Michael Cohen hush money cross-examination


Michael Cohen is continuing his testimony in former President Donald Trump‘s hush money trial after telling jurors Monday that he was following Trump’s orders when he paid for porn star Stormy Daniels’ silence about her alleged affair with Trump.

Trump is on trial for falsifying business records when he recorded payments to Cohen as legal expenses. The prosecution says Trump was repaying Cohen and that he covered that up to disguise an illegal campaign contribution.

Cohen bolstered the prosecution’s case Tuesday when he testified that he made the payment to Daniels “to ensure that the story would not come out, would not affect Mr. Trump’s chances of becoming president of the United States.”

The testimony showed why Cohen is a star witness for the prosecution, but Cohen will be cross-examined by Trump’s defense team after the court returns from a lunch recess. That cross-examination is sure to be combative, given Trump and Cohen’s history of hurling insults at one another.

Keep up with USA TODAY’s live updates from inside and outside the Manhattan courtroom:

Former President Donald Trump entered the courtroom for the afternoon cross-examination of Michael Cohen at 2:10 p.m. EDT. Eric and Lara Trump, as well as Vivek Ramaswamy, are still with the Trump team this afternoon. They’ve now seated themselves in the first row of benches behind the defense table, where Trump and his lawyers are seated.

– Aysha Bagchi

The prosecution team entered the courtroom at 2:05 p.m. EDT for the afternoon proceedings. We’re still waiting on the defense team, the judge, and the jury.

– Aysha Bagchi

Who is Judge Juan Merchan?

New York Judge Juan Merchan who is presiding the first criminal trial in history of a former president, is no stranger to the defendant, Donald Trump.

Merchan presided over a 2022 tax-fraud trial of two parts of the Trump Organization, in which the company’s former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, was convicted for not reporting $1.7 million in benefits, and he sentenced Weisselberg to five months in jail.

Trump has attacked Merchan as biased on the grounds that Merchan’s daughter works for a marketing firm with Democratic politicians as clients, and he has twice unsuccessfully moved for Merchan to recuse himself from the case. Merchan has refused, citing the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics finding that the judge’s impartiality couldn’t be reasonably questioned based on his daughter’s work.

Trump’s attacks spurred Merchan to expand a gag order to limit his commentary about the family members of people involved in the trial. On the second day of the trial, Merchan chastised Trump for speaking to prospective jurors.

Merchan has been a felony judge for 15 years.

Bart Jansen

Stormy Daniels, born Stephanie Clifford, is an adult film star. Daniels says she had an affair with Trump in 2006, months after Melania Trump gave birth to Barron Trump. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen paid her $130,000 to stay quiet about the alleged affair ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s lawyers tried to block Daniels from being called to the witness stand, but New York Judge Juan Merchan ruled that Daniels can testify because her allegations are “inextricably intertwined” with the criminal allegations.

Kinsey Crowley, Bart Jansen

Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer and fixer, is the key in the New York hush-money trial that could send the former president to prison.

Cohen testified that Trump directed him to engineer payments to two women who alleged in the runup to the 2016 presidential election that they had affairs with the married candidate.

While Cohen is Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s star witness, he may also be the prosecution’s greatest vulnerability, given his history of perjury and a felony conviction.

Josh Meyer

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger indicated she had no further questions for Michael Cohen. Trump’s defense team is set to begin its cross-examination at about 2:15 p.m. EDT, after a lunch break. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche was handling objections for the defense while Cohen has been testifying. Generally the same lawyer who handles objections for a particular witness questions that witness.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecutor asked Cohen if he had any regrets about his past work or association with Donald Trump.

“I regret doing things for him that I should not have,” Cohen said. “Lying, bullying people in order to effectuate the goal.”

Cohen said he doesn’t regret working with the Trump Organization, adding that there were some “very interesting” times.

“But to keep the loyalty and to do things that he had asked me to do, I violated my moral compass and I suffered the penalty, as has my family.”

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen described Trump suing him for $500 million, saying the lawsuit was partly based on Cohen testifying to a grand jury.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Cohen about the effect the lawsuit had on him. “Financial, as well as emotional,” Cohen said.

The lawsuit was brought in April of 2023, alleging Cohen made money from “fictionalized accounts” in his 2020 book, Disloyal: A Memoir. Trump said the accounts were prohibited by a confidentiality agreement.

Trump later dropped the lawsuit, and a judge ordered the case closed in October.

