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Michael Cohen Faces Intense Cross-Examination in Trump Criminal Trial

In Donald Trump’s first criminal trial, the jury might now view his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, as a vindictive liar and an online provocateur hoping to see his former boss imprisoned.

However, the jury’s task is not to like Cohen but to believe his testimony.

Cohen, who once described himself as Trump’s “thug,” faced intense questioning from defense attorney Todd Blanche. The aim was to undermine Cohen’s credibility as a key witness in the case against the former president. Despite the aggressive cross-examination, Cohen maintained his composure and avoided damaging the prosecution’s case.

Former President Donald Trump was present in the courtroom in New York City on May 14.

Cohen will have a break on Wednesday, the trial’s scheduled off day, which also allows Trump’s team to refine their strategy. Meanwhile, Trump, the leading GOP candidate, plans to fundraise in Ohio and Kentucky before the trial resumes on Thursday.

Cohen has implicated Trump in making payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels to cover up their alleged affair, aiming to influence the 2016 election. Trump denies the affair and has pleaded not guilty.

The defense’s goal in cross-examination is to cast enough doubt on Cohen’s credibility to sway at least one juror. Blanche highlighted Cohen’s past insults towards Trump, showcasing his history of lying. He pointed out Cohen’s social media post wearing a T-shirt depicting Trump in jail and his profitable ventures criticizing Trump. Blanche questioned Cohen about various derogatory remarks he made about Trump, including calling him a “Cheeto-dusted cartoon villain.”

Blanche aimed to highlight Cohen’s personal grudge against Trump, which could be emphasized in closing arguments. He questioned Cohen about a TikTok post where he said Trump belonged in a “cage like an animal” and confirmed that he had called Trump a “dictator douchebag.”

Michael Moore, a former US attorney, noted some progress in challenging Cohen’s credibility. “The jury might see Cohen as a grifter,” Moore said, noting Cohen’s financial gain from his anti-Trump stance.

Big questions remain in the trial. Blanche’s focus on attacking Cohen’s character, rather than addressing whether Trump falsified business records to mislead voters, leaves open critical questions. Blanche’s performance seemed aimed at impressing Trump as much as the jury, and he was reprimanded by Judge Juan Merchan for making the cross-examination too personal.

As the trial pauses, the defense must decide its next steps. They could call witnesses or argue that the prosecution hasn’t proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Trump’s potential testimony remains uncertain; while he enjoys being his own advocate, his unpredictability could be risky.

A central issue is whether the prosecution has established the legal basis for their case. “The misdemeanor of falsifying business records is clear,” said retired US district court judge Shira Scheindlin. However, proving the felony charge is tougher, requiring evidence that Trump intended to violate election laws. Scheindlin noted that Cohen’s testimony supports this case.

US House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, appeared at the courthouse, criticizing the trial as politically motivated. His presence aimed to undermine the trial’s legitimacy and support Trump’s narrative of victimhood.

Defense tactics have raised eyebrows. Some legal experts questioned Blanche’s confrontational style. Cohen, while sometimes flippant, did not significantly harm the prosecution’s case. Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe commented, “No massive disasters yet.”

Moore defended Blanche’s strategy of disrupting Cohen’s prepared narrative. “You want the witness to tell the story on your terms,” he said.

The prosecution anticipated Blanche’s attack and focused on reinforcing their narrative about the payment to Daniels. Manhattan prosecutor Susan Hoffinger challenged the defense’s claim that Trump’s reimbursements to Cohen were for legal services, not hush money.

In a significant moment, Cohen described his break from Trump, driven by his family’s concerns about his loyalty. “I would not lie for President Trump any longer,” Cohen said.

As the trial nears its conclusion, the prospect of Trump being the first president convicted of a crime looms, with the jury’s decision approaching.

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Charles Wright
Charles Wrighthttps://devstory.org.za
Charles Wright embarked on his journalism career two decades ago, quickly making a name for himself with his insightful reporting and keen eye for detail. His dedication to uncovering the truth and presenting well-researched stories has earned him a reputation as a reliable and respected journalist. Over the years, Charles has covered a wide range of topics, from local news and politics to international affairs and in-depth investigative pieces. Throughout his career, Charles has demonstrated exceptional skills in investigative journalism, political reporting, and feature writing. His ability to dissect complex issues and present them in a clear, engaging manner has won him numerous accolades and the trust of his readers. Charles is known for his commitment to unbiased reporting and his relentless pursuit of the facts, which has made him a cornerstone of the journalistic community.