Key witness Cohen says Trump told him to pay hush money

World Tuesday 14/May/2024 15:19 PM
By: DW
Key witness Cohen says Trump told him to pay hush money

New York: Star witness Michael Cohen on Monday appeared at a New York criminal court to testify at former President Donald Trump's hush money trial.

Cohen told jurors that Trump personally approved a hush-money payment to bury a porn star's story of a sexual encounter before it could derail his 2016 campaign.

"Just do it," Cohen said Trump told him, instructing him to figure out the best way to pay adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 (€120,000) to keep quiet about an alleged 2006 liaison, which he denies.

Cohen worked as an executive and lawyer at Trump's New York-based real estate company and also served as the former president's personal lawyer after the start of Trump's term in 2017. He has since become an outspoken critic of Trump.

At the start of his testimony Cohen said it was "fair" to describe him as Trump's "fixer" throughout his tenure at the Trump Organization.
Cohen said he lied for Trump

Cohen testified that Trump was angry that adult actress Stormy Daniels was planning to sell a story about an alleged sexual encounter she had with him.

"He said to me, 'This is a disaster, a total disaster. Women are going to hate me,' Cohen testified, citing what he said were Trump's remarks at the time. "'Guys, they think it's cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign.'"

Cohen said that he learned that Daniels was considering selling the story after an audio recording surfaced of Trump bragging about grabbing women's genitals.

He said that Trump told him that there would be "a lot of women coming forward" after he announced his campaign for president.

Asked whether he had lied and bullied people on behalf of Trump, Cohen told the court:  "Yes… It was what was needed in order to accomplish the task." He said that his duties included renegotiating bills from business partners, threatening to sue people and planting positive stories in the press.

Cohen claimed the former president did not have a personal e-mail address as he feared that a paper trail could be used to prosecute him.

"He would comment that emails are like written papers, that he knows too many people who have gone down as a direct result of having emails that prosecutors can use in a case," Cohen testified.

In his testimony, Cohen said that Trump had approved payments made to buy and then suppress news stories, including allegations he had had an affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal and a separate false claim that he had fathered a child out of wedlock.

Cohen spent just over 13 months in jail and a year and a half under house arrest after he was handed a three-year prison sentence for lying to Congress and financial crimes.

What is Trump accused of?
The lawyer says that he made a $130,000 payment to Daniels before the 2016 election to prevent her from speaking publicly about a sexual encounter she had with Trump in 2006.

Prosecutors have accused Trump of falsely labelling reimbursement payments to Cohen as legal expanses in his real estate company's books.

Trump's defence lawyers have argue that Cohen acted alone when paying Daniels.

Trump has been hit with 34 counts of misdemeanors and felonies over allegedly altering business records, which could land him up to four years in prison if he is convicted.

The former president has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and denies having had a sexual encounter with Daniels.
Trump's legal troubles

Besides the criminal case in New York, Trump is facing a number of other legal battles that could complicate his bid to be elected president in November in a rematch with incumbent President Joe Biden.

Trump had been accused of illegally keeping classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. However, the trial was indefinitely suspended earlier this month and is unlikely to resume before the presidential election.

Last month, Trump posted a $175 million bond to halt a New York court's seizure of his properties after it found that he had lied about his wealth in order to deceive banks and financial institutions.

Eighteen Trump aides have been indicted in Arizona over alleged election fraud to keep Trump in office.