Our website use cookies to improve and personalize your experience and to display advertisements (if any). Our website may also include cookies from third parties like Google Adsense, Google Analytics, and Youtube. By using the website, you consent to the use of cookies.

Cohen testifies Trump signed off on hush money payment to porn star

 DONALD Trump‘s former fixer Michael Cohen told jurors that the Republican presidential candidate personally signed off on a hush money payment to a porn star to bury her story about an alleged sexual encounter before it could derail his 2016 campaign.

“Just do it,” Cohen said Trump told him, instructing him to figure out the best way of paying adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to stay quiet about the alleged 2006 encounter.

The payment is at the centre of the first trial of a former U.S. president, which has entered its fifth week in New York state criminal court in Manhattan.

Cohen, once one of Trump’s most loyal lieutenants and now the prosecution’s star witness, said he learned that Daniels was selling her story at a critical moment for Trump’s 2016 White House bid. At the time, just weeks before Election Day, the campaign was reeling from the release of an audio recording from the TV show “Access Hollywood” in which Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitals.

“He said to me, ‘This is a disaster, a total disaster. Women are going to hate me,’ Cohen testified. “‘Guys, they think it’s cool, but this is going to be a disaster for the campaign.'”

Prosecutors have said Trump paid Cohen back after the election and hid the reimbursement by recording it falsely as a legal retainer fee in his real estate company’s records.

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records tied to the reimbursement. Prosecutors say the altered records covered up election-law and tax-law violations – since the money was essentially an unreported contribution to Trump’s campaign – that elevate the crimes from misdemeanours to felonies punishable by up to four years in prison.

READ:  Timeline of Donald Trump-Stormy Daniels hush money case

Trump, who is running against Democratic President Joe Biden in November, has pleaded not guilty and denies having had a sexual encounter with Daniels, who testified last week. He argues the case is a politically motivated attempt to interfere with his campaign to take back the White House.

Trump’s defence has suggested the payment to Daniels was meant to protect his family from embarrassment. But Cohen testified that Trump appeared solely concerned with the effect on his campaign.

“He wasn’t thinking about Melania. This was all about the campaign,” Cohen said, referring to Trump’s wife. At the defence table, Trump shook his head.

Cohen said Trump urged him to delay sending payment to Daniels’ lawyer until after the election, telling him that the story would no longer matter.

Trump’s lawyers have argued that Cohen acted on his own, a notion he rejected on the witness stand.

“Everything required Mr. Trump’s sign-off,” Cohen said.

He said he resisted paying out of his own pocket but eventually relented after Trump promised him, “You’ll get the money back.”

Offering a detailed timeline of the chaotic days during the campaign’s final weeks, Cohen described how he set up a shell company – falsely listed as a “real estate consulting company” – to facilitate the payment through a bank across the street from Trump Tower.

Prosecutors showed phone records to jurors indicating that Cohen called Trump’s line twice on the morning he visited the bank.

READ:  Trump woos LGBT+ Americans as polls hand gay vote to Biden

SECRET PAYMENTS

Wearing a dark suit and pink tie, Cohen testified earlier in the day that Trump signed off on other payments to conceal alleged sex scandal stories that could have damaged his 2016 campaign.

When Trump was preparing to announce his campaign for president, Cohen said, Trump warned him there would be “a lot of women coming forward.”

Cohen said he, Trump and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker agreed to use the supermarket tabloid to boost Trump’s presidential candidacy while blocking negative stories that might hurt his chances.

That arrangement included a $150,000 payment from Pecker’s company to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to buy her story about a year-long affair she said she and Trump had, Cohen said.

Jurors were played a recording Cohen said he made of a meeting in which Trump asked him, “So what do we get to pay for this? One-fifty?”

Trump can also be heard directing Cohen to pay with cash, which Cohen said was to “avoid any type of paper transaction.”

Pecker previously testified at the trial that he bought McDougal’s story to keep it under wraps and that he eventually decided not to seek reimbursement from Trump.

Cohen also described an earlier instance in 2015 in which Pecker paid a doorman $30,000 to kill a story that Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock, a claim that turned out to be false. Trump, Cohen said, had told him to “handle it.”

For nearly a decade, Cohen, 57, worked as an executive and lawyer for Trump’s company and once said he would take a bullet for Trump, 77.

READ:  Biden names top economic advisers, setting state for more diverse White House

Cohen said it was fair to describe his role as a fixer for Trump, testifying that he took care of “whatever he wanted.” Among his duties was threatening to sue people and planting positive stories in the press, he said.

Trump, he said, communicated primarily by phone or in person and never set up an email address.

“He would comment that emails are like written papers, that he knows too many people who have gone down as a direct result of having emails that prosecutors can use in a case,” Cohen said.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to violating federal campaign finance law by paying off Daniels and testified that Trump directed him to make the payment. Cohen went to prison. Federal prosecutors did not charge Trump with any crime.

Cohen has admitted to lying under oath multiple times, providing fodder for the defence to undermine his credibility.

The Manhattan trial is widely seen as less consequential than three other criminal prosecutions Trump faces, all of which are mired in delays.

The other cases charge Trump with trying to overturn his 2020 presidential defeat and mishandling classified documents after leaving office. Trump pleaded not guilty to all three.

By LUC COHEN and JACK QUEEN

MORE FROM THIS SECTION