May 13, 2024 - Politics & Policy

What to know about Michael Cohen, who's testifying at Trump's hush money trial

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, arrives at federal court in New York on Dec. 14, 2023

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, arrives at federal court in New York on Dec. 14, 2023. Photo: Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Michael Cohen, who was once former President Trump's personal attorney, is expected to testify against his former boss on Monday in the criminal hush money trial in New York.

Why it matters: Cohen is the prosecution's star witness. His testimony could be particularly damaging to Trump because he was the former president's personal fixer for years. However, Trump's legal team will seek to cast doubt on Cohen's credibility.

  • Cohen has said he helped orchestrate the hush money payments that Trump allegedly made amid the 2016 presidential race to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to hide an affair that's central to the case.

Flashback: Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 for tax evasion and campaign finance violations, has become a vocal critic of his former boss, calling Trump a "con man."

Cohen's role in the case

According to Trump's indictment, he allegedly illegally concealed the $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels as invoices for legal services from Cohen.

  • Prosecutors argued during their opening statements in the trial that the hush money payments constitute election interference.
  • Trump has claimed the payments were Cohen's retainer and were not related to the presidential campaign.
  • Cohen orchestrated the "catch and kill" deals with former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker beginning in 2015 to purchase and bury stories damaging to Trump's 2016 campaign and run stories targeting his rivals.

Zoom in: Prosecutors admitted Cohen's cell phone records into evidence ahead of his testimony, CNN reports.

  • Last Friday, jurors were also shown Trump's tweets from 2018 saying the media were attacking Cohen to get him to "flip" on Trump, according to CNN.

Cohen's relationship with Trump

Though Trump is under a gag order that prevents him from commenting on witnesses in the case, he has repeatedly attacked Cohen throughout the trial.

  • "When are they going to look at all the lies that Cohen did in the last trial?" Trump said outside the courtroom last month.

Catch up quick: Cohen had testified before the grand jury that indicted Trump.

  • In the separate civil fraud trial against Trump in New York, Cohen testified that he falsified the value of the ex-president's assets.
  • Trump had sued Cohen in Florida in 2023 for more than $500 million in damages for breaches of contract and fiduciary duties. However, the case was voluntarily dropped days before Trump was scheduled to be deposed.
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