Sun. May 26th, 2024
alert-–-how-frantic-michael-cohen-kept-accusers-quiet-when-trump-said-‘a-lot-of-women’-will-come-forward:-laid-back-donald-listens-as-his-lawyer,-fixer-and-silencer-details-the-lengths-he-went-to-shut-salacious-stories-downAlert – How frantic Michael Cohen kept accusers quiet when Trump said ‘a lot of women’ will come forward: Laid back Donald listens as his lawyer, fixer and silencer details the lengths he went to shut salacious stories down

When Donald Trump sat down with his lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to discuss his plans to run for president in 2016 he had a simple warning.

‘You know that when this comes out, meaning the announcement, just be prepared, there’s going to be a lot of women coming forward,’ is how Cohen remembered the conversation.

During more than five hours of riveting testimony on Monday, Cohen described the extraordinary lengths he went to in keeping their stories out of the headlines.

He worked his contacts in the media, set up front companies and received invoices from businesses with meaningless names like ‘Investor Advisory Services.’

And in so doing the prosecution’s star witness added the one link missing from the past three weeks of evidence: He told the court that Trump told him to do it. 

Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen gave evidence Monday. He is at the heart of the prosecution case that Trump falsified documents to hide hush money payments

Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen gave evidence Monday. He is at the heart of the prosecution case that Trump falsified documents to hide hush money payments

The day was already crackling with intensity before Cohen was called to the witness stand. 

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg took a seat in the second row of the courtroom to see the lynchpin witness in his case against the former president.

On the other side, Trump, arrived mob-handed with two Republican senators, a member of Congress and two state attorney generals plus his son Eric and other campaign officials. It was his biggest entourage yet as aides worry about the mental toll the trial is exacting.

They were there to offer moral support as he came face-to-face with a former member of staff who once said he would take a bullet for his boss, but now refers to him as ‘Von Schitzenpants’ in public posts.

Trump denies all 34 counts of falsifying business records. And last week, his lawyers twice tried to have the case thrown out after adult movie star Stormy Daniels testified about having sex with the then star of The Apprentice in 2006.

If that evidence was gold dust for headline writers, Cohen’s was no less explosive as he laid out how he had bought and suppressed negative stories for his boss.  

‘You handle it,’ Cohen quoted Trump as telling him after a doorman touted around a false story that the property mogul had fathered an illegitimate child.

The Trump Tower doorman was eventually paid $30,000 to keep the story from appearing. It was part of a pattern as Trump repeatedly turned to Cohen to make problems go away, according to his testimony.

Yet Cohen is a problematic witness. He has been disbarred as a lawyer and has served time in prison for, among other things, lying to Congress.

Last week the judge asked prosecutors to warn him about his inflammatory public statements calling for Trump to be locked up.

Trump appeared to have his eyes closed throughout much of the testimony, and kept his reactions to a bare minimum, as if to say Cohen had nothing of interest to say

Trump appeared to have his eyes closed throughout much of the testimony, and kept his reactions to a bare minimum, as if to say Cohen had nothing of interest to say

Trump denies 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents to prevent negative stories coming out just before the 2016 election, when he defeated Hillary Clinton

Trump denies 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents to prevent negative stories coming out just before the 2016 election, when he defeated Hillary Clinton

Previous witnesses had described him as a ‘jerk’ and a ‘pants on fire’ type of guy. He was only a ‘fixer’ because he broke so much stuff, is how Trump confidante Hope Hicks put it.

The jury must have wondered whether this was the same Michael Cohen. After walking stiffly to the witness box, he answered questions slowly and soberly in his thick New York accent, his face switching between hangdog and earnest.

This was not a runaway witness but one who knew how to play to a jury. Which made his words the more damning. 

So when a second episode occurred with former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal shopping her story of an affair, Trump’s order was clear. ‘Make sure it doesn’t get released,’ Cohen said he was told. 

As a $150,000 hush money deal was set up, Cohen testified that he kept Trump up to speed with developments.

‘What I was doing was at the direction of and benefit of Mr. Trump,’ he said.

It was a mammoth task. He worked with the publisher of the National Enquirer and set up a front company to handle payments hide any connection with the Trump Organization.

Cohen has been disbarred as a lawyer and served time in prison. His convictions include lying to Congress, which makes him a problematic witness and gives the defense ammunition

Cohen has been disbarred as a lawyer and served time in prison. His convictions include lying to Congress, which makes him a problematic witness and gives the defense ammunition

Trump and Cohen in happier times, seen here together during a campaign stop in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in September 2016. Cohen worked for Trump for 10 years

Trump and Cohen in happier times, seen here together during a campaign stop in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in September 2016. Cohen worked for Trump for 10 years

But after establishing Resolution Consultants he realized it had the same name as a friend’s company. He quickly renamed it Essential Consultants.

The idea was that it would be used to repay $125,000 to the National Enquirer’s parent company. (The extra $25,000 was what American Media Inc said a handful of columns and covers for McDougal were worth).

An invoice duly arrive for $125,000 from ‘Investment Advisory Services for ‘agreed upon flat fee’ for ‘advisory services’—a very prosaic way to describe a hush money payment to a glamour model. 

Cohen admitted he still has no idea to this day’ what ‘Investment Advisory Services’ was.

If Trump was worried about the embarrassing details spilling out, he gave no indication.

He leaned back in his chair with his eyes closed, looking for all the world as if he did not have a care in the world. And maybe he didn’t after getting good news this morning in a New York Times poll showing he was ahead in five of six key swing states.

Behind him, son Eric was doing the work for him. While Trump all but ignored Cohen, Eric delivered an icy glare in his direction and kept up a frantic pace on his phone.

Trump arrived with his biggest entourage yet. Alabama attorney general, Steve Marshall, second from left, Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, Eric Trump, Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., Iowa attorney general Brenna Bird and Sen. Nicole Malliotakis can all be seen here

Trump arrived with his biggest entourage yet. Alabama attorney general, Steve Marshall, second from left, Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, Eric Trump, Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., Iowa attorney general Brenna Bird and Sen. Nicole Malliotakis can all be seen here

‘I have never seen anything more rehearsed,’ he posted of the slow, measured testimony. In so doing he was hammering a witness that his father is barred from talking about by a court order.

Sen. J.D. Vance, a potential VP pick, also kept up a running commentary from the next row back.

‘Here’s why this trial is election interference: many times during the day I I heard the the Trump team say “wish we could say that but we’re not allowed,’ he posted, doing their work for them. 

‘They are *constantly* worried about the judge’s gag order, to the point that it limits their ability to communicate and engage with voters.’

Cohen was yet to get to his most important testimony about how Trump was directly aware of the payments to Stormy Daniels and how he apparently signed off on the idea of fraudulently accounting for them as payments for legal services. 

‘He said to me, “This is a disaster, a total disaster. Women are going to hate me,” said Cohen, describing how they learned that she was trying to sell her story. ‘”Guys, they think it’s cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign.”‘

Trump’s defense is that the payments were only to protect his family from embarrassment; they had nothing to do with the election. 

But Cohen claimed Trump joked that he would not last long on the market if he were single again.

‘He wasn’t thinking about Melania,’ said Cohen, in comments that could undermine Trump’s defense. ‘This was all about the campaign.’ 

Cohen told the jury he thought the salacious Daniels story would be 'catastrophic' for the campaign and revealed how the then-future first lady reacted to accusations about her husband. Trump and Melania are pictured in 2016

Cohen told the jury he thought the salacious Daniels story would be ‘catastrophic’ for the campaign and revealed how the then-future first lady reacted to accusations about her husband. Trump and Melania are pictured in 2016 

Stormy Daniels gave her testimony last week, describing how she was paid $130,000

Stormy Daniels gave her testimony last week, describing how she was paid $130,000

Trump’s instructions were to stall talks with Daniels so that they went on after the 2016 election. By then her claims would be irrelevant: Either he would be president and she could no longer damage him, or he had lost the election and wouldn’t care.

But Daniels smelled a rat and tried to walk away from the deal. 

At that point Trump told Cohen he had spoken to friends who offered wise counsel. ‘It’s $130,000 … you’re a billionaire. Just pay it. There’s no reason to keep this thing out there,’ he said Trump told him. ‘Just do it.’

Cohen’s testimony caps three weeks of evidence, linking a paper trail of invoices and checks to Daniels’ story of how she had sex with Trump after meeting him at a celebrity golf tournament.

His story will come under scrutiny on Tuesday when defense lawyers get their chance to cross-examine him.

But on Monday he offered an extraordinary glimpse into Trump’s life in January 2017, just days before he was due to move to Washington and be sworn in as the 45th president.

Cohen met with the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer and Trump in his 26th floor office, where they laid out how the loyal fixer would be paid back for sorting the Stormy payment. It would come in twelve monthly payments for future legal payments.

‘[Trump] approved it and then said: “It’s going to be a heck of a ride in D.C.,”‘ said Cohen.

More than seven years later, Trump could be on the brink of returning to D.C. as president and the consequences of those payments are still playing out in a New York courtroom.

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