Trump prepares for showdown with Michael Cohen in New York court

Cohen spent time in jail over his work for Mr Trump before he became the so-called star witness in the first criminal case brought against the former president

Rachel Sharp
Friday 13 October 2023 10:11 EDT
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Donald Trump is planning a return to his New York civil fraud trial for a showdown with his former fixer turned sworn enemy Michael Cohen.

A source told The Associated Press that the former president will be back in court Tuesday through Thursday next week when Cohen is expected to take the stand to testify in the case that threatens to topple Mr Trump’s business empire in the Empire State.

Cohen, who was jailed for lying to Congress, welcomed the reunion.

“It’s been 5 years since we have seen one another. I look forward to the reunion. I hope Donald does as well,” he said in a text message to the AP.

Cohen spent time in jail over his work for Mr Trump before he became the so-called star witness in the first criminal case brought against the former president.

In the lead-up to the 2016 election, Cohen – then Mr Trump’s attorney and fixer – made hush money payments on behalf of Mr Trump to silence women about the alleged affairs they had with him.

Cohen was later convicted of tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations related to the payments and was sentenced to three years in prison.

This April, Mr Trump was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records over the hush money payments.

According to the indictment, the “catch and kill” campaign allegedly involved Mr Trump and Cohen making hush money payments during the 2016 run to suppress negative information about him by silencing individuals over alleged affairs he had with women.

Three specific alleged affairs and hush money payments were mentioned in the charging documents – a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, a $150,000 to former playboy model Karen McDougal and a $30,000 payment to a doorman at Trump Tower who claimed he had information that Mr Trump had fathered a child with a woman while married to Melania Trump.

Former US President Donald Trump sits inside the courtroom at his civil fraud trial

Mr Trump “repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election,” the charging documents read.

Prior to Mr Trump’s indictment and arrest, Cohen had testified to the grand jury in the case and was said to be the “star witness”.

Mr Trump has denied all wrongdoing in the criminal case and has denied having affairs.

While there has been no love lost between the two men for some time, they are now poised to come face-to-face with one another again over a different case in New York.

Mr Trump attended the first three days of the trial, repeatedly railing against the case to reporters in the courtroom corridors in between the court sessions.

This week, Mr Trump’s longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg took the stand in the trial.

Weisselberg – who has recently been released from prison after he was convicted of tax fraud at the Trump Organization – was grilled about his credibility, suggesting that a $2m severance package was payment for protecting the former president.

Michael Cohen walks out of a Manhattan courthouse after testifying before a grand jury in the hush money case

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil lawsuit back in September 2022 accusing Mr Trump, his adult sons Don Jr and Eric, the Trump Organization and several executives of widespread business fraud including overinflating the company’s value for years.

Mr Trump has already been found liable for fraud – in a bombshell ruling from the judge just days before the case was headed to trial.

Judge Engoron ruled that Mr Trump, his adult sons, businesses and some of their executives “grossly and materially inflated” the value of the Trump Organization’s assets for more than a decade.

By deceiving banks, insurers and others by exaggerating the value of assets, the company was able to secure more favourable business deals and loans, the judge found.

Now, the judge will determine what penalties Mr Trump should face.

AG James is seeking $250m in penalties from Mr Trump and for him to be banned from doing business in New York – something that would be a major blow to his business empire and see his namesake buildings like Trump Tower shutter.

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