Michael Cohen says he used to be ‘knee deep in cult’ of Trump as he stands firm in fiery cross-examination

“Boorish cartoon misogynist.” “Cheeto-dusted cartoon villain.” “Dictator d*******g.”

Michael Cohen used to be one of Donald Trump’s closest legal advisers and a senior counsel within his Trump Organization empire.

But on Tuesday, the former president’s more recently acquired attorneys quoted from Cohen’s insults aimed at his former boss while he sat on the witness stand in Mr Trump’s criminal hush money trial.

Mr Trump’s ex-attorney and one-time “fixer” was confronted with a string of barbs he fired at his former boss over the years, as the former president’s legal team tried to depict him as motivated by vengeance and greed to undermine his damning testimony that directly connected Mr Trump to a fraudulent scheme that silenced stories of his affairs before the 2016 election.

Cohen readily admitted that he was “knee-deep in the cult” of Mr Trump in the years before federal law enforcement raided his home, office, phones and computers, resulting in a plea deal that landed him in prison for crimes connected to the Manhattan case before Mr Trump.

Defence attorney Todd Blanche reminded Cohen of his past praise for the former president – how he admired him “tremendously,” called The Art of the Deal a “masterpiece,” and would take a bullet for him.

“At the time, you weren’t lying, right?” Mr Blanche asked him.

“At that time, I was knee-deep into the cult of Donald Trump, yes,” Cohen said.

“I was not lying,” he added. “It’s how I felt.”

A courtroom sketch depicts Michael Cohen testifying in front of Donald Trump durinh his hush money trial on 14 May. (REUTERS)
A courtroom sketch depicts Michael Cohen testifying in front of Donald Trump durinh his hush money trial on 14 May. (REUTERS)

Hours earlier, jurors heard Cohen express life-shattering regret for his actions at the center of the case, and for his blind loyalty that “violated” his “moral compass” and made his family suffer.

That loyalty collapsed in 2018 after Cohen was caught up in a federal investigation into tax and campaign finance violations tied to a “catch and kill” scheme that unlawfully suppressed politically damaging stories about Mr Trump in an effort to boost his chances of winning the 2016 election.

In a line of questioning that often jumped from different points of time, before and after Cohen’s fallout with Mr Trump, Mr Blanche suggested that Cohen’s cooperation in the New York case was motivated by self-preservation – in the hopes of getting out of a federal prison sentence – and self-interest.

“Is it fair to say you are motivated by fame?” Mr Blanche asked.

“No, sir. I don’t think that’s fair to say,” Cohen replied.

“Is it fair to say you’re motivated by publicity?” Mr Blanche asked in response.

“I don’t know if that’s fair to say,” Cohen said, drawing a blank expression. “I’m motivated by many things.”

Quoting from Cohen’s book Disloyal, Mr Blanche read that Cohen “wanted it all: power, the good life, public acclaim, fame, big deals, fast cars, private planes, the excess and glamor and zest for life.”

“Those are my words, yes,” Cohen said.

Michael Cohen leaves heads to criminal court in Manhattan on 14 May. (AFP via Getty Images)
Michael Cohen leaves heads to criminal court in Manhattan on 14 May. (AFP via Getty Images)

But Cohen wasn’t shy about his feelings for the former president. He acknowledged that he wanted to see Mr Trump behind bars (“sure”), and agreed that he once said he “truly f****** hope this man ends up in prison.”

In a series of muted replies, he agreed that his comments “sound like something I would say.”

Mr Blanche opened his cross-examination with a visceral series of questions about Cohen’s comments about himself and didn’t appear shy about his contempt for Mr Trump’s former lawyer.

“On April 23, after the trial started in this case, you went on TikTok and called me a ‘crying little s***,” didn’t you?” Mr Blanche fired at Cohen.

“Sounds like something I would say,” he replied.

Before Mr Blanche could continue, Justice Juan Merchan called him to the bench, out of earshot of the courtroom and the jury.

According to a court transcript, the judge asked him, “Why are you making this about yourself?”

Before sending counsel back to their tables, he reminded him: “Just don’t make this about yourself.”

Cohen will return to the stand on Thursday to face more questions from Mr Trump’s attorneys.

Manhattan prosecutors do not anticipate calling any more witnesses.