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Michael Cohen could make or break Trump’s criminal trial

Written by on May 7, 2024

The prosecution’s star witness in Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial could also be its biggest liability.

Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former personal attorney, is expected to take the stand to testify against the man he once reverently referred to as “The Boss.”

Cohen made the hush money payment at the centre of the case, a sum which the prosecution alleges was fraudulently reimbursed by Mr Trump. He could provide essential testimony for prosecutors.

But outside the courtroom, on podcasts, television and social media, Cohen has not exactly helped their case.

He has mocked Mr Trump on X, calling him “sleepy Donald” and has used a profane nickname referring to the former president. Cohen also has posted memes that appear to show Mr Trump in prison-uniform orange, and joked on TikTok about Mr Trump being incarcerated.

“Trump 2024?” he said during one TikTok stream, reported by ABC News. “More like Trump 20-24 years.”

Cohen’s rogue behaviour, coupled with his very real criminal record, has opened the door for Mr Trump’s defence to cast doubt on this crucial player.

When Trump ran for president in 2016, Cohen was often by his side

“He’s a real headache,” said Lance Fletcher, a former Manhattan prosecutor who now practises criminal defence. “He’s doing everything as a prosecutor you don’t want your witness to do. He’s got all sorts of credibility problems.”

An attorney representing Cohen declined to comment for this story.

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felony counts including tax offences, fraud and campaign finance violations. The latter charge stemmed from the very same hush money payment at the heart of Mr Trump’s case.

He also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress – a fact Mr Trump’s attorneys have brought up in this trial and during a separate civil case.

Mr Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records for allegedly reimbursing Cohen for making a $130,000 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, then trying to disguise records of the payment as legal expenses.

He has pleaded not guilty and denied having an affair.

Todd Blanche, Mr Trump’s lead attorney, tried to undercut Cohen as a witness in his opening statement. He said Cohen remained “obsessed” with Trump “to this day,” and that he “rants and raves” about the former president.

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