‘Don’t roll your eyes’ and an entourage: Trump trial takeaways, day 19 | Donald Trump trials

  • 1. Michael Cohen’s testimony concluded

    Cohen, who took the stand on Monday, 13 May and was the prosecution’s most important witness, saw his cross-examination, and re-direct, end this afternoon. Indeed, prosecutors said that Trump, Cohen and tabloid honcho David Pecker plotted in summer 2015 to keep negative press about the then-candidate under wraps – so as not to derail his presidential campaign.

    During his direct testimony, Cohen told jurors that Trump instructed him to fix Stormy Daniels’ account of an extramarital liaison in 2006 and personally signed checks that reimbursed him for the $130,000 hush-money payment.

    Trump’s lead attorney, Todd Blanche, struggled to hit Cohen with “gotcha” moments, and the closest he arguably came was in offering an alternative explanation about why the ex-president’s longtime confidant would receive $420,000 in payments for a $130,000 cost.

    Cohen received a $150,000 bonus in 2015, but a $50,000 bonus in 2016. Blanche suggested that Cohen used the repayment setup to get his hands on bonus money he thought he deserved. Cohen paid a tech company called Red Finch $20,000 to help make Trump look better in a poll about business leaders , and told then Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg that he was owed $50,000. In Blanche’s understanding, this meant that Cohen stole $30,000 from Trump’s namesake company.

    “So you stole from the Trump Organization?” Blanche asked. “Yes, sir”, Cohen said.

  • 2. Cohen regained his footing on re-direct

    After cross wrapped, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger had an opportunity to question Cohen again. She tried to undermine Blanche’s suggestion that Cohen’s cooperation against Trump was out of self-interest. She asked what had happened to him since he started speaking out and, ultimately, cooperating with law enforcement.

    “My entire life has been turned upside down as a direct result, I lost my law license, my businesses, my financial security,” Cohen said.

    Hoffinger also tried to undercut Blanche’s suggestion that Cohen was very distracted in October 2016, dealing with a litany of issues, such that he might not really recall how often he spoke with Trump about Daniels.

    Hoffinger asked: “Approximately how many conversations would you say that you had with Mr Trump about the Stormy Daniels matter just in October of 2016, if you can approximate?” “More than 20”, Michael Cohen said.

    “Would you have paid Stormy Daniels if Mr Trump had not signed off?” Hoffinger pressed. He said: “No ma’am”, and, when asked why not, he explained: “Because, I wanted to ensure that I’d get my funds back.”

  • 3. Robert Costello claimed Cohen cleared Trump in conversations

    Costello was a defense lawyer with whom Cohen met after federal authorities raided his hotel room and apartment. Cohen told jurors that he was leery of Costello, who had described a close relationship with Trump ally Rudy Giuliani. Cohen said he didn’t trust Costello, concerned that anything he said would get to Giuliani and thus, Trump.

    “Do you know somebody named Michael Cohen?” he was asked. Costello said he met Cohen on 17 April 2018, at the hotel where he was staying. “He was absolutely manic at the beginning and throughout the two hours of that meeting, he kept on pacing back and forth, left and right,” Costello said.

    “I explained to Michael Cohen that this entire legal problem he was facing would be resolved by the end of the week if he had truthful information about Donald Trump and cooperated with the southern district of New York,” Costello told jurors. Cohen allegedly claimed: “I swear to god, Bob, I don’t have anything on Donald Trump.

  • 4. Costello prompted near-chaos in court

    Despite Costello’s comments on Cohen, he wasn’t exactly a great witness for the defense because of his courtroom composure. He said “jeez” at one point and instructed that something be stricken – which is something only a judge can do.

    Judge Juan Merchan directed the jury to leave at one point during his testimony and then told Costello: “So when there’s a witness on the stand and you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say ‘jeez,’ and you don’t say ‘strike it’. Because I’m the only one who can strike … ” Merchan said.

    It devolved further.

    “You don’t roll your eyes, do you understand that? Do you understand that? Are you staring me down right now?” Merchan said. Then, the judge ordered “clear the courtroom,” kicking the press and public out of court proceedings, for which there is a presumption of access under the US constitution, New York state and common law.

    He did not allow a media attorney to address the court regarding the access issue. So Merchan booted reporters from the courtroom; they were let back in several moments later.

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