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Donald Trump’s lawyer questions Michael Cohen’s credibility in civil fraud trial

DONALD Trump’s onetime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen faced pointed questions about his credibility from a lawyer representing his ex-boss as he testified against the former U.S. president in a civil fraud trial over his family real estate company’s business practices.

Cohen, who came face-to-face with Trump for the first time in five years on Tuesday, is undergoing cross-examination for his second straight day of testimony in a Manhattan courtroom.

Cohen testified on Tuesday that Trump “arbitrarily” inflated the value of the Trump Organization’s real estate assets to secure favourable insurance premiums. Cohen said he doctored financial statements so the property values matched “whatever number Mr. Trump told us.”

Trump lawyer Alina Habba on Wednesday grilled Cohen on his admitted history of deceit, including his admission on Tuesday that he lied to a judge in an unrelated case by pleading guilty in 2018 to tax crimes that he now says he did not commit.

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The guilty plea was part of a case in which Cohen also admitted to breaking campaign finance laws on Trump’s behalf, but the tax fraud charges were unrelated to the former president.

A lawyer with the office of Democratic Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the lawsuit that prompted the trial, objected on Wednesday to what she described as Habba’s “showmanship” and “intimidation,” setting off a heated exchange with Trump’s legal team.

Trump lawyer Christopher Kise countered that the “entire case of the attorney general relies on this perjurious witness who’s lied to everyone he’s even spoken to,” saying they should not have to “dance around” the issue.

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Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in a separate 2018 case related to Trump’s business dealings in Russia, which he testified on Tuesday that he did at Trump’s direction.

Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 U.S. election, has denied wrongdoing in the case and defended the valuations of his properties. Trump separately has pleaded not guilty in four criminal cases this year.

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom before entering, Trump repeated his oft-stated claim that the civil trial is a “witch hunt.”

“We have the facts on our side,” Trump said. “The company is much stronger than they anticipated.”

Cohen’s testimony could bolster the attorney general’s argument that Trump, his company and several of its executives unlawfully inflated property values. The case could break up Trump’s business empire.

Before the trial began on October 2, Justice Arthur Engoron found that Trump fraudulently inflated his net worth and ordered the dissolution of companies that control crown jewels of his real estate portfolio, including Trump Tower in Manhattan. That ruling is on hold while Trump appeals.

The trial largely concerns damages. James is seeking at least $250 million in fines, a permanent ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr and Eric from running businesses in New York and a five-year commercial real estate ban against Trump and the Trump Organization.

READ:  New York attorney general calls for new sanctions against Donald Trump

Engoron last week fined Trump $5,000 for violating a gag order barring him from disparaging court staff during the trial and warned that any future transgressions could bring imprisonment.

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By JACK QUEEN and LUC COHEN

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