Former Trump handler Michael Cohen is set to become a key witness in the criminal case

  • The former lawyer of Donald Trump is to be a key witness in the criminal trial of the former US president.
  • Michael Cohen testified twice before the grand jury that voted to indict Trump.
  • Cohen said that Trump instructed him to pay “hush money” for sex.

Donald Trump’s former lawyer, who once said he would do anything to defend the former US president, is now set to serve as a key witness in his longtime boss’s criminal trial.

Michael Cohen, who became a top executive at Trump’s real estate firm and then his personal lawyer, testified twice before a Manhattan grand jury that voted Thursday to indict Trump over the silence paid to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 US presidential election. after payment. choice

Cohen said Trump directed him to pay Daniels $130,000 not to talk about a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, which he said would likely be a prominent witness if the case goes to trial.

Trump, who is seeking re-election in 2024, has denied having such a meeting with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and said he did not direct Cohen. Trump called Cohen a “serial liar” and a “convicted felon.”

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After it was revealed Thursday that Trump had been indicted, the former president said he was “absolutely innocent” and called the case “political harassment and election interference.” Specific charges have not yet been released.

Cohen’s potential role as a star witness against Trump marks the culmination of his 15-year run from staunch “fixer” of the businessman-turned-politician to outspoken opponent.

“I will do anything to protect Mr. Trump,” Cohen told Fox News in 2017.

Cohen’s position changed dramatically in 2019 when he testified before a US Congressional committee and said: “I’m ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.

“Donald’s archenemy”

On Friday, after Trump’s indictment, Cohen said his goal in cooperating with authorities was to “speak truth to power.”

“I decided that I would not allow history to remember me as the villain of its history,” Cohen said in an interview with Reuters. “If speaking truth to power makes me Donald’s archenemy, so be it.”

Cohen was hired as executive vice president and special counsel for the Trump Organization in 2007. Before that, the Long Island native and son of a Holocaust survivor worked as an abuse lawyer and owned a fleet of yellow cabs.

Cohen said in an interview that he was hired after orchestrating the removal of the board of directors of the condominium where he owned an apartment, a board that sought to remove Trump’s name from the building’s exterior.

Cohen later advised Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and, as his personal attorney, remained close to Trump after he became president, although he had no official White House job.

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In 2018, when the payment to Daniels was revealed, Cohen initially said he had paid with his own money and that neither the Trump campaign nor the Trump Organization had reimbursed him.

He later pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law for paying Daniels and later testified before Congress that Trump told him to make the payment. He said he was reimbursed in installments and showed a copy of a $35,000 check from Trump’s personal bank account.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for making illegal excessive campaign contributions and other crimes, including cheating on his personal taxes and perjuring Congress when the Trump Organization stopped working on a proposed construction project in Russia. Cohen served more than a year before being released.

Relying on Cohen’s testimony poses risks for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, given the attorney’s history of making false statements and turning over bills to Daniels. That could provide fertile ground for Trump’s defense attorneys to cross-examine at trial.

Cohen, who is married with two children, said he took responsibility for his wrongdoing. He also said that much of his criminal behavior, including lying to Congress and paying Daniels, stemmed from his blind loyalty to Trump.

Cohen told Reuters on Friday that he expected Trump and his allies to attack him.

“It’s all part of the playbook,” Cohen said.

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