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Michael Cohen Cross Examination Highlights His History of Lies

Cohen may not turn out to be the witness prosecutors hoped for.

Disgraced lawyer and star witness for the prosecution Michael Cohen endured more than seven hours of cross-examination Thursday, May 16. And he isn’t done yet; the trial will resume Monday when the defense will wrap up its questioning of Cohen. Thursday’s theme was the witness’s credibility – or lack thereof – based on his own past crimes and lies. Did former President Donald Trump’s old lawyer help or hinder the prosecution’s case? We spoke with Liberty Nation Legal Affairs Editor Scott D. Cosenza, Esq. to find out.

A Credibility Problem for the ‘Fixer’

Graham J. Noble: Michael Cohen, who has often been described as Donald Trump’s former “fixer,” was considered to be the prosecution’s star witness. Scott, did anything he said from the witness box advance the prosecution’s case against the former president?

Scott D. Cosenza, Esq: Strictly speaking, yes. While Mr. Cohen was revealed by his own words to be a self-interested liar with a grudge against Donald Trump, his testimony was perhaps valuable beyond headline fodder. One of the required elements for a conviction is that Trump directed the payment to Stormy Daniels for the purpose of influencing the election. While Cohen’s testimony went nowhere near dispositive proof of that, it added some evidence to that side of the scale.

Graham: Cohen’s testimony appears to have been entirely undermined by his former attorney, Bob Costello, who testified before a House subcommittee on Wednesday, May 15. Costello claimed that much of what Cohen said in the Manhattan courtroom the previous day was not true. Given Cohen’s reputation for dishonesty – and the animus he has towards Trump, saying he very much wants to see his old boss behind bars – did prosecutors shoot themselves in the foot basing their case on his testimony?

Scott: Graham, it depends on what their goal was. Were the charges issued to ensure no one is above the law, rich or poor, powerbroker or peon? Or has Democrat District Attorney Alvin Bragg applied the law in a totally new way to this defendant for a different reason? If his goal was to consume Trump with this trial to hinder his ability to campaign for president, it might be called a big success. It’s harder for Trump to address issues like inflation or border security in the vital battleground states while being required to sit in a New York courtroom.

Was the Cohen Testimony Necessary?

Graham: Although Mr. Cohen was at the very center of the so-called “hush money” payment to Stormy Daniels, could the prosecution have moved forward without actually calling him to the stand?

Scott: Prosecutors absolutely did not have to put Stormy Daniels up. Micheal Cohen is a bit different, however. He is an awful witness, with his perjury conviction and a mountain of prejudice against the defendant – and any prosecutor would work overtime not to present him. Yet he is the prime actor in most central events in the case. Proceeding with this prosecution probably did require calling him to the stand.

Graham: During cross-examination on Thursday, May 16, Trump’s lead defense lawyer, Todd Blanche, seemed to have a bit of a field day with Mr. Cohen while questioning him about a certain October 2016 phone call. Cohen said he called Trump’s former bodyguard, Keith Schiller, intending to speak with Trump about Stormy Daniels. Records show that the call lasted less than two minutes, however, and largely concerned an unrelated matter. Blanche told Cohen in the witness box, “That was a lie. You did not talk to President Trump,” to which Cohen responded, “I’m not certain that’s accurate.” How damaging was this to the prosecution’s case – Cohen either making up a story or being “not certain” about what transpired?

Scott: That was a big moment for the defense. A truthful retelling will undoubtedly contain mistakes and errors in any story with many details. However, Cohen’s reputational stench infects anything that conflicts with the record, arguing for an interpretation of his error as fabrication, rather than confusion.

Graham: Lastly, Scott, this case is all about knowledge and intent. For a guilty verdict, prosecutors have to show Trump knew he violated federal law by altering or falsifying certain financial records – and that he intended to keep Stormy Daniels from going public to protect his 2016 presidential campaign. Has the prosecution managed to prove this knowledge and this intent on Trump’s part?

Scott: Considering the legal requirement is proven beyond any reasonable doubt, the answer is no. However, the prosecution hasn’t rested yet. Secret witnesses may still be called to wrap it all up with a bow for them. That would be refreshing for advancing the prospect that it wasn’t all a cheap political stunt, frustrating our democratic republic’s political system while undermining the criminal justice system to boot.

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