Michael Cohen cross-examination: what happened at a glance

<span>Donald Trump sits in court in New York on 14 May 2024.</span><span>Photograph: Michael M Santiago/Getty Images</span>
Donald Trump sits in court in New York on 14 May 2024.Photograph: Michael M Santiago/Getty Images

Donald Trump is the first US president to be tried on criminal charges – and could face prison if convicted. Trump allegedly falsified the financial transaction behind the $130,000 hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. He denies 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in spring 2023.

Here’s what you need to know about the case:

16 May: what happened today

  • Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, returned to the stand on Thursday for the third day. Trump was joined in court by his son Eric Trump and Republican congressional allies including Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz and Bob Good, chair of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus.

  • Gaetz posted a photo of himself standing behind Trump in court, with the words: “Standing back, and standing by, Mr President.” The phrase echoed one that Trump used for the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys in a 2020 presidential debate.

  • The defense, led by Trump lawyer Todd Blanche, resumed attacking Cohen’s credibility in an effort to undermine the testimony of the prosecution’s star witness.

  • Cohen conceded that he had previously lied to protect Trump because it affected the stakes for him personally, and that he lied to the federal judge when he was prosecuted for tax evasion and false statements.

  • These admissions could prove problematic for prosecutors, as they portray Cohen as an unreliable narrator who lied with ease and abandon to achieve whatever aim he was pursuing at that moment.

  • Blanche suggested Cohen’s latest objective was to see Trump go to jail, seeding the possibility that he might have also lied about the extent of Trump’s involvement in the hush-money scheme with Stormy Daniels.

  • Blanche played clips from Cohen’s podcast Mea Culpa, including when Cohen said “thinking about Trump in Otisville prison makes me giddy with joy”. He also got Cohen to concede that he believed he played a large role in the indictment being brought against Trump – and bragged about it.

  • The defense dug into Cohen’s previous lies under oath and how he seemingly lied about details big and small. When Cohen testified to Congress in 2017 about a Trump real-estate deal in Moscow, Blanche elicited, Cohen lied about how many times he had spoken to Trump about the deal.

  • Blanche also directly accused Cohen of lying in his trial testimony. Cohen testified earlier in the week that when he called Trump’s then bodyguard, Keith Schiller, on 24 October 2016, it was to apprise Trump that he was moving forward with paying hush money to Daniels. Blanche suggested Cohen phoned Schiller primarily about a series of prank calls from a 14-year-old, arguing that he could not have had enough time in a one-minute, 30-second call to tell Trump about the Daniels deal.

  • Cohen acknowledged telling Mark Pomerantz, who had previously led the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation of Trump, that he felt Daniels and her then lawyer, Keith Davidson, were extorting Trump in seeking a $130,000 payment for her silence on an alleged sexual encounter.

  • Cohen has concluded his testimony for the week, and will return to the stand when court resumes on Monday morning. There will be no court this Friday so that Trump can attend the high school graduation of his youngest son, Barron.

  • It is unclear whether Trump will testify next week, when the defense will have the opportunity to present its case. Before the trial, Trump said he would testify, but Blanche has since said Trump has yet to decide whether to do so.

Key characters and facts

Trump hush-money trial status: Trump pleaded not guilty; the trial began on 15 April 2024.

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Charges: 34 felony charges of falsifying business records.

Hush-money case summary: The case involves a hush-money scheme during the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to the adult film star Stormy Daniels to quash her story about an alleged extramarital affair with the former president. Trump has denied the affair took place. Prosecutors accuse the former president of illegally reimbursing Cohen for the hush-money payment by falsely classifying the transaction, executed by the Trump Organization, as legal expenses.

Verdict before election? Likely.

Key moments in the trial so far

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