Michael Cohen: ‘Yes, I Would Like To See’ Donald Trump Convicted

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NEW YORK – Michael Cohen, the key witness against Donald Trump, conceded under cross-examination Tuesday that he would like to see the former president become a felon and that he feels compelled to go online almost every day to attack the man he once idolized.

On Cohen’s second day of testimony at Manhattan criminal court, the former Trump lawyer faced off against Todd Blanche, Trump’s current lawyer. Blanche quickly tried to put Cohen on the defensive with questions aimed at showing that he was “obsessed” with Trump and is now consumed with a quest for revenge, and that means his account of Trump falsifying business records cannot be trusted.

“Yes, I would like to see” Trump convicted, Cohen said early in the cross-examination, before adding, “I would like to see accountability; it’s not for me, it’s for this jury or this court.”

Blanche, the defense lawyer, quickly interjected that he wasn’t asking about accountability; he wanted to know if Cohen felt he had a personal stake in seeing Trump convicted.

“Sure,” Cohen replied matter-of-factly.

The much-anticipated cross-examination came after prosecutors spent Tuesday morning questioning Cohen, who said he broke campaign finance laws “on behalf of Mr. Trump.”

Trump is on trial fighting 34 counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors say he miscategorized repayments to Cohen for $130,000 in hush money paid before the 2016 election.

While Trump’s defense team said it has nearly a day’s worth of additional questions for Cohen, there were other signs that the first trial of a former U.S. president is barreling toward the finish line.

Prosecutors told New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan on Tuesday that Cohen would be their last witness, and defense lawyers signaled they may call no witnesses – though they continued to hold out at least the theoretical possibility that Trump may testify.

With each passing day, it becomes more clear that Cohen’s testimony will be the most important in the month-long trial.

On Tuesday, the witness and the defense lawyer quibbled without actually quarreling – the beginning of what is expected to be long, tough questioning for Cohen. His previous day and a half of direct testimony was a calm recitation of events that prosecutors hope will tie together the various strands of evidence to secure a conviction.

As Trump’s lawyers mounted their courtroom attack on Cohen, Trump’s GOP allies made a pilgrimage to the New York courthouse to show solidarity with the party’s standard-bearer, to possibly audition for the vice-presidential slot on the ticket and to rail against Cohen.

“President Trump is innocent of these charges,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said outside the courthouse. Johnson said he was “disgusted” by what he called a politically motivated trial to keep Trump off the campaign trail. Under a gag order imposed by Merchan, Trump is barred from publicly talking about the witnesses, particularly Cohen.

But Johnson did that for him Tuesday, calling Cohen “a man who is clearly on a mission for personal revenge.” The House speaker was not the only Republican politician to show up for Trump on Tuesday: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Rep. Byron Donalds (Fla.), Rep. Cory Mills (Fla.) and Vivek Ramaswamy all made public shows of support.

Inside the courtroom, jurors were engrossed in the cross-examination, snapping their heads from side to side as Blanche fired questions on their left and Cohen fielded them on their right. The defense lawyer recited the litany of Cohen’s public statements, interviews and social media posts since the case began. Cohen admitted to being on TV programs at least 20 times since the investigation started and making more than 200 podcast episodes about Trump.

Shortly before the trial began, Cohen started posting online videos disparaging Trump six nights a week. The purpose of the videos, he said, was to “build an audience, create a community to really vent because I am having a difficult time sleeping.”

It’s unusual for a witness in a trial – let alone one with such a high profile and potential consequences for a former U.S. president – to speak publicly about the case. But prosecutors and even the judge have proved powerless to limit Cohen’s public comments, and it will be up to the jury to decide if his behavior makes him unbelievable.

In the videos, Cohen doesn’t hide the fact that he wants to see Trump in prison; he revels in it. In one recent posting, he wore a T-shirt with an image of Trump behind bars.

Cohen acknowledged that prosecutors have repeatedly asked him not to discuss the case while it was ongoing because it could damage his credibility, but he has largely ignored those entreaties, saying Tuesday that he has a First Amendment right to speak.

Trump’s defense team is trying to show that Cohen is so filled with hate for their client that he cannot be relied upon for evidence convicting him. Cohen worked for Trump for nearly a decade before his legal career ended in disgrace as a disbarred attorney and felon.

“I violated my moral compass, and I suffered the penalty, as has my family,” he said.

Since getting out of prison, Cohen has made a second career for himself as a prominent Trump critic, speaking out daily on social media, news programs and elsewhere about the presumptive GOP nominee for president.

Cohen was cagey in his replies to many of Blanche’s questions about his public statements, often admitting that his expletive-laden attacks on Trump “sound like something I would say,” but often not admitting that he did in fact say those things.

Blanche tried to paint Cohen as a bitter opportunist whose personal vendetta against his former boss also fuels a financial motive in seeing him convicted.

Cohen’s podcast pitches merchandise, including a $32 white T-shirt showing Trump behind bars in an orange jumpsuit, and a coffee mug that says “Send him to the big house not the White House.” And he gets paid for subscriptions to his videos, he acknowledged. But he insisted that money was not his goal. “I’m motivated by many things,” he said.

Blanche spent much of the afternoon asking Cohen about his public statements deriding Trump, including an instance when he referred to the 45th president of the United States as a “Cheeto-dusted cartoon villain.” Cohen said he didn’t remember using that phrase but “the sentiment is correct.”

For stretches during the questioning, Trump leaned back in his chair at the defense table with his eyes closed.

Cohen expressed remorse for the bad things he’d done for Trump, including threatening people and lying.

“I regret doing things for him that I should not have – lying, bullying people in order to effectuate the goal,” Cohen said. But he also said he didn’t regret working for Trump because he had enjoyed what he called “some very interesting and great times.”

As the day wore on, the pace of the cross-examination slowed down and Blanche bounced around among topics and years. Cohen, whose memories of events eight years ago are critical to the case, claimed not to remember things he said in recent months.

He did admit that when he first met with investigators from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s predecessor in 2019, he was looking for ways to get out of federal prison.

Bragg decided to file charges against Trump last year based on largely the same evidence that federal prosecutors had reviewed and decided did not merit charges – in part, according to people familiar with the decision, because they thought Cohen’s credibility was hopelessly compromised.

After pleading guilty in federal court, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ended up serving less because of the coronavirus pandemic; after his sentence, he kept trying to get it reduced.

But Cohen testified that helping state prosecutors did him no good with the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which originally prosecuted him in 2018. That office declined to even accept a letter from the Manhattan district attorney crediting Cohen’s cooperation.

“Did it impact your telling the truth in your testimony before the grand jury?” Hoffinger asked Cohen.

“No, ma’am,” he replied.

(c) 2024, The Washington Post · Shayna Jacobs, Rachel Weiner, Perry Stein, Devlin Barrett


5 COMMENTS

  1. COHEN IS OBSESSED WITH TRUMP AND WOULD LIE THRU HIS TEETH AS HE HAS DONE NUMEROUS TIMES – in the end let’s hope Trump gets vindicated and Cohen goes to jail – lying to Congress is due jail time

  2. This alleged Cohen is ruining America for the Jews. He may be exonerated this Cohen, but the Cohen of America will suffer. Antisemitism has finally become real. If this Cohen is a Jew he will bring life down for the American Jew. The American Jew has never had it so good he can go to his synagogue. He can buy his kosher food he can vacation in Orlando And spend upwards of $50,000 for a holiday . We know what’s going on we know who’s taking advantage of the system. We know the score ,we’re watching.

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