Cohen faces more cross-examination as Trump’s trial enters final stretch

Donald Trump’s former lawyer is the prosecution’s last witness in the ex-president’s hush-money trial in New York.

Former US President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and said he is the victim of a political ‘witch hunt’ [Michael M Santiago/Pool via Reuters]Published On 20 May 202420 May 2024

Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen faces another day of cross-examination, as the ex-United States president’s hush-money trial enters the final stretch this week in New York.

The landmark trial kicks back off in Manhattan on Monday morning with more defence questioning of Cohen, whose pivotal testimony last week directly tied Trump to the alleged hush-money scheme.

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Cohen is the prosecution’s last witness and it’s not yet clear whether Trump’s attorneys will call any witnesses – such as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee himself.

Last week, Cohen told jurors how he kept Trump informed about $130,000 paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an affair she says she had with Trump. The ex-president has denied the affair took place.

The payment, prosecutors have argued, was part of a scheme aimed at stifling negative press that could have harmed Trump’s chances in the 2016 election, which he won.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents related to the payments, and said he is the victim of a politically motivated “witch hunt”.

“There’s no crime,” Trump told reporters after arriving at the courthouse on Monday. “We paid a legal expense. You know what it’s marked down as? A legal expense.”

His lawyers are seeking to discredit Cohen’s testimony, painting him as a serial liar who is on a revenge campaign aimed at taking down the former president.

Trump’s defence team has already questioned Cohen for hours about his criminal history and past lies.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges related to the hush-money payments, as well as for lying to Congress. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

He has said repeatedly he takes “responsibility” for his actions and has faced the consequences.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from outside the courthouse in New York last week, said “It all really comes down to [Cohen’s] word.”

“And his word has been highly suspect from the beginning of this case, given that he’s gone to jail for lying under oath in the past,” Saloomey said.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office is expected to rest its case once Cohen is off the stand, but prosecutors would have an opportunity to call rebuttal witnesses if Trump’s lawyers present witnesses of their own.

The judge has told lawyers to be prepared for closing arguments as early as Tuesday, though the timing will depend on whether the defence calls any witnesses, which it is not obligated to do.

Defence lawyers said they have not decided whether Trump will testify.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies