Michael Cohen and Trump meet again during civil fraud trial

Photo of author

By journalsofus.com

NEW YORK – For years, Michael Cohen and his former boss donald trump They have insulted each other from afar, each chastising the other in bitterly personal terms.

On Tuesday, they came face to face once again, with Cohen, a former Trump lawyer turned antagonist, testifying against the former president during a civil fraud trial stemming from a demand presented by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D).

Cohen testified that Trump had ordered him and others to increase the valuation of his assets to give him his desired net worth.

“I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase total assets based on a number that he arbitrarily chose,” Cohen said, as Trump sat in court watching.

Cohen’s testimony marked a turbulent start to the fourth week of the trial in the James case. Demand for 250 million dollars against Trump, who accuses him and his company of drastically inflating the value of his real estate properties to obtain better financial conditions.

Trump, who is a Republican President candidateHe does not face any prison time in the civil case, and he and his lawyers have denied any wrongdoing.

While the trial has largely focused on testimony about financial statements and real estate valuations, Cohen’s testimony injected another element into the proceedings by having the issues discussed by a man who has traded barbs with Trump for years and trumpeted his knowledge of the internal affairs of the Trump Organization. operations.

After years of exaggerating his business assets, Trump confronts them in court

Cohen said Trump personally gave him and the company’s veteran CFO Allen Weisselberg their marching orders, instructing them to shape their assets into a fake net worth that could be used to save money on settlements with lenders and insurance companies. .

“I would look at the total assets and say, ‘Actually, I’m worth nothing.’ [$4.5 billion]I’m really worth more like [$6 billion]”Cohen said, offering an example of the type of conversations he would have with Trump about preparing for the remarks.

At those meetings, Trump “would then direct [Weisselberg] and I to return to Allen’s office and return having accomplished the desired objective,” Cohen testified.

Cohen had worked as a lawyer and Trump’s self-proclaimed fixer before men suffered a public breakup during Trump’s term.

Trump has derided Cohen as a dishonest “rat,” while Cohen, in turn, has described Trump as a bigoted and lying “con man.” Until Tuesday’s testimony, in which both men were again in the same room, this dispute was developing splendidly. social media postsacid memories and biting testimony before congress.

Cohen’s testimony was the first during the trial to clearly attribute fraudulent behavior to Trump. And it seemed to align with the attorney general’s claim that Company executives intended to commit illegal acts as they carried out a pattern of fraud between 2011 and 2021.

According to Cohen, Trump also made cameos in meetings with insurance companies where he attempted to further convince business partners that he was incredibly rich.

“About three-quarters of the way through the meeting, Mr. Trump would come in and there would be a conversation about his extensive net worth. [saying] he’s actually richer than the insurance companies,” Cohen said.

Cohen has served prison time after pleading guilty in two criminal cases, including lying to Congress, so her credibility was the main focus of questioning by Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday and will likely be scrutinized in any future testimony. Cohen began his testimony on Tuesday by discussing some elements of his background, including his criminal convictions.

Trump, speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, dismissed Cohen as “a proven liar.”

While Cohen was being questioned by Trump, one of the lawyers, Alina Habba, pressed Cohen about his criminal record. Their exchanges became tense and Cohen occasionally objected to questions, something witnesses are not allowed to do.

Cohen, a disbarred attorney, drew laughter from gallery observers when he quipped “asked and answered” in response to Habba touching on topics that were already covered. Judges use that phrase to respond to attorneys’ objections.

Cohen admitted he lied again when he pleaded guilty to tax evasion in federal court, saying he perjured himself in the proceedings because the act was actually just an omission. The testimony echoed previous comments he made about feeling pressured to plead guilty.

“I accepted the statement,” he said Tuesday.

While his testimony Tuesday came in a civil trial, Cohen is also expected to play a prominent role in a criminal case Trump faces in New York. That case could also see Cohen face his former boss from the stand once again.

Trump was impeached this year in Manhattan and accused of wrongdoing in connection with payments intended to silence an adult film actress who claimed to have had an affair with Trump. Cohen has admitted paying the actress, who alleged that the meeting took place years before the 2016 payments. Trump has denied any affair and any irregularities in the matter.

He accusation v. Trump in New York alleges that he improperly falsified business records to conceal a $130,000 payment to the artist through Cohen, who was reimbursed. The case is scheduled to go to trial in March, and Cohen is likely to be a key player. witness. A high-ranking prosecutor overseeing that case, Susan Hoffinger was in the courtroom Tuesday to hear Cohen’s testimony.

The prosecutor, the former president and the ‘zombie’ case that came back to life

As Cohen began his testimony, Trump sat with his arms crossed, his face wearing the same scowl he had worn throughout the proceedings.

Trump is not required to appear in the civil trial, although he has appeared periodically, stopping outside the courtroom to deliver campaign-style remarks denouncing James and defending his business. He It is expected that testify.

James’ office says Trump and his executives misrepresented basic values ​​and facts for financial gain, while Trump’s lawyers said his company’s practices were not illegal and that there was more than one way to value assets.

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the civil trial in New York, has already determined that Trump’s company committed fraud broadly. At the end of the trial he will determine whether specific illegal acts were used to promote the fraud.

In addition to the ongoing civil trial, Trump also faces four criminal proceedings, including the hush money case in New York, a case in Florida related to his handling of classified documents after leaving office, an election obstruction case in Washington and another electoral obstruction case in Washington. obstruction case in Georgia.

Trump has attacked every case against him, arguing that he is being attacked politically on all fronts.

Berman reported from Washington. The Calabrese in New York contributed to this report.

Leave a comment