Newsdeck

Newsdeck

Michael Cohen Testimony Ties Trump to Hush Money Payment

Michael Cohen Testimony Ties Trump to Hush Money Payment
Michael Cohen arrives at his home after leaving Manhattan Criminal Court on May 13. Photographer: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Michael Cohen directly connected Donald Trump to the hush-money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to keep their alleged sexual encounter out of the news ahead of the 2016 election.

Taking the witness stand in the Manhattan criminal trial Monday, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer recalled an October 2016 conversation in which the former president said that public disclosure of Daniels’ story would spell “disaster” for his White House bid. Trump expressed frustration that Daniels was trying to shop her story to the media and told Cohen to pay her $130,000 to buy her silence.

“This is a disaster, a total disaster,” Cohen said Trump told him. “Women will hate me. Guys may think it’s cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign.”

Cohen, the star witness in the hush-money case, detailed how Trump signed off on a plan to cover up the $130,000 Daniels payment under the guise of legal fees. Cohen’s testimony offered an insider’s perspective into Trump’s state of mind when he entered into the agreement.

The testimony is a crucial moment for the district attorney’s office, which must convince the jury that Trump falsified dozens of business records in order to conceal the true nature of checks he made out to Cohen throughout 2017. It’s one of four criminal cases Trump is facing as he campaigns to return to the White House.

Read More: Keeping Up With Trump and His Trials

Under questioning by the prosecutor, Cohen elaborated on a trove of emails, texts and heated discussions, including Trump’s directives, as the trial entered its fifth week. His testimony is potentially the most damaging against the former president so far, giving a first-hand account of Trump allegedly directing him to falsify financial records.

Cohen said he heard Daniels was speaking to publications about her story just after Trump was caught on an “Access Hollywood” tape boasting about sexually assaulting women. Prosecutors allege that the timing of the Daniels’ hush-money payment was motivated by the release of the tape, which lead to a media frenzy.

Cohen also described an ongoing arrangement with former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who worked to shield Trump from unflattering stories long before the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen testified that he was part of a 2015 meeting at Trump Tower in which Pecker assured Trump he’d help silence negative stories about him during the campaign. His testimony largely mirrored that of Pecker, who took the witness stand earlier.

In the weeks that followed the release of the Access Hollywood tape, Pecker balked at paying Daniels the agreed-upon $130,000 himself, Cohen said. Pecker told Cohen that Trump had failed to reimburse him for earlier salacious stories he’d bought to protect the billionaire.

According to Cohen, Trump grew angry with him for not making the Daniels problem go away, since the lawyer had convinced Pecker to remove a 2011 article about her claims from a gossip blog.

“I thought you had this under control. Just take care of it,” Cohen said Trump told him.

Took Out Loan

Cohen decided to pay Daniels himself by tapping a home equity line of credit. Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger walked Cohen through a raft of emails and banking records that he said showed how he worked out the hush-money deal, using what he described as a legal retainer for his services after he set up the company that made the payments.

“I’m not sure they would have opened it if it stated ‘to pay off an adult film star for a nondisclosure agreement’” Cohen said, chuckling.

Cohen is set to return to the stand on Tuesday. Trump’s lawyers on cross examination are expected to paint Cohen as a serial liar with a vendetta against his former boss, whose testimony can’t be trusted. Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

‘Beautiful Woman’

Cohen described the chaos the Access Hollywood tape posed for Trump’s campaign. He worked with Pecker to shield Trump from unflattering stories long before the 2016 presidential campaign. The Daniels story would be “catastrophic” for the campaign, Cohen said, because Trump was polling low with women.

Cohen recalled Trump saying: “push it out as long as you can, just get past the election. If I win, it has no relevance, because I’m president. But if I lose, I just don’t care.’”

Cohen said Trump asked him to reach out to his media contacts and tell them that his words in the Access Hollywood recording were “locker room talk,” saying, “that’s how his wife, Melania regarded it.”

Trump was more concerned about his political future than about his wife finding out about his infidelity, Cohen said. The lawyer asked about Melania Trump.

“Don’t worry, how long do you think I’ll be on the market? Not long,’” Trump said, according to Cohen.

Cohen kept Trump’s secrets for years before a bitter falling out in 2018, after the lawyer pleaded guilty to illegal campaign finance charges over the hush-money payment to the adult film actress. The relationship the two forged was shattered after Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in New York in August 2022, saying he’d paid two women so they did not disclose their “alleged affairs with the candidate.”

In addition to the payment to Daniels, Cohen admitted to facilitating an illegal contribution of $150,000, which former Playmate Karen McDougal received from the National Enquirer to quash her story about an alleged affair with Trump.

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    And still the braindead MAGAmorons and evangelicals will vote for the Orange Blimp. I despair for humanity, I really do.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.