– Aysha Bagchi

Here are Donald Trump’s two tweets from the day after Cohen pleaded guilty to federal crimes, which were shown to jurors today in Trump’s hush money trial:

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Cohen about two tweets by Trump on Aug. 22, 2018 – the day after Cohen pleaded guilty to federal crimes. Cohen said he was aware of the Trump tweets on that day.

In the first tweet, Trump said: “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!”

In the second tweet, Trump posted that he “felt very badly” for his associate Paul Manafort, saying “unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”

Cohen said he interpreted the tweets as expressing “certainly displeasure” about his decision to plead guilty.

Asked whether Cohen read in the tweets a message from Trump about whether Cohen should cooperate with the government, he said he interpreted them as saying: “No, do not cooperate.”

Asked how the tweets affect him, Cohen said: “Caused a lot of angst, anxiety.”

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen told jurors about pleading guilty to federal crimes on Aug. 21, 2018, including campaign finance violations and tax evasion.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked what that day was like for him. “Worst day of my life,” Cohen said.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Cohen why he paid $130,000 in hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels.

“To ensure that the story would not come out, would not affect Mr. Trump’s chances of becoming president of the United States,” Cohen said.

Hoffinger asked if Cohen would have paid the money if not for the campaign. “No, ma’am,” he said.

On whose behalf “did you commit that crime?” Hoffinger asked. Cohen said it was on behalf of “Mr. Trump.”

This is an important part of the prosecution’s case. They are arguing Trump committed felonies because he falsified business records in order to conceal violating campaign finance laws through the Stormy Daniels hush money payment. Trump may want to argue the payment was about shielding his family, not helping the campaign.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger’s questioning is moving into Cohen deciding to plead guilty to federal crimes, including to crimes tied to his involvement in the hush money deals with Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels.

Hoffinger asked Cohen where he decided his loyalty should be.

“To my wife, my daughter, my son, and the country,” Cohen said.

– Aysha Bagchi

‘American people have already acquitted Donald Trump’: Burgum

Two House Republicans and two former GOP rivals for the presidency served as proxies for former President Donald Trump outside the New York courthouse for his hush money trial, criticizing witness Michael Cohen and Judge Juan Merchan in ways that Trump can’t under his gag order.

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., said Cohen filled out false invoices to the Trump Organization for reimbursement for paying $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels, despite Trump being charged with falsification of business records.

“This is a joke, it is a farce, it is a travesty,” Donalds said.

Rep. Cory Mills, R-Fla., also criticized Cohen as a convicted liar.

“Michael Cohen has no credibility, no integrity,” Mills said. “This is weaponization against our president.”

Vivek Ramaswamy, a businessman who ran for the Republican presidential nomination, criticized Merchan because his daughter works with Democratic politicians, although a state ethics board cleared him to preside over the trial.

“This is some third-rate banana republic,” Ramaswamy said.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said the “scam trial” prevented Trump from campaigning against President Joe Biden on issues such as inflation, crime, border security and the economy. But he cited two recent polls that found Trump leading in swing states.

“The American people have already acquitted Donald Trump,” Burgum said.

Bart Jansen

Michael Cohen described having a meeting with a lawyer named Robert Costello, who struck Cohen as “sketchy.”

Cohen testified that Costello described himself as “incredibly close” to Rudy Giuliani, and that relationship “will be very beneficial” for Cohen going forward because Giuliani  was close to and spending a “tremendous” amount of time with Trump.

Costello also said “this would be a great way to have a back channel communication to the president in order to ensure that you’re still good and that you’re still secure,” according to Cohen.

Cohen said Costello met him with a retainer agreement, but Cohen told Costello was still meeting with other lawyers and didn’t sign it.

– Aysha Bagchi

A New York court rejected former President Donald Trump’s appeal of the gag order in his hush money trial that prevents him from talking about witnesses or jurors.

Five judges on the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division’s First Department ruled Tuesday that Judge Juan Merchan ruled correctly to protect the integrity of the trial.

“Justice Merchan properly determined that petitioner’s public statements posed a significant threat to the integrity of the testimony of witnesses and potential witnesses in this case as well,”

Judge Juan Merchan ordered Trump not to comment on witnesses or jurors to avoid intimidating or harassing participants in the trial. Merchan ruled Trump violated the gag order 10 times and fined him $10,000 – and threatened him with jail for future violations.

Gag orders were also upheld on appeal in Trump’s New York civil real estate fraud trial, where he was fined $15,000, and his federal election interference case.

