Trump’s Lawyer Again Tries to Break Michael Cohen — With Little Success

Michael Cohen sat for a third day of testimony in Donald Trump’s ongoing criminal hush-money trial on Thursday. The attorney and former fixer sat for rigorous cross-examination by Trump’s lawyers, who attempted to poke holes in Cohen’s previous testimony and cast doubt on his credibility given his past conviction on charges of perjury.

Trump’s attorneys pressed Cohen on his personal feelings regarding the trial, and the possibility that Trump might be convicted. At one point, the jury heard a recording of Cohen discussing the news of Trump’s indictment in the case. “I truly fucking hope that this man ends up in prison,” Cohen was heard saying. “Revenge is a dish best-served cold, and you best believe I want this man to go down and rot inside for what he did to my family.”

When Todd Blanche began his cross-examination of Cohen earlier this week, he asked him if he wanted to see the former president in jail, before making his questioning even more personal. “You went on TikTok and called me a crying little shit, didn’t you?”

“Sounds like something I would say,” Cohen responded, drawing laughter from the jury.

Jurors were also played a snippet of Cohen’s podcast in which he says Trump is “about to get a taste of what I went through and let me tell you it’s not fun.”

Cohen and Trump previously had a “twisted father-son type relationship,” as one source close to the ex-president told Rolling Stone. Now, Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer is the government’s star witness — and apparently its last — in the New York criminal case against the former president, which is based on hush money payments that were allegedly used to protect his 2016 campaign.

Earlier this week, Cohen testified that Trump personally approved the $130,000 payment from Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels to silence her regarding an alleged affair with the former president. Cohen testified that there were concerns the story would be a “catastrophic” blow to Trump’s 2016 campaign, which was already struggling to manage the fallout of the Access Hollywood tape — after a tape became public in which Trump was overheard saying that, due to his celebrity status, he could grab women by the genitals.

Blanche successfully caught Cohen in one trap — though it may have ultimately earned Cohen some sympathy with the jury. When Cohen pled guilty to tax evasion and perjury in 2018, he was asked if his guilty plea was “induced.” At the time, Cohen said no, but in court on Thursday, Cohen said that prosecutors from the Southern District of New York gave him 48 hours to take it or else they would release an 80-page indictment naming his wife.

“I elected to protect my family,” Cohen testified on Thursday, adding: “I accepted responsibility.”

In the years that have followed his guilty plea and subsequent year in prison, Cohen has continued to blame others for his tax evasion charges, maintaining he was not offered the same rehabilitation period others are offered when facing allegations of tax evasion. “I don’t dispute the facts of the case but that I should not have been prosecuted,” Cohen said on Thursday. “I don’t believe that I should have been charged, I should have been given the same opportunities that everyone else receives when they say there is an issue with your taxes.”

Blanche then turned to a February 2019 series of events in which Cohen directed his lawyers to see if Trump was offering “pre-pardons” to people in his circle. “I wanted this nightmare to end,” Cohen testified. “So seeing [pre-pardons] dangled on television, I asked them is this something?”

Four times Cohen asked for supervised early release and all four times his request was denied. As Blanche attempted to paint Cohen as an uncooperative witness, he continued to make sloppy mistakes that Cohen corrected with each question. Cohen explained that early supervised release is only offered to cooperating witnesses, and although he cooperated with both the Mueller and SDNY investigations, being a cooperating witness is a title that is earned.

“It was never offered to me, and as expressed, I would not accept it,” he said of the title.

Blanche made several factual errors throughout his questioning, requiring Cohen to set the record straight and explain his testimony multiple times under oath to remain correct. Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger repeatedly objected to the line of questioning — which was sustained by Judge Juan Merchan. The back and forth left Blanche oscillating erratically between narratives in his interrogation of Cohen.

In one moment, Blanche let out a long sigh before leaping from Cohen’s guilty plea to what the fixer felt when he was passed over for the chance to be Trump’s Chief of Staff. “I would have liked to be considered for ego purposes,” Cohen responded.

Switching gears, Blanche hoped to portray Cohen as a bitter man upset that he didn’t get a job in the White House. Cohen dismissed that idea, saying his title of personal attorney to Donald Trump was “the role I wanted.”

“The reason that personal attorney to the president is the exact role I should play, was that that way I could monetize it, which I did,” he said.

Blanche’s efforts to catch Cohen in a lie faltered as the fixer carefully navigated Blanche’s double negative questions. At one point, Blanche decidedly told Cohen he received about 50 phone calls a day — or roughly 50,000 between 2016 and the time that “you went to prison for 13 months,” Blanche said, getting an exasperated Cohen to sigh at his dig.

When asked how, out of those 50,000 phone calls, Cohen can recall specific ones pertinent to this case, Cohen responded, “Because these phone calls are things I’ve been talking about for the last six years, they were and are extremely important and all-consuming, so while I cannot recall they were at 8:02 PM, I do recall the specific sum and substance.”

In another elaborate attempt to catch Cohen in a lie, Blanche argued that Cohen mistakenly said “cash” when referring to how the conversation between him and Trump to buy Karen McDougal’s story unfolded. This gave Cohen an opportunity to land a jab at Trump. “That was the message that I was to use, that there’s no financing,” Cohen stated. “He’s very rich and he paid all cash,” he said, adding he does not know of an occurrence where Trump actually attained property without financing.

Whenever Blanche’s attempts to catch Cohen in a lie would fall short, he would often switch topics erratically and without much transition. Cohen, who held two phones while working for Trump, testified on Monday to recording Trump acknowledging he would pay Karen McDougal $150,000 for her life rights. Blanche pressured Cohen three times if he was “certain” the recording he made of Trump was on one of the phones in which he received a phone call. When Cohen stuck to his initial response of “yes” all three times, Blanche yet again continued to bounce around to the next topic.

Blatantly obvious jabs at Cohen’s expense were made throughout cross-examination, from reminding the fixer of his jail sentence and FBI raids, to Blanche reminding the jury Cohen testified to lying on bank documents.

More from Rolling Stone

Best of Rolling Stone