Michael Cohen has sworn he has nothing disparaging about Trump, another lie where all testimony ends

The prosecution and defense rested yesterday, which meant, to no one's shock, that Donald Trump did not testify.

Trump had said he would, but it would have been judicial malpractice if his lawyers had subjected him to a hundred different interrogations.

Michael Cohen entered the hush money trial with an established reputation as a convicted liar.

We all knew he would come under fire on cross-examination for lying on Trump's behalf, lying to Congress, lying to investigators and lying to the press. That was baked into the equation.

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Michael Cohen, former lawyer for Donald Trump, concluded his testimony in the NY trial against Trump. (Getty Images)

But the lie he acknowledged Monday falls into an entirely different category — and could be a turning point in convincing one or more jurors to dismiss him as a money-grabbing thief and vote to acquit Trump.

The former fixer has arranged a sweet deal for himself: stealing from the Trump Organization.

Yes, he did, Cohen said. Yes, he lied about it. Yes, he happily pocketed the money because he was angry about his bonus being cut.

This was a real Perry Mason moment – ​​and an absolute failure by the prosecution.

On the other end of the litany of lies, Alvin Bragg's lawyers brought them up for direct investigation, with the best possible spin, to soften the sting when Trump's lawyers took aim at him.

But on this one? Nada. At first I thought Cohen hadn't told prosecutors, but Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked, “And you told that story to multiple prosecutors in the District 13 Attorney's Office, right?”

“Yes sir.”

So it was sheer sloppiness – an incredible failure.

And the story gets even messier.

The Trump campaign hired a technology company called Red Finch to try to discredit unfavorable polls from CNBC and Drudge. The compensation was $50,000. Cohen handed over $20,000 in cash, stuffed in a brown bag, to the company's chief – nothing suspicious about that, right?

And Cohen kept the remaining $30,000 – later raised to $60,000 for tax reasons – openly stealing from his ex-boss's company. (Trump decided not to pay Red Finch because his efforts failed, but he didn't know about the bag of cash.)

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There was little the prosecutors could do when it was their turn. Cohen said he was “angry” by the two-thirds reduction in his usual $150,000 bonus, “so I felt like it was almost like self-help. You know, I wasn't going to give him the advantage in this way either .

Oh well, self-help. Stealing as therapy. A rather lame explanation.

It didn't matter what else Cohen said in 2018, like insisting he would never have paid the $130,000 in hush money to Stormy Daniels, which is well documented, without the president's explicit approval. The damage had been done.

But there were more fireworks to come.

The defense called as its star witness Robert Costello, an experienced lawyer and talented conversationalist who represented Cohen for a few months.

Donald Trump waves

Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower on his way to Manhattan Criminal Court, Monday, April 15, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Cohen has stated that he did not trust Costello because he was close to Rudy Giuliani and offered a back channel to the White House, but also because of the risk that anything Cohen said would be repeated there.

Costello testified that he told Cohen his legal problems could be resolved “if he had truthful information about Donald Trump and cooperated with the Southern District of New York.”

Cohen's response was repeated ten or twelve times, according to Costello: “I swear to God, Bob. I have nothing on Donald Trump.”

That was clearly a big lie.

Costello also claimed that Cohen told him that Trump knew nothing about the hush money payments, which goes to the heart of the matter.

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But Robert Costello walked into the courtroom with a giant chip on his shoulder.

After one question he audibly said 'ridiculous'. After another he said, “Gosh.”

Judge Juan Merchan had had enough and sent the jury packing.

“If you don't like what I say, don't say, 'Gee, okay.' And then you don't say 'save'; because I'm the only one who can testify in court.”

The lecture was strict. “And if you don't like what I say, don't look at me or roll your eyes. Do you understand?'

Costello looked at the judge for a long time. “Are you staring at me now?” At that point he declared, “Clear the courtroom.” Everyone returned later.

Michael Cohen is questioned in court by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger

Michael Cohen is questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger about a referral during former President Donald Trump's criminal trial on charges that he falsified company records to hide money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City, May 20, 2024, in this courtroom sketch. (REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg)

In yesterday's testimony, the prosecutor got Costello to acknowledge that he was referring to Trump when he said he had “friends in high places.”

An email about “getting everyone on the same page” was because Cohen had “complained incessantly about Rudy Giuliani making statements to the press,” Costello said.

He said an email about getting everyone “on the same page” was about working through the complaints about Rudy.

Costello denied the prosecutor's question about “encouraging him not to cooperate.”

When forwarded, the defense asked: What about an email saying you were being “played”?

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Costello said they kept pushing Cohen to sign a retainer — so they could get paid — but he kept making excuses and delaying it.

Did he pressure Michael Cohen to do something? Costello said no.

And that was it. Closing arguments are scheduled for next Tuesday.

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The prosecution has numerous other witnesses and documents, but Cohen is the only one who directly ties Trump to his reimbursement of hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in this overtly partisan and shakily constructed case. So Cohen's evisceration on the stand really matters to the falsification charges, unless 12 jurors believe the former president had to know.

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