But Trump, who contends the trial is political interference to keep him off the presidential campaign trail, has argued he has a First Amendment right to respond to his accusers.

“The gag order has to come off,” Trump told reporters Tuesday before entering the courtroom. “It’s a scam. It’s election interference.”

Bart Jansen

The Trump defense surrogate drawing the most attention is House Speaker Mike Johnson – much of it referencing Johnson’s strong Christian viewpoint.

“Have to admit I’m surprised that @SpeakerJohnson wants to be in the ‘I cheated on my wife with a porn star’ club,” said former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., on the social media site X.

“I guess he’s not that concerned with teaching morality to our young people after all.”

The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump political organization, said on X: “So good of pious Mike Johnson to show support for cheating on your wife with a porn star, paying her hush money to cover it up, and falsifying business records so America doesn’t find out about it before an election.”

Johnson, one of several high-profile Republicans to travel to New York City to speak on Trump’s behalf, said he wanted to appear because he believes the trial to be unfair, especially in an election year.

“These are politically motivated trials and they are a disgrace,” Johnson told reporters.

David Jackson

The jurors were again shown April 21, 2018 tweets by Trump praising Michael Cohen as “a fine person with a wonderful family,” and saying while most people would flip if the government lets them out of trouble, Trump didn’t see Cohen doing that.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked how Trump’s tweets affected Cohen. “Reinforced my loyalty and my intention to stay in the fold,” Cohen said.

Cohen said he understood Trump didn’t want him to cooperate with the government, to provide information, or to flip.

Read Trump’s tweets here:

– Aysha Bagchi

“I was scared,” Cohen said about how he felt at the time the FBI raided his office and he called Trump. “First time in my life anything like this. And I wanted some reassurance that Mr. Trump had my back, especially as this dealt with issues that related to him.”

Cohen also described how Trump’s message not to worry and everything was going to be fine impacted him.

“I felt reassured, because I had the president of the United States protecting me. His Justice Department should go nowhere. And so I felt reassured, and I remained in the camp,” Cohen said.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Cohen what he meant by saying he stayed in the fold and in the Trump camp. Cohen confirmed to her that he stayed loyal to Trump and continued to lie about Trump’s involvement.

– Aysha Bagchi

Cohen said he left a message for Trump to call him after his office was raided by the FBI. He said he wanted Trump to know what was taking place.

According to Cohen, Trump called him back and said:

“Don’t worry. I’m the president of the United States. There’s nothing here. Everything’s going to be okay. Stay tough. You’re going to be okay.”

Cohen said that was the last time he spoke to Trump.

– Aysha Bagchi

Michael Cohen described being raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under a search warrant. Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked Cohen how he felt after that happened.

Cohen replied: “How to describe your life being turned upside down? Concerned. Despondent. Angry.”

Hoffinger asked if Cohen was frightened. “Yes, ma’am,” Cohen said.

– Aysha Bagchi

Jurors have now heard testimony about the Federal Election Commission having investigated the hush money to Daniels, as well as about the responses to the FEC from Cohen and his lawyer. Judge Merchan instructed jurors that, although they have heard that testimony, they cannot consider it when they are determining whether Trump is guilty of the 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Instead, Merchan said, the testimony is being permitted so they can assess Cohen’s credibility and have context for surrounding events.

Remember, Trump is charged with felonies based on the prosecution’s theory that Trump falsified business records in order to commit or conceal another crime. Prosecutors say Trump was concealing unlawful interference in the 2016 presidential election through a hush money payment to Daniels that violated campaign finance laws.

– Aysha Bagchi

You can read the full Feb. 8, 2018 statement from Cohen’s lawyer to the Federal Election Commission here:

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger showed jurors a Feb. 8, 2018 statement Cohen’s lawyer made to the Federal Election Commission that Cohen just testified was intentionally misleading. The statement referred to “Ms. Clifford,” the real name of porn star Stormy Daniels. One portion of it stated:

“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the payment directly or indirectly.”

Cohen said that portion was literally true but intentionally misleading: it omitted that the Trump revocable trust as well as Trump personally reimbursed Cohen for the hush money he paid Daniels.

Cohen later pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, including in relation to the Stormy Daniels hush money.

– Aysha Bagchi

House Speaker Mike Johnson came to Trump’s defense Tuesday, echoing the former president’s criticism of the judge and prosecutor in the hush money trial and voicing what Trump can’t under his gag order by slamming witness Michael Cohen and the judge’s daughter.

