Trump attorneys grill star witness Michael Cohen in hush money trial – PBS NewsHour

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Trump attorneys grill star witness Michael Cohen in hush money trial – PBS NewsHour

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The key witness in the New York criminal trial against Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, continued his testimony Tuesday, further detailing the alleged scheme to hide the payment Cohen made to Stormy Daniels to protect Trump during the 2016 campaign. During cross-examination, Trump’s legal team painted Cohen as a man motivated by greed, determined to convict Trump. William Brangham reports.
Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.
Amna Nawaz:
The key witness in the Manhattan criminal trial against former President Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, continued his testimony today, further detailing the alleged scheme to hide the payment that Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to protect candidate Trump back in 2016.
But, during cross-examination, Trump’s legal team painted Cohen as a man motivated by greed, determined to convict Trump no matter what.
William Brangham was in court again today and joins us now from downtown Manhattan.
So, William, Mr. Cohen is arguably the most critical witness for the prosecution here. This was his second day on the stand. What did he add in his testimony?
William Brangham:
As you mentioned, Amna, Cohen continued his testimony that is central to the charges here, which is that Trump and others cocked up this scheme to falsify business records to hide the fact that they had paid Stormy Daniels to stay quiet during the campaign, and that Cohen repeatedly said today he made those payments specifically to help Donald Trump’s campaign and that Donald Trump had urged him to do so.
And, today, Cohen reiterated some of the details of that. He was shown invoices that he sent to the Trump Organization asking to be paid for what he called a legal retainer and said that these were for legal services, which he acknowledged that he never provided any legal services during this period of time.
He was shown each of those invoices. He was shown each of the checks by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger, each of them, many of them signed by Donald Trump himself. Each of the check stubs on those checks said that this was for a legal retainer.
Again, this is the central allegation here, that these payments were not for legal work and that all of these records were knowingly falsified to hide the whole Stormy Daniels scheme.
Amna Nawaz:
William, what about Mr. Trump’s role in all of this, given that he’s the one being charged? What did Michael Cohen have to say about that?
William Brangham:
This is such a central point to all of this.
And there wasn’t that much new today on that front. Yesterday, as I mentioned, Cohen reiterated that Trump knew of and approved the broad outlines of this repayment to Michael Cohen scheme, and that Trump felt that Stormy Daniels’ story getting out during the campaign would be devastating to him, and that he deputized Michael Cohen to deal with that.
But there was still no direct testimony today that directly linked Trump to the exact detail of those financial payments. And, in fact, prosecutors are going to then likely argue that, as the head of the Trump Organization, it’s likely that Trump looked at every single bit of business detail, of every dollar that went out of his company.
But we have not yet heard directly that Donald Trump knew of the granular details of these allegedly falsified business records.
Amna Nawaz:
So, William, this was Mr. Trump’s legal team’s, the defense here, their chance to finally cross-examine Michael Cohen on the stand. How did they go about that?
William Brangham:
Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche, from the very minute, tried to portray Michael Cohen as a profanity-spitting insult machine, a man that has this deep-seated hatred of the former president, and that now that Michael Cohen is a disbarred lawyer, is basically trying to support himself by capitalizing on that hatred, by selling podcasts, by subscriptions to TikTok, by selling books talking about his time with Trump.
Cohen admitted on the stand that he made $4 million off of his first book, which is a lot about his time with Trump. The defense team tried to say that this is a man who used to adore Donald Trump and elicited a lot of testimony about how he used to love him, lionize him, do everything he could to be complimented by Trump and to be credited by Trump, but now that he feels jilted and frustrated, and he’s now doing anything he can to see that Trump gets put in prison, which Cohen has said on the stand here and in public many, many times that he desperately wants to do.
Again, Cohen did not — in the defense’s cross-examination, they did not yet touch on any of the central allegations in the case yet. We expect that will probably happen on Thursday.
Amna Nawaz:
Meanwhile, both inside and outside the courtroom, Mr. Trump had some very high-profile supporters, including the Republican speaker of the House, Mike Johnson. You see a number of other Republicans who showed up to support him as well.
William, what can you tell us about why they were there?
William Brangham:
That’s right, Amna.
There was a continuing parade yesterday and today of high-profile Republicans coming here to support Donald Trump, to condemn the trial that is happening right behind me.
Yesterday, we saw a couple of senators, J.D. Vance and Tommy Tuberville, who were here supporting Trump. Today, we saw Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, Congressman Byron Donalds. Interestingly, all three of those gentlemen seemed to — I don’t know if they coordinated this or not — but were all wearing the signature Trump uniform of a white shirt and a red tie.
But, yes, to your point, seeing the speaker of the House, the man who is third in line of succession, coming to Manhattan to stand outside this courthouse, just a few feet from where I am right now, to condemn this trial and to denigrate the witnesses in this is just an incredibly striking moment.
Here’s a little bit of what Johnson had to say.
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA):
He is soon to be officially the nominee of one of the major parties in our country running for president. They have him tied up here in this ridiculous prosecution that is not about justice. It’s all about politics.
William Brangham:
Again, having the speaker here supporting Donald Trump is just again one more piece of evidence that the Republican Party of today is 100 percent Donald Trump’s party, just a very striking show of support for the former president today.
Amna Nawaz:
Some remarkable scenes inside and outside the courtroom.
That is William Brangham reporting live once again from New York for us.
William, thank you.
William Brangham:
Thanks, Amna.
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William Brangham is an award-winning correspondent, producer, and substitute anchor for the PBS NewsHour.
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