: ‘Some jerk called me and was very, very aggressive and threatened to sue me. And I, um, would like you, Keith, to call this jerk back,’” Davidson testified in the third week of the trial.

Michael Cohen (Spencer Platt-Getty Images-File via CNN Newsource)
Michael Cohen (Spencer Platt-Getty Images-File via CNN Newsource)

“I hate to ask it this way, but who was that jerk?” asked Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass.

“It was Michael Cohen,” Davidson responded.

Now Cohen is the witness whom prosecutors are relying on to deliver testimony that can help them prove Trump falsified business records when he allegedly reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 to Daniels to keep her from going public about a past encounter ahead of the 2016 election. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied the affair.

Cohen is the only witness who will testify about Trump’s alleged involvement in both the decision to pay Daniels and the plan to reimburse Cohen for advancing the money. Cohen will likely serve as the narrator for the prosecution and take the jury from the initial meeting in which Pecker, Cohen, and Trump allegedly agreed to buy negative stories that could hurt Trump’s presidential run to the payment made to Daniels just days before Election Day to an Oval Office meeting in February 2017, just weeks after Trump was sworn in.

Prosecutors allege that during the February meeting, Trump and Cohen agreed on how Cohen would be paid back. That arrangement, prosecutors say, included a false story that Cohen was working under a retainer agreement. The paperwork, from the invoices and general ledger entries to the checks signed by Trump, make up the 34 criminal charges in the case.

Witnesses who come with ‘baggage’

Prosecutors have waited to call Cohen until the end of their case, after introducing phone records, emails, text messages and bank records that they hope bolster his credibility with the jury. They have not tried to hide from the jury that he and other witnesses have plenty of problems.

“We are going to be very up-front about the fact that several of the witnesses in this case have what you made might consider to be some baggage,” Steinglass told a panel of prospective jurors during jury selection.

The testimony will pit Trump against Cohen, who once said he would take a bullet for the former president. They last saw each other when Cohen testified in Trump’s New York civil fraud trial last fall. Cohen’s testimony was brief, but the showdown was tense.

This week the stakes are higher, with a potential criminal conviction and possible jail sentence on the line for Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

It brings to a close a long journey for Cohen, who is still aggrieved that he served three years in prison and home confinement after pleading guilty to federal campaign finance charges related to the payoff, among other crimes.

Cohen met with prosecutors more than a dozen times and testified before the grand jury in the hush money trial. He has immunity on state charges for his role in the alleged conspiracy.

He will also face blistering cross-examination by Trump attorney Todd Blanche. The former president’s lawyers are expected to hammer at Cohen’s credibility, including digging into his past, and suggest to the jury that Trump had no idea what deal Cohen struck or how it was recorded on the books of his company.

“Even before he takes the stand, Cohen has been attacked and undermined by the prosecution’s own witnesses. On one hand, he could be damaged goods before he takes the stand. But he also might benefit from low expectations if the jury finds him to be better than advertised,” said Elie Honig, a CNN senior legal analyst and former state and federal prosecutor.

After jail sentence, Cohen released books and podcast attacking Trump

The charges filed against Trump date to events that transpired during the 2016 election. But in many ways, the case against Trump stems from his former fixer’s decision to plead guilty in 2018 in federal court to two counts of making unlawful campaign contributions in violation of federal campaign finance laws. He implicated Trump directly in the scheme and admitted that he orchestrated to pay Daniels on Trump’s behalf.

Cohen also pleaded guilty to tax charges and to lying to Congress about Trump’s business venture to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, which he served behind bars and under house arrest.

Cohen’s plea prompted the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to launch the investigation surrounding the hush money payments that led to Trump’s indictment last year.

Cohen became dedicated to antagonizing Trump. He published two books, “Disloyal” in 2020 and “Revenge” in 2022, and launched a podcast, “Mea Culpa” – all of which spent plenty of time bashing Trump and cheering on his prosecution.

On social media, Cohen continued to attack Trump in the weeks leading up to the trial, and even after it began. The social media jabs reached the point that Judge Juan Merchan told prosecutors Friday to give Cohen a message “from the bench” that he should stop speaking about the case. (Merchan has said he cannot legally gag a witness.)

Trump has often punched right back in interviews and on social media, including in several instances that violated the judge’s gag order on the former president barring discussion of witnesses in the case.

‘No one wanted to talk to Cohen’

Beginning with the first witness in the case, Pecker, jurors have heard criticisms from witness after witness of Cohen ahead of his own expected testimony.

Pecker, who met with Cohen and Trump at a key Trump Tower meeting in 2015, was asked by Trump attorney Emil Bove whether Cohen was “prone to exaggeration.”

“Yes,” Pecker said.

Bove then asked Pecker whether he could not trust everything Cohen said. The judge sustained an objection to the question, telling Trump’s attorney in a sidebar discussion that it was not the right place to “impeach” Cohen’s credibility.

More witnesses would keep doing so anyway.

Cohen’s former banker, Gary Farro, then testified that he was specifically given Cohen’s account because he could be firm with individuals who “may be a little challenging.” Farro said it was fair to call Cohen an “aggressive guy.”

“Anything he did need, he called me, and it was always something that was urgent,” the banker said.

Arguably the most negative assessment of Cohen came from Davidson, who negotiated the hush money deal with Cohen on Daniels’ behalf in 2016. Davidson described a 2011 conversation about a blog post on Daniels and Trump on thedirty.com, where Cohen unleashed a “barrage of insults and insinuations and allegations.”

“I don’t think he was accusing us of anything. He was just screaming,” Davidson said.

Daniels’ former attorney went on to explain how he ended up involved in the hush money deal, when Daniels’ manager asked him to help finalize the deal for a nondisclosure agreement.

Asked why he got involved, Davidson said: “The moral of the story was: No one wanted to talk to Cohen.”

Davidson recalled under questioning from Steinglass that after Trump was elected in 2016, he got a call in December from a “very despondent and saddened” Cohen.

“He said something to the effect of: ‘Jesus Christ. Can you f**ing believe I’m not going to Washington? After everything I’ve done for that f**ing guy. I can’t believe I’m not going to Washington. I’ve saved that guy’s a** so many times, you don’t even know.’”

Others who didn’t interact with Cohen as much as Davidson didn’t have much better things to say. Jeff McConney, the former Trump Organization controller, was asked what Cohen’s position was at the company.

“He said he was a lawyer,” McConney responded.

“Did he work in the legal department?” asked prosecutor Matthew Colangelo.

“I guess so,” McConney said derisively.

And Hicks, who worked at the Trump Organization before becoming a key aide on the 2016 campaign, described to jurors how Cohen – Trump’s fixer – was prone to inflate his influence on the campaign.

“There were times where Mr. Cohen did things that you felt were not helpful to what you were trying to accomplish, right?” Bove asked Trump’s 2016 campaign press secretary.

“Yes,” Hicks responded. “I used to say that he liked to call himself ‘a fixer’ or ‘Mr. Fix It,’ and it was only because he first broke it that he was able to come and fix it.”

Michael Cohen at government hearing
Michael Cohen at government hearing

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