Latest News 22-05-2024 10:01 16 Views

Michael Cohen swore he had nothing derogatory on Trump, his ex-lawyer says – another lie – as testimony ends

The prosecution and defense rested yesterday, meaning, to no one’s shock, that Donald Trump did not testify.

Trump had said he would, but it would have been judicial malpractice for his lawyers to expose him to a hundred different lines of interrogation. 

Michael Cohen went into the hush money trial with a well-established reputation as a convicted liar.

We all knew he would be hammered on cross-examination for lying on behalf of Trump, lying to Congress, lying to investigators and lying to the press. That was baked into the equation.

But the lie he acknowledged on Monday is in a whole different category – and may be a turning point in convincing one or more jurors to dismiss him as a money-grubbing thief and vote for Trump’s acquittal.

The onetime fixer fixed up a nice deal for himself: stealing from the Trump Organization.

Yep, he did it, said Cohen. Yep, he lied about it. Yep, he gladly pocketed the money because he was angry about his bonus being cut.

This was a real Perry Mason moment – and an absolute failure by the prosecution.

On the other litany of lies, Alvin Bragg’s lawyers brought them up on direct examination, with the best possible spin, to soften the sting when Trump’s lawyers were grilling him.

But on this one? Nada. At first, I thought Cohen didn’t tell the prosecutors, but Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked, 'And you told multiple prosecutors in the District 13 Attorney's Office that story, right?'

'Yes sir.'

So it was sheer sloppiness – an unbelievable failure.

And the narrative gets even sleazier.

The Trump campaign hired a tech firm called Red Finch to try to discredit unfavorable polls by CNBC and Drudge. The fee was $50,000. Cohen delivered $20,000 in cash stuffed into a brown bag to the company’s chief – nothing suspicious there, right?

And Cohen kept the other $30,000 – later grossed up to $60,000 for tax reasons – blatantly stealing from his ex-boss’s company. (Trump decided not to pay Red Finch because its efforts petered out but didn’t know about the bag o’ cash.)

There was little the prosecutors could do when they had their turn. Cohen said he was 'angered' by the two-thirds cut in his usual $150K bonus 'so I just felt it was almost like self-help. You know, I wasn't going to let him have the benefit this way as well.'

Ah, self-help. Stealing as therapy. A pretty lame explanation.

It didn’t matter what else Cohen said in 2018, such as insisting he would never have paid the $130,000 in hush money to Stormy Daniels, which is well-documented, without the president’s explicit approval. The damage had been done.

But there were more fireworks to come.

The defense called as its main witness Robert Costello, a veteran lawyer and talented talker who represented Cohen for a few months.

Cohen has testified that he didn’t trust Costello because he was close to Rudy Giuliani, offering a back channel to the White House, but also the risk that anything Cohen said would be repeated there.

Costello testified that he told Cohen that his legal problems could be resolved 'if he had truthful information on Donald Trump and cooperated with the Southern District of New York.'

Cohen’s response, according to Costello, repeated 10 or 12 times: 'I swear to God, Bob. I don't have anything on Donald Trump.'

That was obviously a big fat lie.

Costello also alleged that Cohen had told him Trump didn’t know about the hush money payments, which gets to the heart of the case.

But Robert Costello walked into that courtroom with a giant chip on his shoulder.  

After one question, he audibly said 'ridiculous.' After another, he said 'Geez.'

Judge Juan Merchan had enough and sent the jury out.

'If you don't like my ruling, you don't say ‘Geez,’ okay. And then you don't say ‘strike it;’ because I'm the only one that can strike testimony in the courtroom.'

The lecture was severe. 'And then, if you don't like my ruling, you don't give me side eye and you don't roll your eyes. Do you understand that?'

Costello gave the judge a long stare. 'Are you staring me down right now?' At that point, he declared, 'Clear the courtroom.' Everyone later returned.

In yesterday’s testimony, the prosecution got Costello to acknowledge he was referring to Trump when saying he had 'friends in high places.' 

An email about 'getting everyone on the same page' was because Cohen 'had been complaining incessantly that Rudy Giuliani was making statements in the press,' Costello said.

He said an email about getting everyone 'on the same page' was about working out the complaints about Rudy.

Costello denied the prosecutor’s question about 'encouraging him not to cooperate.'

 

On redirect, the defense asked: What about an email saying you were being 'played'?

Costello said they kept urging Cohen to sign a retainer – so they could get paid – but he kept making excuses and putting it off.

Was he pressuring Michael Cohen to do anything? Costello said he was not.

And that was it. Closing arguments are set for next Tuesday.

The prosecution has plenty of other witnesses and documents, but Cohen is the only one tying Trump directly to his reimbursement for hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in this openly partisan and shakily built case. So Cohen’s evisceration on the stand really matters to the falsification of documents charge, unless 12 jurors believe that the former president had to know.


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