Michael Cohen faces questions from Trump’s defense team for the first time

Michael Cohen, the key witness in Donald Trump’s criminal trial, was confronted Tuesday with his own foul-mouthed statements about Trump and his lawyers as the defense got its first opportunity to question him.

Cohen was calm but occasionally combative while fending off attacks from Trump attorney Todd Blanche, who targeted his motivations and credibility. Confronted with recent statements in which he called Blanche a “crying little s–t” and Trump a “dictator d—–bag,” Cohen replied dryly: “Sounds like something I would say.”

Asked about a series of times when he effusively praised Trump in 2015, Cohen said he was “knee deep into the cult of Donald Trump.”

The exchanges highlighted inflammatory comments Cohen has made about his former boss in media appearances, social media posts and a pair of books. Blanche argued that Cohen has made a lucrative career out of criticizing Trump, including through a pair of books that have netted him roughly $3.4 million.

Michael Cohen on the witness stand in former President Donald Trump's trial in New York on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.
Michael Cohen on the witness stand in former President Donald Trump’s trial in New York on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Jane Rosenberg

The defense also highlighted Cohen’s admitted track record of lying about his dealings with Trump, saying he changed his story as he sought to reduce a prison sentence in 2019. Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018 and ultimately served 13 months in prison. 

Earlier in the day, Cohen told the jury that he hoped Trump would shield him from the charges if he remained loyal and lied about a $130,000 “hush money” payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. Cohen has testified that Trump approved of a plan to reimburse Cohen for the payment over the course of the following year.

Before Cohen’s cross-examination, prosecutors walked jurors through the 34 business records they say were falsified to cover up the payment to Daniels, showing the invoices, vouchers and checks that correspond to each felony charge Trump faces. The former president has pleaded not guilty.

Cohen will return to the stand on Thursday to face more questions from both sides. Prosecutors said he is expected to be their last witness, and the trial will not meet on Friday. Blanche told the judge that the defense is currently planning to call one expert witness, but that he doesn’t know whether Trump will testify.

Here’s how Tuesday’s testimony unfolded:

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