“The judicial system in our country has been weaponized against President Trump,” the Louisiana Republican said.  “The system is using all the tools at its disposal right now to punish one president, to provide cover for another.”

Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer who arranged a $130,000 payment to keep Stormy Daniels quiet before the 2016 election about her claim of a sexual episode with Trump while he was married. Cohen has been convicted and imprisoned for lying to Congress about one of Trump’s real estate projects and to the Internal Revenue Service about his income.

“This is a man who is clearly on a mission for personal revenge and who is widely known as a witness who has trouble with the truth,” Johnson said of Cohen. “He has a history of perjury and is well known for it. No one should believe a word he says today.”

Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter does marketing work for Democratic politicians. A state ethics board cleared Merchan to preside over the case. But Johnson said the relationship demonstrates the Democratic priorities behind prosecuting the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

“They have him tied up here in this ridiculous prosecution that is not about justice, it is all about politics and everybody can see that,” Johnson said. “It’s so corrupt and everyone knows it.”

Bart Jansen

Cohen testified that he wanted to monetize being named the president’s personal attorney. He said he made $4 million from clients around that period.

– Aysha Bagchi

Allen Weisselberg is a former chief financial officer at the Trump Organization who was sentenced to five months in jail for perjury during former President Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial last year. 

Weisselberg had previously been sentenced to five months for tax fraud after falsifying Trump Organization business records and failing to report $1.7 million in benefits. 

Justice Juan Merchan suggested prosecutors consider calling Weisselberg to testify in Trump’s ongoing case in New York Friday after Trump’s legal team objected to prosecutors’ attempts to show jurors Weisselberg’s $750,000 severance agreement, POLITICO reported. Merchan ruled Monday that prosecutors can’t show jurors that agreement.

– Rachel Barber

Michael Cohen was shown a series of checks that he said corresponded to the invoices he submitted in 2017, which he said were false invoices. Several of them, he said, had Trump’s personal signature on them. Earlier witness testimony has also confirmed Trump’s signature on checks that prosecutors say correspond to these invoices.

– Aysha Bagchi

Jurors were shown an invoice Michael Cohen submitted in 2017 stating that he was submitting the invoice pursuant to a retainer agreement, which is an agreement about compensation that reserves a lawyers pays for future services. Cohen just told jurors that statement was false – the requested money wasn’t pursuant to a retainer agreement.

Cohen’s invoice also said the requested payment was for services rendered for January and February of 2017. Cohen testified that statement was also false. He already told jurors yesterday these payments were actually reimbursing him for paying porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money, as well as reimbursing him for another expense and paying him a bonus.

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger is continuing to show jurors invoices Cohen submitted in 2017, and he is continuing to testify that the invoices were false in similar ways.

– Aysha Bagchi

Melania Trump, born Melanija Knavs, married former President Donald Trump in January 2005. They have one son, Barron. He was born in March 2006. 

– Rachel Barber

House Speaker Mike Johnson will deliver remarks at 10:15 a.m. EDT at a park next to the Manhattan courthouse where Trump’s hush money trial is ongoing, according to a media advisory. 

The advisory says that Johnson will discuss the “political persecution” of Trump by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and President Joe Biden’s “weaponized Department of Justice.” There is no evidence that Biden is behind the hush money trial. 

Sudiksha Kochi

The jury again saw a photo of Michael Cohen at the White House. Here is a screenshot from the photo jurors were shown:

The photo, along with earlier testimony from former Trump White House aide Madeleine Westerhout, corroborates prosecutors’ story that Cohen visited the White House in February of 2017. There was also testimony earlier in the trial that metadata associated with the photo indicates it was taken on Feb. 8, 2017.

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger has started questioning Cohen. She showed jurors an email jurors have seen before of Jeffrey McConney, the former financial controller for the Trump Organization, asking Cohen in February of 2017 to send him invoices. McConney appears to reference Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.

The email stated: “Mike, Just a reminder to get me the invoices you spoke to Allen about. Thanks, Jeff”

– Aysha Bagchi

Michael Cohen entered the courtroom at 9:39 a.m. EDT for his second day of testimony in the trial. The judge spoke to the lawyers privately at his bench for several minutes before asking for Cohen to be brought in. We are now just waiting on the jury.

– Aysha Bagchi

Is Michael Cohen married?

