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Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former middleman and personal lawyer, testified Tuesday that the former US president had ordered him to “reverse engineer” the value of assets now at the center of a $250 million civil fraud lawsuit. of dollars. .
Cohen told the Manhattan court that the annual “financial statement” he helped prepare for his former boss – and which is the central issue in the New York attorney general’s case – was a fiction.
“I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase total assets based on an amount that he arbitrarily selected,” Cohen said. His responsibility, he added, “was to reverse engineer” the values of different assets “to come up with a number.”
As Cohen spoke, clasping his hands, Trump watched from the defense table, arms crossed over his chest and occasionally bowing his head. Hours earlier, he told reporters outside the courtroom that Cohen was “a liar and a proven criminal.”
Cohen was once so devoted to Trump who promised to “take a bullet” for his boss, if necessary. But in recent years he has dramatically turned against the family he once served, first in an appearance before Congress and then in a book, podcasts and media interviews. He is now one of the central witnesses in a civil case that cuts to the heart of the former president’s business empire.
Cohen’s credibility, however, presents a huge target for Trump’s lawyers. In 2018, he pleaded guilty to tax and other charges stemming from a scheme to pay hush money to an adult film actor with whom Trump had an alleged relationship. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
His appearance on the witness stand Tuesday heightened the intensity of a trial that had been muddled with spreadsheets and letters from accountants for the past three weeks.
Judge Arthur Engoron has Already found that Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating his net worth to obtain loans and insurance on favorable terms. The trial aims to determine whether Trump and his adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, will pay more than $250 million in fines and be stripped of their ability to operate a business in New York.
On one occasion, Cohen recalled that a Trump aide called him into his boss’s office, where he was discussing financial status with Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.
“He was like, ‘Actually, I’m not worth four and a half billion dollars. “Actually, I’m worth more than six,” Cohen testified.
Cohen and Weisselberg then retreated to the CFO’s office, he said, returning only when they reached the desired number.
When Cohen entered the courtroom, he passed within a few feet of Trump, but did not look at his former boss. He was wearing a gray suit and a white shirt with the collar unbuttoned. Her appearance came on the same day that another former Trump lawyer, Jenna Ellis, pleaded guilty in a criminal case in Georgia in which the former president is accused of trying to overturn the 2020 election.
After detailing his background to a lawyer for the New York attorney general, Cohen, who was disbarred as a result of his criminal conviction, smiled wryly when asked if he still had any professional licenses. “Not anymore,” he replied.
He then set about peeling back the layers of the Trump Organization and telling how he had risen from obscurity to serving one of the most famous families in the world. He had been working as a lawyer at a small firm and operating a yellow cab business in New York when he came to the attention of the Trumps in the early 2000s for helping resolve a dispute at a Trump building where he had an apartment. . Cohen managed to replace the residents’ board.
Donald Trump Jr noticed and eventually introduced her to his father, Cohen recalled. “As a result, I was asked to deal with some other matters,” Cohen told the court. In March 2007, while sitting in Trump’s office, the real estate mogul asked him if he would “like to leave that sleepy old company” and come work for him.
He joined as executive vice president, Cohen explained, alongside Trump’s children. But, as Trump’s “special counsel,” he reported only to the patriarch, he said, describing his work this way: “Any problem he had, anything that made him angry, I would solve it.”