Michael Cohen is married and has two children, a son and a daughter. Cohen has been very protective of his family in the past, expressing fear that Trump’s rhetoric could endanger them. Cohen said yesterday his marriage is going on 30 years.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump and supporters enter the courtroom

Donald Trump entered the courtroom at 9:25 a.m. EDT for Day 17 of his criminal trial. Today, Lara Trump, co-chair of the Republican National Committee, is here.

Lara Trump’s husband and the former president’s middle son, Eric Trump, is also here. He has attended multiple days of the trial.

And potential vice presidential pick on the Trump campaign ticket, Vivek Ramaswamy, is here. 

– Aysha Bagchi

Prosecution arrives for Day 17 of trial

The prosecution team entered the courtroom at 9:13 a.m. EDT. We are still waiting for the Trump defense team, Judge Juan Merchan, and the jury.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump supporters respond to posts criticizing judges with threats of violence

Judge Juan Merchan has ordered Donald Trump not to comment on witnesses or jurors, to avoid influencing in his New York hush trial, but a Reuters investigation found the former president’s social media posts about the judge and prosecutors inspired widespread threats of violence.

Trump has repeatedly called Merchan a “highly conflicted” judge and in an April 23 post on Truth Social, said he was presiding over a “kangaroo court.” Trump’s supporters swiftly replied with posts on the Patriots.win website, including “treason is a hangable offense” and “needs to be strangled with piano wire before he makes it to the hangman.”

Reuters documented more than 150 posts since March 1 calling for physical violence against judges in three Trump cases – Merchan, New York Judge Arthur Engoron in his civil fraud case and Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee in his Georgia election racketeering case. The posts were part of a larger pool of hundreds that included hostile, racist or sexualized langue to attack the judges short of explicitly calling for violence.

“Articulating these ideas is the first step along the pathway of mobilizing to violence,” said Mitch Silber, a former New York City Police Department director of intelligence analysis.

Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has a right to criticize what he called “un-Constitutional witch hunts” and said “Democrats and crazed lunatics” have called for “despicable violence” against Trump.

–Bart Jansen

Was Michael Cohen disbarred?

Michael Cohen was disbarred after he pleaded guilty to multiple crimes in 2018, including lying to Congress.

A panel of New York state judges granted a request from a New York attorney grievance committee to strike Cohen’s name from the official list of attorneys in New York state in February of 2019.

Cohen “ceased to be an attorney upon his federal conviction of making false statements to the United States Congress,” the panel said in its opinion.

The move was retroactive, striking Cohen’s name from the list as of the date he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, Nov. 29, 2018.

– Aysha Bagchi

What was Michael Cohen convicted of?

In August 2018, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion, making false statements to a bank, and violating campaign finance laws by causing or issuing two hush money payments ahead of the 2016 election: $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels and $150,00 to model Karen McDougal, the latter of which was paid by American Media Inc. Those amounts greatly exceed the personal contribution limits to a political candidate.

In November 2018, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to Congress. In an effort to protect Trump, had told Congress his boss stopped trying to pursue a real-estate deal in Moscow in January 2016 when they actually continued efforts through June 2016.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, according to a Department of Justice release.

House Speaker Mike Johnson will make an appearance in the courthouse with Trump on Tuesday morning, showing solidarity with the former president according to a person familiar with the planning.

Johnson joins a number of high-profile Republicans joining Trump in Manhattan to support the former president.

Punchbowl News was first to report Johnson’s appearance.

– Ken Tran

On Monday, jurors listened again to a recording of a conversation between Trump and Cohen. This time, Cohen was there to testify about it. He said the pair were discussing a hush money deal to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal. She has alleged she had a months-long affair with Trump that overlapped with Melania Trump’s pregnancy. Trump denies the claim.

On the recording, Cohen references “info regarding our friend, David.” That was a reference to David Pecker, Cohen told jurors. Pecker has testified he agreed to be “eyes and ears” in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign efforts by helping identify potentially damaging stories to prevent them from being published.

Cohen and Trump also talk about “financing” on the recording. Cohen said he made the recording to reassure Pecker that Trump planned to pay him back for the hush money to McDougal.

You can listen to the recording here:

– Aysha Bagchi

The New York criminal trial against former President Trump isn’t televised. But courtroom sketch artists make renditions of court proceedings each day. Here is one sketch by Jane Rosenberg of Michael Cohen’s testimony Monday, with prosecutor Susan Hoffinger questioning Cohen and Trump looking on:

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors say the real estate mogul was trying to cover up unlawfully interfering in the 2016 presidential election through a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

– Aysha Bagchi

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